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C. David Ruvola
Lieutenant Colonel (ret.), New York Air National Guard

Dave Ruvola is a true American hero. A retired lieutenant colonel in the New York Air National Guard and a commercial helicopter pilot, this 1981 graduate of the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University commanded search-and-rescue missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom and has risked his life repeatedly in times of domestic tragedy.

During the 1991 nor'easter that was later chronicled in the book and movie, "The Perfect Storm," he survived a harrowing helicopter crash while attempting to rescue a sailor in distress. Mr. Ruvola faced 100-mph winds that made mid-air refueling impossible. Under the circumstances, he was forced to ditch the helicopter in the ocean 60 miles off the coast of Long Island. One crew member was lost, and it was hours before the survivors were brought to safety-- an episode indicative of the dangers regularly confronted by Mr. Ruvola and his colleagues at the New York Air National Guard's 106th Air Rescue Wing as they fulfill their motto, flying "So that others may live."

Mr. Ruvola joined the Air Rescue Wing in 1977 as a pararescue specialist. In this capacity, he jumped into combat, treated wounded soldiers and removed them from danger. That same year, with two years of coursework at SUNY Farmingdale under his belt, Mr. Ruvola transferred to the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, where he earned a B.S. in recreation services administration.

He became a commercial helicopter pilot in New York City in 1985, but he remained deeply involved with the Air Rescue Wing, taking on flight instructor responsibilities in 1998. By 2002, Mr. Ruvola was named squadron commander of the 102nd Rescue Squadron. From August through December of 2003, he served as commander of the U.S. Air Force's 101st Expeditionary Rescue Squadron. Based at Baghdad International Airport, Mr. Ruvola supervised 80 personnel in combat search-and-rescue missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In 2004, Mr. Ruvola retired from the Air National Guard with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Today, he is a corporate helicopter pilot for Computer Associates and serves on the Board of Advisors of the Long Island University Homeland Security Management Institute.

Mr. Ruvola, who is enrolled in a Master of Arts program in military studies at American Military University, lives with his wife, Carmen, in East Moriches, NY. The couple has three children: David, Natalie and Christina.