California National Guard Aircrews Receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for Rescuing 242 People

September 16, 2020Joshua Skovlund
chief rosamond

Chief Rosamond with President Trump after receiving the Distinguished Service Cross. Screen grab from youtube.

Two California National Guard aircrews received the Distinguished Flying Cross for their actions on Sept. 5 and 6, 2020, that saved 242 people from the Creek Fire that surrounded the Mammoth Pool Reservoir campground, according to a White House press release.

“Today it’s my profound honor to award seven extraordinary soldiers with the Distinguished Flying Cross for their remarkable courage to rescue their fellow citizens,” President Donald Trump said during the award ceremony, later adding, “Your unyielding determination lifts our nation. You’re what makes our nation great, and we thank you very much.”

Chief Warrant Officers Joseph Rosamond, Kipp Goding, Irvin Hernandez, Brady Hlebain, and Ge Xiong, and Sgts. George Esquivel and Cameron Powell made up the aircrews manning the MH-47 Chinook and the UH-60 Black Hawk that made three separate trips into the blazing, smoke-filled area.

The Cal Fire incident command had told them not to go due to the extreme danger from the high winds and dense smoke, but the aircrews made the decision to fly in because they knew their fellow citizens’ lives were at stake.

california national guard
Rosamond’s Chinook coming in to land during the rescue. Photo courtesy of the California National Guard.

“This was a crew effort. […] If one of those guys had said, ‘Hey, I’m past my limit,’ we would have stopped,” Chief Warrant Officer 5 Rosamond, pilot of the Chinook, told Coffee or Die Magazine. “It was definitely a crew decision the entire way.”

Because of the severity of the conditions they were flying in, Rosamond said, his aircrew communicated with the Black Hawk aircrew consistently throughout the night in order to have constant feedback on what routes were the safest and where the smoke was shifting.

“Because of the change in temperature after the sun went down, everything was kind of settling down into the valleys and visibility was getting worse,” Rosamond said of the flying conditions. “In fact, we took three different routes of ingress into the lake over the three lifts just because the first one worked out the first time [but] didn’t work out the second time. So we had to find a different way to come in. So we came in from the south. Then we came in from the east, and then finally we came in from the north.”

Rosamond and the rest of the aircrews in California are working around the clock to rescue those they can and assist with wildfire suppression as the West Coast continues to burn. As of the time of publication, Cal Fire has recorded 3,154,107 acres burned, 7,718 active fires, 20 confirmed fatalities, and 13,559 structures damaged or destroyed.

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
dear jack mandaville
Dear Jack: Which Historic Battle Would You Want To Witness?

Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.

west point time capsule
West Point Time Capsule Yields Centuries-Old Coins

A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.

Ouija Board aircraft carrier
Low-Tech ‘Ouija Boards’ Have Helped Aircraft Carriers Operate for Decades

Since the 1920s, a low-tech tabletop replica of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck has been an essential tool in coordinating air operations.

Army vs. Navy mascot
The Navy Goat vs. the Army Mule: Mascot Origin Stories

For nearly as long as the Army-Navy football rivalry, the academies’ hoofed mascots have stared each other down from the sidelines. Here are their stories.

ukraine long-range weapon
Zelenskyy Says Ukraine Has Developed a Long-Range Weapon, a Day After Strike Deep Inside Russia

Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel the weapon was produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Strategic Industries but gave no other details.

7 of the Best Movie Ambush Scenes of All Time

Ambushes make for great action scenes. Here are seven of the best to ever grace the big screen.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, with his daughter, center right, reportedly named Ju Ae, review the honor guard during their visit to the navy headquarter in North Korea
North Korea Launches Missile Toward Sea After US Flies Bomber During Drills

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the launch occurred Wednesday but gave no further details, such as how far the missile flew.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
Contact Us
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved