Edmond P. Abood, 78, a retired Army colonel who received the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism in the Vietnam War and later did extensive contracting work for the Defense Department, died June 19 at a hospital in Boca Raton, Fla. He had cancer.

Col. Abood joined the Army in 1944 and was a combat rifleman in Europe during World War II. Later, he was a combat infantry commander during the Korean War and an Army Rangers instructor.

In the early 1960s, he had a role in changing the 101st Airborne Division from a parachute infantry division to a helicopter-borne assault division. He served three combat tours in Vietnam, where he commanded three battalions of the 101st Airborne.

His Distinguished Service Cross, the highest award for bravery after the Medal of Honor, came for his heroism in action Aug. 13, 1967, when he was commanding an airborne infantry battalion on a helicopter assault mission far into enemy territory.

He directed that the helicopters fly low, risking heavy ground fire to make direct strikes against enemy targets. Several helicopters were shot down, and his craft suffered hits. But he and his men landed at the designated place.

On the ground, he moved to avoid sniper fire while directing a team to extinguish a fire started by a smoke grenade in nearby elephant grass. He ignored enemy machine-gun fire and shrapnel to evacuate a soldier suffering from smoke inhalation and another overcome by heat exposure.

Through the night, he continued to repel enemy forces and direct a move to safer ground -- all the while exposing himself to enemy fire and rallying his men.

His other awards included four awards of the Legion of Merit, two awards of the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and eight awards of the Air Medal. In 1999, he was inducted into the Army Rangers Hall of Fame.

Edmond Peter Abood was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Lebanese immigrants.

He was a 1950 graduate of Pennsylvania Military College, where he was co-captain of the football team.

He also boxed and played football for the Army after Korean War duty. He also was a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College and the Army War College.

His post-Vietnam service included an assignment to the NATO international staff. He represented the alliance in negotiations with the Warsaw Pact in Vienna to reduce conventional military forces.

His final active-duty assignment, in 1981, was with the Joint Chiefs of Staffs as chief of the European division. This portfolio included policy, plans and operations affecting U.S. troops in Europe.

In retirement, he was a contract employee working for the undersecretary of defense for policy from 1982 to 1998. He was responsible for developing policy and providing advice on operations in national reconnaissance, covert action and psychological operations. He also was responsible for Defense Department support of Radio and TV Marti, which transmit anti-Castro broadcasts to Cuba.

He was a recipient of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, an award rarely bestowed on contractors.

He was a Fairfax City resident and at his death was visiting his only immediate survivor, a sister, Lorraine Azrak of Boca Raton.

Edmond P. Abood

was a Defense Department contractor.