By Joshua T. Cohen
Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
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 assist in the rescue of 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 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 engrained in every member of the Guard,” Scott said. During the ceremony, AMWS commander, Lt. Col. Steven Gagner explained the importance of the event. “The award of the Soldier’s Medal is significant and unique, 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 own safety conducting multiple ice climbs in freezing conditions in hours of darkness to reach and recover the lost skiers. He was accompanied by four National Guard Soldiers and members of the Stowe Mountain Rescue Team.
The Governor said, “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, Sergeant Dearborn’s actions last year are an incredible example of this and that’s why we’re here today.”
Dearborn has instructed at the Mountain Warfare School since August of 2001, something he was interested in becoming since he was much younger.
“I knew about the Army Mountain Warfare School since I was a kid, 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,” he said prior to the ceremony. The Vermont National Guard has run the AMWS in Jericho, Vermont since 1983, it serves as the only school in the United States Armed Forces that teaches basic, advanced and specialty mountain warfare courses, as well as provides additional mission specific training to United States and foreign military forces in a variety of countries.
Scott reminded the audience that Dearborn “put his life on the line for two total strangers, think about what it must have been like, think about the courage it takes, the commitment to others it requires, think about the bravery, that’s why I believe they’re the best among us.”
The VTNG held the award ceremony at the AMWS on Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho.