Rick Arnold has had a long military career as a helicopter pilot. When he joined the military, he was looking for educational opportunities. He knew the military would offer great training and would be an excellent job recommendation on his resume. Arnold originally joined the Air Force and trained as a Nuclear Weapons Specialist. He flew Blackhawk helicopters for most of his military career, and then cross-trained on the Chinook.
Arnold was deployed several times in Somalia, and then most recently served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. While serving in Iraq, Arnold was engaged in Operation Wolf Pursuits, an important mission that took him and his pilots into high-risk areas to destroy enemy supplies. It was a very high operational tempo. During that mission, Arnold learned that in the military, the teamwork, professionalism and dedication of those you serve with are also a source of motivation.
In Afghanistan, Arnold served as standardization instruction pilot for Task Force Knighthawk, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), developing 94 aviators and 68 non-rated crew members in four flight companies – totaling more than 20,000 combat hours during his 2010-2011 deployment.
In 2011, he earned the Order of Daedalians U.S. Army Exceptional Pilot award for flying a rescue mission for emergency personnel extraction, which Arnold considers the biggest honor of his life. He took fire en route to the destination, but managed to land near the exhausted crew of a downed helicopter. “I noticed they were dragging one of their comrades, a hero who had been killed,” Arnold recalls. When an American flag was requested to cover the fallen hero, Arnold volunteered one he carried. “I remembered I had a flag underneath my body armor that had been with me during my previous Iraq deployment,” he said. “I had originally flown the flag for myself, but realized that the flag had a different destiny.”
“Arnold’s impact on Army aviation goes far beyond this award,” 10th CAB Commander Col. David J. Francis said at the time. “He has trained generations of Army aviators for combat operations. The impact of his training will be felt in the Army for years to come.”
According to Arnold, it was easy to stay inspired while deployed, because he knew the importance of the mission. While it was difficult to be away from family, Arnold understood the opportunity he had as a service member to help the people in the countries in which he served. The impact he was able to have on the lives of so many gave him the power to focus on the mission. According to Arnold, the military has given him the opportunity to help others have a better life.
As our Grand Marshal representing OIF veterans, Arnold – a resident of El Mirage – is both proud and grateful for his time serving, and has great appreciation for the support of the American people. He also has important words to those serving now: “Regardless of branch, you are part of the most elite team in the world. You are untouchable, you cannot be replaced. Embrace this opportunity and use it to make your life and the lives of others better.”
We hope you will join us at the 21st Annual Phoenix Veterans Day Parade on November 11, 2017, to see all our Veteran Grand Marshals. This year’s parade theme is “SILENT SACRIFICE: Honoring Our Cold War Veterans.” The parade typically boasts more than 100 entries, and this year will have a special float with nearly 20 Vietnam Veterans riding on it. The parade will also feature patriotic floats, high school marching bands, JROTC marching units, color guards, Veterans Service Organizations, animals, novelty units and much, much more.
For more information on the parade and the parade route, click HERE.