News: Army Pilots Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross
Story by Maj. Enrique Vasquez
By Maj. Enrique Vasquez
Combat Aviation Brigade
1st Infantry Division
MOSUL, Iraq – Two OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilots assigned to the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, received the Army's highest aviation award, the Distinguished Flying Cross, for their actions during combat operations while flying over Mosul, Iraq, on Dec. 30, 2007.
Pilots, Capt. Peter Di Giorgio and 1st Lt. Robert I. Sickler both of Troop A, 4th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment received the DFC in two separate ceremonies.
Di Giorgio and Sickler distinguished themselves while leading a Kiowa scout weapons team conducting reconnaissance and security in support of ground forces in western Mosul. On that December day an unmanned aerial vehicle spotted a group of men transferring arms from a parked van. Di Giorgio and Sickler flying on a separate patrol were retasked to observe this suspicious activity in western Mosul.
As the pilots moved in for a closer inspection they confirmed hostile intent and fired on the target.
Insurgents armed with AK-47s and a large caliber machine gun returned fire at the Kiowa. Although under intense enemy small arms and heavy machine-gun fire, Di Giorgio and Sickler continued the attack. The ensuing exchange of rifle and machine-gun fire between the Kiowa and the insurgents resulted in severe damage to the helicopter.
The Kiowa banked hard left, and while continuing the attack the crew heard the distinct sound of enemy fire ripping through the aircraft and cockpit. Although severely hit, they attacked the insurgents again.
Di Giorgio and Sickler lost their instruments, communications and engine pressure. Assuming engine failure was imminent Sickler prepared for a crash landing by searching for a landing area. After rechecking their systems the crew determined the engine was still operating normally and flew their crippled aircraft safely back to base, where they quickly boarded another helicopter and returned to the fight.
Meanwhile, a UAV kept eyes on the insurgents, tracking their movements and Di Giorgio and Sickler's reacquired the insurgents and once again began firing at them with both rockets and an M-4 rifle. Di Giorgio hit some of the insurgents and an accompanying Kiowa flown by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Thomas Boise and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Susan Weathers, both of Trp. A, engaged the remaining insurgents with a Hellfire missile. Their tenacity and courage under fire resulted in numerous insurgents killed and weapons captured.
Di Giorgio and Sickler's DFC citations read "for leadership and personal bravery under fire undeniably spoiled future enemy actions in western Mosul. Your superior actions killed eight insurgents, destroyed two vehicles, and one heavy machine gun preserving Coalition Force freedom of movement throughout western Mosul."
Both pilots were scheduled to receive their medals together. However, Sickler was wounded on a separate engagement Feb. 17, while flying over Mosul. Sickler was flown to Germany where he was treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Gen. David D. McKiernan, commanding general U.S. Army, Europe & 7th Army, presented Sickler his DFC medal at LRMC, Feb 18. Sickler also received a purple heart for his wounds. He was returned to the U.S. for follow-on treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Col. Jessie O. Farrington CAB, 1ID commander presented Di Giorgio with the DFC at Forward Operating Base Diamondback, in Mosul, Iraq, March 2. Pilots Boise and Weathers also received Air Medals with "V" device for their actions Dec. 30.
"We honor the aviators of A Troop 4-6 CAV for their bravery and selfless service under fire," said Farrington during the awards ceremony. "Your quick actions and disregard for personal safety to support combat forces on the ground continue the great combat legacy of Army aviation. I am honored and humbled to be here today and be part of your team."