Hurlburt heroes

A crew of air commandos from the 319th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron stationed at Hurlburt Field has been awarded the prestigious Mackay Trophy for 2018.

The trophy, which goes to the crew flying "the most meritorious flight of the year across the Air Force," was presented to Maj. Caitlin Reilly, Capt. Patrick Perez, Capt. Samantha Lang and Senior Airman Kyle Hanson on Nov. 13 at a ceremony at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia.

The crew, known as Draco 42, flies a U-28A aircraft used by special operations forces for intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance. They earned the award for their actions during an Aug. 14, 2018, flight in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel, according to an article posted by the Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs office.

An award citation that came with the trophy states the crew coordinated "rapidly evolving target and concept of operation changes" while under fire and "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," the citation said.

The Mackay Trophy was first presented in 1912 to Henry "Hap" Arnold, a second lieutenant at the time who would come to be known as the "Father of the Air Force," the public affairs article said.

Previous winners have included Jimmy Doolittle, Chuck Yeager and Eddie Rickenbacker.

"It is incredibly humbling to represent the U-28 community in the presence of such legends," Reilly, the aircraft commander, told the Special Operations Command public affairs writer. "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."