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Prestigious Mackay Trophy to be awarded at Dayton museum for 2021 evacuation from Kabul

brick structures seen in the distance through a haze
Rahmat Gul
/
AP
The U.S. Embassy buildings, center, are seen in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.

The U.S. Air Force and the National Aeronautic Association are honoring two Air Force crews with the prestigious Mackay Trophy for supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, evacuating 2,000 Americans from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in August 2021.

Eighteen crew members will have their names inscribed on the trophy following an award ceremony Wednesday at the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton. Each crew member will receive a special medallion, too.

First presented in 1912, the Mackay Trophy recognizes the most meritorious flight of the year, explains National Aeronautic Association President Greg Principato.

"These two crews flew close air support to ensure the safety and survival — which were very much in question at the time of course — of 2,000 Americans who were being evacuated from the embassy and other such places in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2021."

The crews being awarded are Shadow 77 and 78 from the 73rd Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron, Joint Special Operations Air Component-Central. According to a release, the crews "maintained visual custody of all American personnel enroute to Hamid Karzai International Airport and provided full-motion video in real-time to the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff as they watched the evacuation transpire."

The environment was hectic and stressful, Principato says, but everyone made it out safely.

"It was also the longest continuous flight of that kind of aircraft up till that point in time, so these crews had to use every bit of their training and skill and bravery to pull this off and ... with great success."

Along with Principato, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Allvin, and Air Force Special Operations Deputy Commander Maj. Gen. Wolfe Davidson, will participate in the ceremony.

Previous winners include the legendary Hap Arnold for a reconnaissance flight, Chuck Yeager for breaking the sound barrier, and Eddie Rickenbacker for his heroics in World War I.

The Mackay Trophy is displayed at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

The ceremony is Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 2:30 p.m. It is open to the public.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.