HELENA — The Montana Highway Patrol (MHP) has recognized Trooper Amanda Villa with their Medal of Valor for her efforts in rescuing the crew of a downed Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) helicopter in June.
The MHP Medal of Valor is the highest award a trooper can receive. It is given to troopers who embody heroism and bravery by knowingly exposing themselves to obvious life-threatening peril, or react to a situation without regard for personal safety to effect aid or rescue.
Trooper Villa’s dashcam footage from June 15 leaves little question as to why she received such an honor.
There were five people aboard the DNRC helicopter when it made a hard landing while responding to the Deep Creek Canyon Fire. It wasn’t long until the wreckage was engulfed in flames and thick black smoke.
Luckily the landing happened right in front of Trooper Villa’s patrol vehicle. She quickly radioed for assistance and rushed to help. One of the crew was able to get out and informed her there were four more individuals aboard.
The trooper helped pull out those still in the downed aircraft and get them away from the burning wreckage.
The crew of the helicopter posted online: “Last Chance Helitack crew would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Highway Patrol Trooper Amanda Villa for coming to our aid during the helicopter accident. Not many people would run towards a fire to ensure other people’s safety, but Trooper Villa didn’t hesitate when she saw that members of our crew were still inside and potentially in danger. We feel safer knowing that there are people like Amanda Villa out there ready and willing to help people at a moment’s notice. Thank you, Trooper Villa!”
Not one to easily accept recognition, Villa says she’s just grateful everyone got out safe.
“I’m more thankful about the outcome and what occurred and hopefully there won’t be another circumstance for something like this but it is nice to be recognized, it’s just humbling,” she said.
Montana’s Attorney General Austin Knudsen thanked and recognized Villa for her heroic actions at a ceremony at the State Capitol on Monday.
"Our troopers put themselves in harm’s way every day to serve others, but Trooper Amanda Villa’s act of valor stands above and is among the best in the Highway Patrol’s long history of service, integrity, and respect," Knudsen said. "Without Trooper Villa’s quick-thinking and selfless actions that day, the outcome could have been much different."
Those in the Montana Highway Patrol that know her well say they weren’t surprised at all she’d rush into danger looking for people in need and ways to help.
“She rarely wants recognition for what she does. Like today was not something she was looking forward to. She just likes to go out and do her job and stay in the background like a lot of us do,” explained Sgt. Mike Jensen.
Trooper Villa is also a Field Training Officer for the Montana Highway Patrol. The agency says they’re lucky to have the next generation of troopers learning from someone that embodies the best traits of the badge.