MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – A McConnell aircrew won the Air
Mobility Command's 2013 Gen. James H. Doolittle Trophy, July 2,
The trophy was awarded to Maj. Robert Knapp, 22nd Air
Refueling Wing executive officer, Capt. Brett McAuliff, 384th Air
Refueling Squadron pilot and Airman 1st Class Tim Neff, 350th ARS
boom operator. It recognizes the most outstanding AMC aircrew that
best characterizes and epitomizes qualities and traits for which
Gen. Doolittle was known for.
Maj. Robert Knapp, 22nd Air Refueling Wing executive officer, Capt.
Brett McAuliff, 384th Air Refueling Squadron pilot, and Airman 1st
Class Tim Neff, 350th ARS boom operator, stand in front of a KC-135
Stratotanker, July 25, 2013, at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. The Shell 72 crew
won Air Mobility Command's 2013 General James H. Doolittle Trophy
for providing aerial refueling in support of Operation Enduring
Freedom. (Courtesy photo)
Doolittle was an aviation pioneer who served during World
War II. He earned the Medal of Honor for his valor and
leadership as commander of the Doolittle Raid.
a great honor to have won this award,” said Knapp, aircraft
commander on the mission. “I'm glad we were there to help
the guys on the ground.”
The Shell 72 aircrew was
called upon for a no-notice tasking to support a ground
operation in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom
in July 2013.
“This mission was more strenuous than
normal,” said Knapp. “It was busy and there were a lot of
changes due to the environment on the ground.”
12-vehicle Army convoy conducting highway clearing
operations was attacked, and Soldiers requested overwatch
from A-10 Thunderbolt II's and F-16 Fighting Falcons.
“The troops in contact were supporting a convoy of 60
Army Soldiers with a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle
that had been rolled on its back and was sustaining heavy
premeditated enemy fire,” said Neff. “I've never seen
receiver pilots move so quickly or with such urgency. They
were all business, and it's a radical change of personality
to see from normal day-to-day operations.”
challenges Shell 72 had to hurdle came from the ground as
well as from the crew itself.
“We had a young crew,”
said Knapp. “This was only my fourth combat sortie on a
tanker, and it was my boom operator's fourth combat mission
overall. It was incredible to see him react appropriately to
According to Knapp, boom operators
are known to be cautious and conservative while refueling
aircraft, but after the first A-10 came up, things changed.
“Everything clicked inside the operator's head the
moment we started refueling,” said Knapp. “This was not the
time to be cautious; this was the time to transfer the gas
to where it needed to go quickly because those guys really
needed the help.”
The mission showed them how members
need to rely on each other to accomplish the task.
“My job was made possible by extraordinary piloting skills
from my receivers and my own crew, all of whom had immense
experience and a desire to do what needed to be done,” said
Neff. “I was just the guy who was in the right place at the
right time. The superb pilots made it all possible.”
This award speaks to the entire KC-135 community about the
importance of refuelers in combat.
“It's really neat
to put the whole connection together,” said Knapp. “It's a
huge deal to look at the big picture to see where you fit in
and see how close McConnell is to the fight. It's great to
see how important we are to the guys who are dependent on
the close-air support.”
By U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class David Bernal Del Agua
Comment on this article