PJ Awarded DFC for Heroism in Afghanistan

Pararescueman SSgt. Thomas Culpepper was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device for risking his life to rescue three soldiers in Afghanistan in 2011. Culpepper and an HH-60 Pave Hawk crew at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, scrambled to extricate a group of Army Pathfinders who were trapped within a circle of improvised explosive devices. “As I hoisted the second patient up, the aircraft lost power” and began dropping, Culpepper said. Instead of cutting the cable, the winchman pulled Culpepper and the soldier aboard, dragging the helicopter to within three feet of the IEDs. “There was never a question of should we put ourselves at risk to pull these guys out,” he said. Culpepper and the crew pulled all three from danger and attempted to resuscitate a wounded Pathfinder. He was able to save two of the three lives. Culpepper was decorated in a March 11 ceremony at NSA Panama City, Fla., where he instructs combat diving, according to a March 18 release.