Aerial Gunner Awarded DFC With Valor

An aerial gunner at Kirtland AFB, N.M., on Jan. 13 received the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for his role in a 2011 high-risk rescue mission in Afghanistan. MSgt. Gregory Gibbs, 512th Rescue Squadron operations superintendent, was a gunner on the rescue mission near the Pakistani border, where US Army soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were dropped in an area covered in landmines. The soldiers immediately began taking casualties, and Gibbs along with his “Pedro 55” HH-60G Pave Hawk crew, flew to the area to rescue the soldiers. The aircrew needed to use a hoist recovery to retrieve the soldiers, who were near five remote trigger improvised explosive devices, according to a Kirtland news release. During the final extraction, the helicopter lost power and began to fall. Gibbs provided the pilots with positioning and altitude calls, letting the pilots fly backwards down a valley to avoid the minefield by two feet, the release states. The crew was able to recover the aircraft and fly back to Kandahar Airfield with just five minutes of fuel remaining. “It gives me a huge sense of pride to be able to have aerial gunners, as well as enlisted, recognized for something like this,” Gibbs said at the ceremony. “This is just one of several things that people in my community have done so it feels good to tell the rescue story.”