2 Kirtland AFB helicopter pilots earn DFC for action in Afghanistan

2 Kirtland AFB helicopter pilots earn DFC for action in Afghanistan

22-Apr-2012 Source: US Army

Two Air Force helicopter pilots who braved enemy fire to rescue wounded soldiers from battlefields in Afghanistan were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with valor on Friday.

The medals were awarded to Capt. Marcus Maris, 37, of Raleigh, N.C., and Capt. Christopher Palmer, 31, of Cincinnati, at a Kirtland Air Force Base ceremony.

Maris earned his medal while piloting an HH-60 Pave Hawk on Nov. 14, 2010. He was sent to evacuate wounded soldiers from a unit pinned down by enemy fire when his helicopter began taking machine gun and rocket fire from three sides. Several rockets exploded within 20 feet.

According to the commendation, as Maris’ aircraft was struck, he put his helicopter in a hover and lowered medics to the ground, then flew off while attack aircraft took on the enemy positions. When the casualties were ready to be evacuated, he flew back to their location, dropped supplies and picked up the wounded.

Palmer was flying a Pave Hawk on two evacuation missions in November 2010 when he came under attack.

On one mission, his helicopter was hit by enemy fire, wounding a crewman and knocking out his primary flight controls. Palmer replaced the wounded crewman and returned in the damaged craft to pick up the wounded from the same landing site where he had been hit.

He had to hover and hoist injured soldiers with the aircraft’s tail resting on nearby trees. While in the hover, rockets from an AH-64 attack helicopter struck nearby and enemy rounds again hit the aircraft. He didn’t leave until he was nearly out of fuel.

In the second incident cited in the commendation, Palmer attacked enemy positions that were firing at an accompanying helicopter as it lowered its medic to help wounded soldiers.

Maris and Palmer were assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Bagram Air Base at the time and are now assigned to Kirtland’s 512th Rescue Squadron.

The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to service members who display heroism or extraordinary achievement while flying in support of military operations.

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