Black Hawk pilot receives Distinguished Service Cross for heroically shielding Green Berets from enemy fire

Unsung Heroes

When then-Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher C. Palumbo found out he couldn't get back to a battle in Afghanistan, he was so mad that he drop-kicked his flight helmet.

Palumbo, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot, received the Distinguished Service Cross Award on Thursday for his actions during that battle on April 11, 2005. The award is the Army's second highest for valor.


At the time of the battle, Palumbo was with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment stationed in Germany. He and his crew had reloaded with ammunition and were preparing to head back to a mountainous area where insurgents were attacking Special Forces soldiers. After their bullet-riddled helicopter started leaking fuel, he asked for another aircraft, but was denied.

"I knew they needed us back out there," said Palumbo, who retired as a captain.

The battle started after the helicopter crew dropped off a Special Forces team near an area where an ambush had occurred. Initially, the soldiers encountered little resistance, but then a large enemy force came out of nearby caves and attacked.

"They were everywhere," Palumbo said.

The Special Forces team was about to be overrun. Two soldiers were shot. One called for the helicopter to return.

Palumbo immediately started heading back to the area. He attempted to land, but the terrain was rough and the soldiers were near the edge of a cliff.

Apache attack helicopters had been in the area, but had left to refuel. The enemy troops were shooting at Palumbo's helicopter.

One of the soldiers told Palumbo to leave. He replied with "not nice words" and put the helicopter between the enemy troops and the Special Forces team.

Palumbo said he started flying the helicopter in a figure eight so the gunner on one side could shoot while the other reloaded. One crewmember was injured when a bullet hit inside the helicopter and sent shrapnel into his face.

The Black Hawk had more than 50 bullet holes after the battle.


Retired Capt. Christopher C. Palumbo, right, received the Distinguished Service Cross from Gen. James C. McConville, vice chief of staff of the Army, during a ceremony Thursday at Fort Bragg(U.S. Army/Sgt. 1st Class J. TaShun Joyce)

Gen. James C. McConville, vice chief of staff of the Army, presented Palumbo with the Distinguished Service Cross at John F. Kennedy Hall on Fort Bragg.

The ceremony was the second presentation of a Distinguished Service Cross at Fort Bragg in less than a week. On June 21, Lt. Gen. Fran Beaudette, commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, presented the award to retired Master Sgt. Larry L. Hawks for his actions July 24-25, 2005, in Afghanistan.

Members of the Special Forces team who were in the battle involving Palumbo's Black Hawk attended the ceremony Thursday. McConville praised their actions.

Army aviation usually uses separate helicopters to move things, find things and kill things, McConville said. During the battle in Afghanistan, Palumbo's Black Hawk did all three, he said.

McConville told Palumbo that he represented the best of the Army and the nation.

"What you did saved lives," McConville said.

Lt. Col. Robert K. Beale, who was Palumbo's platoon leader in Afghanistan, on Thursday described the battle.

Beale, who is now a professor of military science at Temple University in Philadelphia, said he was proud to have served with Palumbo.

"Chris showed us that day what warriors are made of," Beale said.

Palumbo initially received the Silver Star Medal for his actions. The award was upgraded after the military decided to review medals awarded for actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Palumbo, who lives in Edinburg, Texas, is a lead Emergency Medical Services helicopter pilot. He said it was a tremendous honor to receive the award.

"I'm shocked, it was very unexpected,'' he said.

———

©2019 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

(U.S. Army/Sgt. 1st Class J. TaShun Joyce)
(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. True Thao)

Army researchers have devised a method to produce ceramic body armor, lightweight but strong, from a 3D printer. Except that 3D printers are meant to print out knickknacks, not flak jackets — which meant that engineers had to hack into the printer to get the job done.

Read More Show Less

There are #squadgoals, and then there are squad goals — and only one of them includes a potential future accompanied by autonomous murderbots.

Hot on the heels of the Marine Corps's head-to-toe overhaul of infantry rifle squads, a handful of grunts at the Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California recently conducted field testing alongside a handful of autonomous robots engineered by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Squad X Experimentation program.

Read More Show Less
Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher dodged the most serious charges the Navy threw at him during his court martial, but his final sentence could be far worse than what the jury originally handed down.

If the convening authority approves the jury's sentence of four months' confinement and a reduction in rank from E7 to E6, Gallagher will be busted down to the rank of E1, according to Navy officials.

Read More Show Less

An otherwise sleepy confirmation hearing for Defense Secretary nominee Mark Esper was jolted from its legislative stupor after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) grilled the former Raytheon lobbyist on ethical issues regarding his involvement with his former employer.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Air Force photo)

An Air Force major in Texas has been charged with the murder of his wife, whose remains were found more than four months after she went missing.

The body of 29-year-old Andreen McDonald was discovered Thursday in San Antonio following an exhaustive search that took 134 days, according to the Bexar County Sheriff's Office.

Read More Show Less