JERICHO, Vermont – On Feb. 29, 2020, Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Dearborn, a Vermont Army National Guard instructor at the Army Mountain Warfare School, responded to an emergency call from State Police to help rescue two skiers lost at night in deteriorating weather near the Stowe Mountain ski area.
Dearborn never imagined that 16 months later, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott would decorate him with the Soldier’s Medal, one of the military’s highest honors, awarded only for acts of heroism not involving conflict with an armed enemy.
“It should be no surprise that a member of the Vermont National Guard would earn such a recognition, that commitment to service and community, that sense of duty is ingrained in every member of the Guard,” Scott said.
During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Steven Gagner, AMWS commander, explained the importance of the event.
“The award of the Soldier’s Medal is significant and unique,“ he said. “It is the highest award a Soldier can receive outside of combat. You don’t see it very often.”
During the rescue operation, Dearborn risked his safety conducting multiple ice climbs in freezing conditions in the dark to reach and recover the lost skiers. He was accompanied by four National Guard Soldiers and members of the Stowe Mountain Rescue Team.
“While most of us run from danger or a problem, I’ve always been in awe of those who step up and run towards it,“ Scott said. “Sergeant Dearborn’s actions last year are an incredible example of this, and that’s why we’re here today.”
Dearborn has taught at the Mountain Warfare School since 2001.
“I knew about the Army Mountain Warfare School since I was a kid,“ he said before the ceremony. “My best friend’s father was a long-time instructor here. When I first joined the Guard, I was in the Mountain Brigade, and as soon as I could, I transferred to the AMWS.”
The Vermont National Guard has run the AMWS in Jericho since 1983. It is the only school in the U.S. Armed Forces that teaches basic, advanced and specialty mountain warfare courses, as well as additional mission-specific training to U.S. and foreign military forces.