FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Retired Capt. Christopher C. Palumbo received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) during a ceremony at John F. Kennedy Hall, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 27, 2019.
The Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James C. McConville, presented the award to Palumbo for his heroic actions April 11, 2005, while serving as a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot in Afghanistan.
The then-Chief Warrant Officer 3 Palumbo was part of a quick reaction force supporting conventional and Special Operations Forces when his Blackhawk crew received the call to infill a Special Forces unit responding to an ambush high in the mountains.
After the unit received heavy enemy fire and sustained critically wounded Soldiers, Palumbo’s Blackhawk crew reacted to the urgent casualty evacuation request and headed to their location.
Unable to land because of rough terrain, Palumbo placed his Blackhawk between the wounded and enemies allowing his crew to engage the insurgents. Palumbo’s former platoon leader, Lt. Col. Robert K. Beale, recalled the events on April 11.
“While flying figure-eight patterns, low-level, in a valley between the insurgents and the wounded Americans, Chris’ aircraft started taking heavy enemy fire. The crew chiefs took aim, shooting straight down at the insurgents attempting to maneuver on the wounded Americans,” said Beale.
Palumbo had rotated his helicopter, allowing one gunner to engage insurgents, while the other gunner reloaded, providing continuous suppressive fire.
“The crew members in the back of the Blackhawk neutralized one target after another, all while taking rounds to the aircraft,” said Beale.
An enemy bullet ricocheted off the crew station injuring a crewmember. Though wounded, the crew continued to shield the service members on the ground from the enemy until the Blackhawk ran low on fuel, ammunition and had sustained significant damage.
“The events of that fateful day permanently impacted me and the Soldiers of our Platoon. For the first time in my short military career, I had witnessed extraordinary heroism and courage by otherwise ordinary men,” said Beale recollecting that day.
The support the crew provided allowed medical care to reach the wounded and for additional support aircraft to successfully recover the unit and service members.
All the U.S. military personnel survived the attack by enemy forces. Palumbo and his Blackhawk crew returned to flying missions the next morning.
McConville recognized the Blackhawk crew, SF unit and those involved in the battle sitting in the audience. He thanked them for their actions that day.
“It was absolutely remarkable heroism during that whole battle,” said McConville. “Thank you all for your heroism.”
Beale said looking back on that day “the actions of all of the men on that early April morning embodied the Warrior Ethos.”
“Chris and his crew showed us that day what warriors are made of. I am proud to have served with them and am honored to call them my friends,” he continued.
During the ceremony, McConville placed the DSC on Palumbo, in front of his family, friends, former platoon members, leaders and Soldiers from U.S. Army Special Operations Command.