“It’s kind of a reflexive thing,” said Rippee, who exposed himself to enemy fire and took out a sniper in order to reach the soldier. “I guess I could give some credit to the training we do here. When it comes down to it, you just react.”
Because Rippee, a sergeant, reacted the way he did, not only in that situation, but also by pulling wounded soldiers free in the immediate aftermath of a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, he was recently named the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Medic of the Year.
The award was established about 10 years ago, said Master Sgt. Oscar Ware, senior enlisted medical adviser to the Special Operations Command surgeon.
He said the honor is “very prestigious” and the competition among this year’s approximately 50 nominees was particularly close.
Rippee, who is stationed at Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, Ga., grew up in Riverside, attending Chemawa Middle School and spending one year at Ramona High School before his family moved to Ohio.
Toni Rippee, 43, Bryan’s mother, who lives near Richmond, Va., said her son sometimes struggled with school.
“He wasn’t the greatest student,” she said. “As soon as he got out of school he held two jobs down but he didn’t really have any goals. I was hoping he would figure out by working what he wanted to do. When he made the decision to go into the military, it was a little shocking for me. It didn’t seem like something he would be interested in.”
Rippee’s father, Jeff Rippee, 47, of San Bernardino, said he, too, was surprised by his son’s decision.
“I came home from work one day,” Jeff Rippee recalled. “He said, ‘Dad, I went and talked to the recruiter.’ And I said, ‘Yeah?’ He said, ‘I leave in three days.’ Three days later, he was gone. …
“The Army has done a lot for him,” he said. “I think it’s really opened up his eyes. He knows he can do anything he wants to do. He’s just extremely confident. He’s really excelled.”
Bryan Rippee said he went into the medical corps based on his aptitude scores.
Read the rest of Mark Muckenfuss’ article at The Press-Enterprise.