Bravery In Action
Master Sgt. Robert Colannino Jr. has been named the 2005
Pitsenbarger award winner for his display of heroism in the face of
enemy fire. Colannino is a helicopter flight engineer from Hurlburt
The award is named after Medal of Honor recipient William H.
Pitsenbarger, a pararescueman who died in Vietnam after bravely
leaving his helicopter to assist wounded troops on the ground on
April 11th, 1966. (AF Photo)
Sergeant Colannino was aboard an MH-53M Pave Low during a night
resupply mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom when a
rocket-propelled grenade struck his helicopter.
The RPG impacted the chopper and exploded inside the cockpit
directly between the pilots and Sergeant Colannino. The three
crewmembers in the cockpit were injured from shrapnel and debris,
and the other flight engineer, sitting below the overhead control
panel, was incapacitated by the blast
The pilot landed the badly crippled aircraft in an open field.
Sergeant Colannino jumped into action with his weapon in hand to
defend his aircraft and crew. He heard the other engineer cry for
help and Colannino lowered the back of the seat, released his
restraining belt and pulled the engineer out of the cockpit into
the cabin to assess his injuries.
He immediately administered first aid and then focused his
attention on the other crewmembers' injuries. He helped one of the
pilots get out of his seat because an eye injury interfered with
Sergeant Colannino heard the aircraft commander shout that he
needed help shutting down the aircraft because the sound of the
helicopter was drawing the enemy to their position. As the enemy
approached and mortar rounds began falling, Colannino found the
fuel cables that ran the length of the cabin and pulled them to
stop the engines. His actions resulted in stopping the rotors and
allowing the crew and team to escape.
Sergeant Colannino carried the injured flight engineer to safety
on the recovery aircraft and continued first aid on the injured
flight engineer until they landed safely.
The Air Force Sergeant's Association gives the Pitsenbarger
Award annually to an Air Force enlisted member for heroic acts, on
or off duty, that save a life or prevent serious injury.
Sergeant Colannino is now authorized to wear the Air Force
Recognition Ribbon. The award will be presented during an AFSA
hosted Air Force honors banquet August 3rd in Dallas, Texas.