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Manteca CWO Rosamond piloted Chinook thru hellish wildfire to save 242 trapped campers
Manteca resident Joseph “Joe” Rosamond has the Distinguished Flying Cross pinned on him by President Donald J. Trump at a special ceremony at the former McClellan Air Force Base.

Manteca resident and Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Rosamond was awarded the United States Army’s Distinguished Flying Cross by President Donald Trump for his role in helping save 242 campers and hikers trapped by a raging wildfire 40 miles northeast of Fresno.

When Rosamond lifted a California National Guard CH-47 “Chinook” helicopter off the ground to fly into an area that was completely engulfed by the Creek Fire near the Mammoth Pools last week as dark started to settle, there was no guarantee that he would be flying back out.

But he and his crew of three other soldiers went anyway and worked with a Blackhawk helicopter crew out of Fresno to rescue the campers who had become stranded and encircled with flames as the Creek Fire burned out of control.

On Monday, Rosamond and his crew were honored by President Trump who awarded them the United States Army’s Distinguished Flying Cross for “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight”. The presentation took place during a stop in California at the former McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento.

“While they were on their way to the campground, the crew received word from state and local officials in headquarters that it was far too dangerous to continue the mission; ‘turn back,’” Trump said about the mission that Rosamond and his crew undertook. “But they decided to continue anyway knowing they might not return. They knew the people were in danger – great danger. As night set in they could see almost nothing through the miles of dense smoke.”

The story of Rosamond’s heroism quickly spread through military ranks and garnered an in-depth profile from that detailed the decisions that went into the rescue mission on Sept. 5.

Rosamond was actively discouraged to access the stranded campers by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire, who feared that the smoke was too thick for the helicopters to effectively access the area without jeopardizing the lives of the Rosamond and his crew and the Blackhawk helicopter that followed his lead into the blinding smoke.

The smoke was so thick that the crews had to use night vision goggles to make out where the ground was and find a location where they could safely land and help usher the stranded and terrified campers to safety.

To those that know him, Rosamond’s decision to do everything in his power to save lives is right on the mark.

“Joe has always been so focused. When he has his mind on something – on any kind of a mission – he will tackle it until he sees that it is complete and successful,” said Rosamond’s father-in-law, Frank Fiore. “It is definitely part of his character.”

According to Fiore, who owns and operates Center Appliance and Center Plumbing in Manteca, it was a happy day on Monday to see Rosamond receive recognition for his bravery from the President of the United States. Huddled around televisions at the family business, those that knew him best were moved to tears as the Leader of the Free World described the details of the mission and pinned on him a medal that requires voluntary action in the face of danger and requires that the recipient’s actions be “well and above” the actions performed by others engaged in similar flight operations.”

“They had to go up there last night and get tested for Covid, and Gina (wife), Gianna (10-year-old daughter), and Luke (5-year-old son) got to sit in and see the entire ceremony,” Fiore said. “It’s privilege and a blessing to see their father receive an award like that from the President of the United States.

“We couldn’t be prouder.”

Rosamond has served more than two decades in the National Guard including two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.


To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.