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Reserve fire rescue etched in history

April 2018 painting showing

Mike Rowland, Museum of Aviation curator, Col. John Heck, Air Force Reserve Command Historian’s office and Darby Perrin, a boom operator assigned to the 507th Air Refueling Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, speak during a showing of Perrin’s latest painting at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, Ga., April 13, 2018. Perrin, the artist of the painting created the work depicting a helicopter rescue at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. The work shows a disaster that killed 85 people and injured more than 700 on November 21, 1980. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ciara Gosier)

April 2018 painting showing

Darby Perrin, a Reserve Citizen Airman boom operator with the 465th Air Refueling Squadron, speaks to Col. John Heck during a painting showing at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, Ga., April 13, 2018. The painting, completed by Perrin, depicts a helicopter rescue at a hotel in Las Vegas, where 85 people perished and more than 700 were injured on November 21, 1980. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ciara Gosier)

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. -- The newest addition to the Air Force Reserve’s art collection, “Grand Rescue,” was displayed for the first time at the Museum of Aviation April 13.

Reserve Citizen Airman Senior Master Sgt. Darby Perrin, a boom operator assigned to the 507th Air Refueling Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, painted “Grand Rescue” as a tribute to the men and women who flew the rescue mission during the MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada fire November 21, 1980.

The painting was unveiled in front of the museum’s HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter, one of three Air Force Reserve helicopters assisting with the rescue effort. The artwork depicts a helicopter rescue of a pregnant woman at the hotel.

“This painting was a challenge for me, but the rescue was intense and I was honored to be able to document the Reservists that helped out,” said Perrin.

The Reserve Citizen Airmen First Responders are credited with saving the lives of roughly 1,000 people from the roof and balconies of the hotel.

On the morning of November 21, 1980, an electrical fire broke out in the hotel restaurant, The Deli. It quickly spread through the hotel with smoke being pulled into the hotel rooms. The disaster killed 85 people and injured more than 700.

“There was a Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB, Nevada and our Reservists just happened to be there when the fire broke out,” said Perrin. “The fire department reached out to the base to assist with the rescue via helicopters and our combat search and rescues team were in the right place at the right time.”

Mike Rowland, the Museum of Aviation curator, said the teams faced many challenges due to an overhang on the hotel. “First they created a pendulum motion and swung onto the balconies, but then they got the idea to use a strap and have the people waiting to be rescued, pull them onto the balcony.”

Perrin said there were about a dozen Reservists involved in the rescue accounting for four aircrew on each of the three helicopters.

Perrin is one of nearly 70,000 Reserve Citizen Airmen serving around the world. He says painting has always been a passion of his and he is thrilled to be able to put his skills to use for the Air Force Reserve.

"I fly and I paint. I paint and I fly. I'm living the dream," says Perrin. “I really enjoy being able to serve in both capacities.”

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