Direct Support Operator Recognized for Exceptional Contributions to Mackay Trophy Aircrew

  • Published
  • By Lori A. Bultman
  • 25th Air Force

Every year, an aircrew is selected for the Clarence Mackay Trophy, which is presented to an aircrew for accomplishing the most meritorious flight of the year. This year, an AC-130U aircrew from Air Force Special Operations Command, which included one of 25th Air Force’s outstanding Airmen, was recognized with the honor.


“We're incredibly proud of our Airman and all of our Airmen's contributions to the AFSOC mission,” said Col. Michael Stevenson, commander, 363rd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing.


Staff Sgt. David, a direct support operator, 25th Intelligence Squadron, is assigned to AFSOC for missions, but he belongs to the 25th IS and 363rd ISRW.  


The entire crew was recognized for their valiant effort during a particular mission.


The award citation reads, “While providing armed over watch for an American and Afghan ground force, the friendly team was caught in a deadly ambushed by a large insurgent force. The friendlies were engaged by small arms, heavy machine gun, and grenade fire from multiple defensive fighting positions. The crew of (the AC-130U) provided close air support to the friendly ground force with the [several] guns to allow the ground force the freedom to maneuver and provide care for friendly casualties.


“In order to protect the ground team from enemy personnel, the crew… expertly employed a gun at an unprecedented 12 meters from the friendly personnel. Due to the outstanding airmanship and bravery under extremely challenging circumstances, (the crew) destroyed ten defensive fighting positions, multiple enemy personnel, and three enemy technical vehicles, in order to save the lives of (many) friendly Special Operations Forces personnel who would have otherwise perished in the enemy ambush.” 


The wing’s commander is appreciative of David and all Airmen who work on Special Operations’ Missions.


“The mission of the aircraft and crew that day was incredibly important to the friendly ground forces in danger of being overrun. The decision to have the AC-130 remain on station into daylight hours shows just how perilous the ground situation was,” Stevenson said.

“Our Airman's mission on that aircraft is to provide threat warning to the crews and the supported teams on the ground,” he said. “Operating into daylight put further pressure on David, given his important responsibilities, and we are incredibly proud of the contributions he made to the award-winning mission.”

David’s squadron commander echoed his sentiments.


“We are extremely honored at the recognition of the crew that included one of our own 25 IS Airmen,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Norton, commander, 25th Intelligence Squadron. “David was on his first combat sortie the night the crew was called. His actions that night lived up to a proud heritage of Direct Support Operators who have provided critical threat warning for and from AFSOC aircraft for over twenty five years.”


“The professionalism, training and dedication of the men and women of the 25 IS is beyond reproach and has been proven in combat day and night for over 15 years,” Norton said. “Our team of direct support operators, tactical systems operators, intelligence analysts and maintenance professionals are second to none and honor a proud legacy and spirit of those ‘Born Under Fire’...Any time, Any place!”


The Mackay Trophy was first presented by Clarence Mackay in 1912 and was later deeded to the National Aeronautic Association. The trophy is awarded for the "most meritorious flight of the year" by an Air Force person, persons, or organization. The United State Air Force determines the winner and the National Aeronautic Association presents the trophy to the winner at the Fall Awards Dinner. The first Mackay Trophy winner was a young Second Lieutenant—Henry H. ’Hap’ Arnold.


The Clarence Mackay Trophy is permanently displayed at the National Air and Space Museum.