Two Kirtland AFB officers receive Distinguished Flying Cross

  • Published
  • By Stefan Bocchino
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Capt. Christopher Palmer, 512th Rescue Squadron, chief of standardization and evaluation, and Capt. Marcus Maris, 512 RQS, student flight commander, were presented the Distinguished Flying Cross by Col. James Cardoso, 58th Special Operations Wing commander, during a Warrior Call on April 20 at Kirtland Air Force Base.

Both officers were recognized for actions while deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Both Airmen piloted the HH-60G Pave Hawk while there. The operations cited occurred while they were both deployed to a forward operating base in November 2010.

Maris distinguished himself during a mass-casualty evacuation mission in Watapur Valley, Afghanistan, on November 14, 2010. As the pilot of an HH-60G Pave Hawk, he flew in extreme mountainous terrain and performed a precision hover and hoist while under enemy fire. During this maneuver, three pararescuemen were lowered to the ground. After that he departed to rejoin his wingman in a defensive pattern overhead.

Once the casualties were ready for evacuation, Maris and his crew returned to the landing zone to evacuate 11 casualties and bring in medical supplies.

"It was a great honor getting the DFC," said Maris. "I felt a little emotional on stage, reliving the mission. It brought back memories from flying that day. We did what needed to be done to help those people on the ground. This is a win for the rescue community. It lets everyone know what combat search and rescue is all about."

Maris said that the HH-60G had a crew of four for that mission and also carried three pararescuemen. He said they worked through the night to get all the casualties out.

Palmer took part in two mass-casualty evacuation missions. He flew one on Nov. 12 and then was part of the same mission Maris was on Nov. 14. While on the first mission a crew member was wounded and the primary flight controls were damaged. After bringing the wounded crew member back to base and despite the aircraft's degraded capabilities, Palmer and his crew returned to the landing zone to continue their mission. During the second mission, he engaged the enemy to provide cover for the other aircraft while it was lowering the pararescuemen. His fire suppression allowed for vital medical supplies and care to be provided to those injured on the ground and then their evacuation.

"It's an incredible honor to get recognized for something that such a large community does," said Palmer. "To get singled out for something like that is nice. We did a lot of good work down there and brought a lot of people home, which is what really matters."

Both officers will help train the next generation of rescue pilots and both are in line to be promoted to major.

"I could not be more proud," said Lt. Col. John Galik, 512 RQS commander. "It's an incredible job that they do. Words can't describe how it feels. They are both outstanding officers and both have an outstanding future in the Air Force. They will both bring that experience back and teach our young students coming in."