Military

Distinguished Flying Crosses Upgraded to Silver Stars For Pave Hawk Mission Commander

By S.L. Fuller | January 20, 2017

LUNGI, Sierra Leone -- An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter prepares to land after training here. The helicopter is assigned to the 56th Rescue Squadron and is deployed with the 398th Air Expeditionary Group in Senegal. (U. S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Justin D. Pyle)

An HH-60G Pave Hawk. Photo courtesy of the U. S. Air Force

A flight lead and mission commander who flew Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawks had his two Distinguished Flying Crosses with Valor upgraded to Silver Stars, news outlets reported. Col. Christopher Barnett of the U.S. Air Force received his initial honors almost five years ago for two separate missions in Afghanistan. Barnett, and seven other men, had their honors upgraded as part of a major review process.

Last May, the U.S. Air Force convened two boards review boards: one to review 12 medals that could have been upgraded to Air Force Crosses and one to review 135 medals that could have been upgraded to Silver Stars. One of Deborah Lee James’ last actions as Air Force Secretary was to approve nine medal upgrades, which she did on Tuesday.

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In April 2009, Barnett and a mission pilot flew through enemy fire and a sandstorm to rescue a soldier and bring him to a trauma hospital in Afghanistan. Soon after completion of that mission, the two made their way to a pinned-down convoy of special operations troops where they helped force the retreat of enemy insurgents. A second set of troops was also under attack, which Barnett’s helicopter went to support. His helicopter engaged in combat then led a second series of attacks, causing the enemy to withdraw. Thanks to Barnett, the lives of 40 Green Berets and one Afghan National Army soldier were saved.

Barnett and the same mission pilot found themselves under heavy fire in Afghanistan again a month later, reports said. Barnett led two Sikorsky Pave Hawks into fire to recue one wounded soldier, then another. And even though Barnett’s helicopter suffered a hit by a mortar, he was able to save lives once again and escape with his own.

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