Chief Warrant Officer 5 David F. Cooper, a Cincinnati, Ohio area native, volunteered for military service in March 1985. After completing Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he attended the Warrant Officer Basic Course and Army Flight School at Fort Rucker, Alabama, followed by the AH-64 Apache Aircraft Qualification Course. CW5 Cooper flew the Apache during his assignments with the 6th U.S. Cavalry at Fort Hood, Texas and at Illeshhiem, Germany. In 1994, CW5 Cooper applied to and successfully assessed for service with the “Night Stalkers” of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, Ky. CW5 Cooper currently serves as the 160th SOAR (A) Regiment Senior Warrant Officer, leading, coaching, and mentoring more than 340 Special Operations Warrant Officers in the unit. On November 27, 2006, CW5 Cooper was the AH-6 Little Bird flight lead for a mission against a foreign fighter facilitator in central Iraq. While moving between waiting locations on this mission, his wingman was brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade. The helicopter assault force immediately landed and, along with the special operations ground forces onboard, set up a small perimeter around the crashed aircraft. Although there were no serious injuries, the aircraft was not flyable. After confirming that there was no immediate threat to the assault force position, the two Black Hawk helicopters evacuated the downed pilots and returned to base to get a downed aircraft recovery team. This left the remaining 20 special operations forces at the crash site with one mission-capable AH-6 and two MH-6 helicopters. The crash site was flat desert ground, leaving the troops virtually nowhere to find cover while defending the area. About 40 minutes later, eight enemy anti-aircraft trucks approached the site and began firing on their position. Cooper and his co-pilot took off to get an aerial view of the situation. Immediately upon lift off, Cooper’s aircraft became the target of enemy fire. Cooper flew his helicopter directly toward the assailants, attacking their position and diverting their fire away from the ground forces. Meanwhile, two more enemy trucks unloaded forces into a house less than one kilometer away and began setting up mortars and machine guns. Cooper immediately began attacking the numerically superior force using his Little Bird’s miniguns and rockets. When his aircraft ran out of ammunition, Cooper landed and the troops on the ground quickly unloaded the rockets from the downed Little Bird and loaded them on Cooper’s, despite intense enemy fire. Cooper lifted off again and continued to attack the enemy head-on, ignoring the bullets that were striking his aircraft just inches from his head. Nearly out of fuel, Cooper was forced to land again. This time, the soldiers on the ground used a Leatherman tool to remove an auxiliary fuel tank from the disabled Little Bird and mount it on Cooper’s. He and his co-pilot attacked the enemy a third time, finishing off the trucks and mortar positions once and for all. CW5 David F. Cooper became the first “Night Stalker” in the unit’s history and the only living aviator to receive the Distinguished Service Cross in support of the War on Terror. Some of his other notable decorations include the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, two Bronze Stars, three Meritorious Service Medals, three Air Medals for valor, four Air Medals and an Army Commendation Medal for valor. CW5 Cooper has been married for 26 years to his wife Mary and continues to fly with the Night Stalkers at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Years Honored: 2010
Aircraft/Specialty: AH-6 Little Bird
On November 27, 2006, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, CW5 Cooper courageously attacked advancing hostile forces with his AH-6. His actions undoubtedly saved the lives of 20 US Special Operations forces. For his heroism, CW5 Cooper was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He is the only living aviator to earn the DSC during Operation Iraqi Freedom.