Rescue Pilot Receives Two Silver Stars

Col. Christopher Barnett received two Silver Stars for gallantry in combat operations in a ceremony at Maxwell AFB, Ala., last month. In 2012, then-Lt. Col. Barnett was awarded two Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor awards for his actions on May 19-20, 2009, and April 4, 2009, in Afghanistan. Those two awards were upgraded to Silver Stars in a recent DOD-wide review of medals given during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. On May 19-20, Barnett was mission commander and flight lead of two HH-60G helicopters from the 34th Weapons Squadron, 129th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron in Marjah, Afghanistan. In the midst of a four-day battle, Barnett flew into heavy enemy fire on three separate occasions to rescue wounded soldiers, executing “a perfect zero visibility approach” on one occasion, according to the award citation, and saving three lives over the course of two days. On April 4, near Kajaki, Afghanistan, Barnett led his HH-60G formation into a sandstorm in near zero visibility to rescue critically wounded casualties from a special forces convoy that had come under attack on the ground. Barnett flew into a hail of enemy fire, at one point hovering within 20 meters of an enemy position, in order to locate the stranded soldiers. He then directed his flight in an attack that destroyed the position and remained in the air to secure the area for evacuation despite dangerously low fuel levels. He was credited with saving the lives of one Afghan National Army and 40 US special forces soldiers.