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U-28A Draco crew receives 2018 Mackay Trophy

Seven people standing on a stage.

Members of the U-28A DRACO 42 crew stand with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, and U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Cory Olson, AFSOC command chief, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, Nov. 13, 2019. The crew received the Mackay Trophy for their distinguished actions during a flight in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel on Aug. 14, 2018. Administered by the U.S. Air Force and the National Aeronautic Association, the Mackay Trophy is awarded to an individual, aircrew or unit for the most meritorious flight of the year across the Air Force. (Courtesy photo)

A trophy sits on top of a table.

The Clarence Mackay Trophy sits on a table at the National Aeronautic Association Fall Awards dinner at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, Nov. 13, 2019. The Mackay Trophy is awarded to an individual, aircrew or unit for the most meritorious flight of the year across the Air Force. The U-28A DRACO 42 crew from the 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field received the award. (Courtesy photo)

Washington, D.C. --

Members of the U-28A crew, "DRACO 42", received the 2018 Mackay Trophy during a ceremony at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, Nov. 13, 2019.

Air Commandos from the 319th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron including Maj. Caitlin Reilly, Capt. Patrick Perez, Capt. Samantha Lang and Senior Airman Kyle Hanson, received the Mackay Trophy for their distinguished actions during a flight in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel on Aug. 14, 2018.

“The distinctive accomplishments of Draco 42 reflect the caliber of Airmen we have in Air Force Special Operations Command,” said Brig. Gen. Brenda Cartier, AFSOC director of operations. “They put everything on the line to get their mission done. I can’t express the gratitude and pride I have for them. Congratulations to Draco 42.”

Administered by the U.S. Air Force and the National Aeronautic Association, the Mackay Trophy is awarded to an individual, aircrew or unit for the most meritorious flight of the year across the Air Force.

“It's never one person on a U-28 sortie that makes or breaks the sortie (flight),” said Reilly, the aircraft commander. “We have four people trying to do the job of about 30. It's all four people on that crew who have to work as a team, be good at their job and work together.”

The award citation reads, "Despite multiple rounds of indirect fire impacting near the aircraft at their forward refueling location, DRACO 42 continued to coordinate rapidly evolving target and concept of operation changes with geographically separated air and ground assets. Once airborne, DRACO 42 managed the highly complex operation of simultaneous helicopter infiltrations to time-sensitive targets in urban areas that yielded valuable intelligence on a top-level Al Qaeda leader and four enemy killed in action. The professional ability and outstanding aerial accomplishments of the crew of DRACO 42 reflect great credit upon themselves and the United States Air Force."

Throughout history, the Mackay Trophy has been awarded for a multitude of extraordinary missions, such as the first nonstop around-the-world flight, breaking altitude and flight duration records, and flawless execution of combat missions. It was first awarded in 1912 to then 2nd Lt. Henry "Hap" Arnold, who would later be known as the “Father of the Air Force.”

“It is incredibly humbling to represent the U-28 community in the presence of such legends,” said Reilly. “Every U-28 crew is doing missions just like this around the world every single day, so we are all very humbled to be associated with those individuals.”

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