By Sgt. Steven Lopez
In 2011, Daryn Colledge was celebrating alongside his teammates. His team, the Green Bay Packers, had just defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25, winning Super Bowl XLV. It was his final season with the Packers. The offensive guard has since become a different kind of guard.
In March 2016, after nine seasons in the NFL (with the Packers, Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins), Colledge enlisted in the Army National Guard. He found that being a Soldier would afford him the hands-on, active, team environment he was used to … and craved.
Now, you can find him on the back of a HH-60M Blackhawk Helicopter assisting combat medical specialists in transporting patients to safety.
Spc. Daryn Colledge, a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, assigned to 1st Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment (Attack Reconnaissance Battalion), Task Force Panther, of the Idaho National Guard, volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. He serves as part of a medical evacuation crew—a mission that goes into harm’s way to save complete strangers when called upon, while on an airframe with no weapon systems.
“I wanted this mission, because I believe in this mission,” said Colledge. “I wanted to be a part of the mission that might get those unfortunate injured ones back home, help save lives and help bring some of them back to their families.”
Many things influenced Colledge’s decision to join the Idaho National Guard, such as his family’s military past and a brother who currently serves. Colledge stated that the National Guard provided the opportunities he sought after while serving. His passion for aviation drove him to choose to become a Blackhawk helicopter repairer.
“Joining the Army National Guard was a two part choice,” explained Colledge. “First, I wanted to remain in Boise, Idaho, and second, as a private pilot in my civilian life, I wanted to continue to fly in my Army career.”
After multiple flights and several qualification tests, he later became a Blackhawk crew chief; a job with more responsibilities yet filled with excitement and new opportunities for Colledge.
“I could have gone the Army pilot route, but the crew chief side is too interesting for me,” said
Colledge. “Crew chiefs have the chance to wear so many hats: mechanic, door gunner, assistant to the medics, conduct hoist operations and sling load operations. The constant change is a great challenge and keeps you working and honing your skills.”
As a Blackhawk crew chief, Colledge was presented with the opportunity to join a medical evacuation crew while on a deployment to Afghanistan.
“His desire to serve was clear,” said Capt. Robert Rose, Company G, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, Forward Support Medical Platoon Leader MEDEVAC Detachment Officer in Charge. “His intent was never to seek glory through our mission, but rather to be in a position to help others.”
Colledge joined the MEDEVAC crew and rapidly became someone to emulate because of the teamwork and motivation he brought along with him.
“One of things that comes naturally to Colledge is his ability to motivate and inspire others,” said 1st Lt. Morgan Hill, Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation Battalion (MEDEVAC) / Detachment Commander. “He’s a team player and thrives on working toward a common purpose.”
Colledge not only performed his duties as a crew chief, but also was able to lead his crewmates by example. As a former professional athlete, Colledge brought the insight of how to maintain optimal physical readiness, which is one of the most important aspects of being a Soldier.
“One of his most notable accomplishments, besides his great work as a crew chief, was building a workout program that others in the unit could participate in as a group,” said Hill. “He was able to motivate his peers and superiors alike to stay physically fit and healthy throughout the deployment, even in austere environments, which was huge for maintaining unit morale.”
Colledge emphasized the fact that teamwork in the Army versus teamwork in sports actually tends to have many similarities, especially when it comes to being deployed.
“The close proximity to each other, the bonds built over a common goal, the joint struggles, working through things as a team,” said Colledge. “You create a bond, a relationship that you do not share with those who were not there. Those bonds can last a lifetime.”
Although Colledge established himself to be a proficient Soldier, crew chief and teammate at the beginning, there could have been some challenges in leading an individual with his unique background.
“Spc. Colledge doesn’t hide his previous career, but he also doesn’t flaunt it,” said Rose. “He is much more humble than I initially imagined when I heard that I would be leading a Super Bowl winning former NFL player.”
“Ultimately, I was more concerned with the fact that he was a competent crew chief who was willing to learn and contribute to the team as a whole,” said Hill. “He never made anything about himself at any time, and he always put the unit and its Soldiers first.”
From Super Bowl champion to flying in the skies of Afghanistan, Colledge’s journey is a unique experience. Some might wonder why someone in his position would take on this challenge, volunteering years of his life to serve his country.
“Selfless service defines who Colledge is, he did not need to enlist,” said Hill. “He chose to serve for no other reason than to serve and give back.”
“Outside of deployment, to help and support the city and state that supported me through my days in college has been a special opportunity for me,” said Colledge. “I would have not been able to pay for college on my own, and the chance to give back and serve that same community means the world to me.”