Air Force Reserve group earns 2019 General Doolittle Award

  • Published
  • By Maj. Ashley Walker
  • 913th Airlift Group

The Air Force Reserve 913th Airlift Group recently was named the recipient of the 2019 General James H. Doolittle Trophy by Air Mobility Command.

The award was established by the Air Force Historical Foundation as a way to recognize a unit that has displayed bravery, determination while accomplishing its mission under difficult conditions.

While deployed in 2019, the total force crew led a formation airdrop mission of critical supplies in a highly contested environment, overcoming harsh weather and limited communication equipment. The formation was a mix of two C-130J Super Hercules and four C-17 Globemaster IIIs supporting eight different forward operating bases throughout the combat theatre.

“The intent of this flight was mass delivery of critical supplies with minimum time in the area of responsibility,” said Maj. Andrew Gills, C-130J aircraft commander. “We practice these capabilities and inter-fly with other aircraft while at home station. Before we can ever get out the door, however, there is an incredible amount planning, coordination, de-confliction, and training that enables us to ultimately perform successfully in the time critical environment of mission execution.”

Aircrew often take into consideration during the planning phases of mission factors such as the likely anti-aircraft threats, fuel, method of cargo delivery, weather, size of the drop zone, and communication between aircraft, ground controllers, and air traffic control.

“When leading a formation, the mission commander has to understand the big picture, be able to properly assess changing inputs and challenges to mission execution” Gillis said. “This is why we continuously train and plan extensively to mitigate stressful phases in flight.  We practice over and over at home station, so that our crews can anticipate and adapt as the mission changes in real time.  Because our crews are prepared for a contested and dynamic environment, we are able to execute for our supported forces on the ground.”

Despite meticulous planning, the excessive winds and degraded communication equipment added another layer of difficulty while the formation was traversing through a known hostile region.

“Flying is inherently dangerous and doing so in formation makes this a complex mission,” said Lt. Col. Leonard Miller, 913th Operations Support Squadron director of operations. “Every threat and variable create additional layers of complexity. Notwithstanding these challenges, our team was able to adjust and coordinate changes that ultimately provided essential supplies in the region.”

As a result of their skills, the formation was able to complete multiple airdrops resulting in the delivery of 84 tons of blood, fuel, and ammo needed to resupply forces.

“This complex mission demonstrates the Air Force Reserve’s ability and skill to perform when called upon,” said Col. Dan Collister, 913 AG deputy commander and deployed 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander. “The warfighter on the ground wouldn’t know that our crew was a mix of total force personnel who have civilian jobs back at home. It shows how we provide strategic depth to the force.”

The annual award recognizes the most outstanding aircrew that best epitomizes qualities and traits for which General Doolittle is famous. Nominations are based on aircrew professionalism, courage, leadership, and extremely meritorious service.

The following members were specifically recognized and awarded for their actions:

Lt. Col. Leonard Miller

Maj. Andrew Gillis

Maj. Ryan Stellhorn

Tech. Sgt. Derek Johnson

Tech. Sgt. Anthony Miller

The award is named after General James H. Doolittle, who served in the United Stated Army Air Forced during World War II, and earned the Medal of Honor for valor and leadership as commander of the famous Doolittle Raid. The mission was a joint bombing operation on the Japanese mainland that inflicted material and psychological damage upon the enemy as a reaction to the Pearl Harbor attacks.

In 2019, the last survivor of the Doolittle Raid passed away 78 years after their historic mission.