Since Heath Culbertson was around six years old, the Pasadena, Texas, native wanted to serve in the Air Force. This dream was realized when he entered service in 1996.
For his first assignment, Culbertson served Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, and worked as an Aircrew Egress system technician. Throughout his service, Culbertson served multiple tours, including four tours in Iraq, three tours in Afghanistan and some time in South Korea and Sri Lanka as well.
In 2011, Culbertson served as the flight engineer on the Pavehawk HH-60G as a part of the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron in Afghanistan. During this operation, the crew recovered fellow pilots downed in an Army helicopter in the region. Culbertson and his crew were able to recover one of the deceased pilots and the rest of the crew; however, a bullet entered and exited his helmet in the process. Fortunately, the bullet did not penetrate his head. Culbertson and his crew received the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year.
Culbertson also received the Distinguished Flying Cross. He promoted to master sergeant in 2013 and amassed over 2,800 flying hours and more than 350 combat hours. During his time in service, Culbertson also received an Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters, and Air Force Achievement Medal, among many others.
In August 2014, Culbertson retired under the Temporary Early Retirement Act.
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Editor: Claire Pei
Fact checker: Enya Lowe