919th SOW Honored In Florida
You don't fly for it,
but you don't turn it down when it comes your way. Members of the
USAF 919th Special Operations Wing received decorations that ranged
from Distinguished Flying Crosses to Bronze and Silver Stars
Saturday. The reservists were recognized for their time in the air
over Afghanistan and Iraq.
The unit was activated by President Bush just after the 9/11
attacks. Since then, the MC-130E Combat Talon I and MC-130 P Combat
Shadow aircrews flew more than 1,700 sorties, logged more than
13,000 flight hours and pumped more than 3 million pounds of fuel
to special operations helicopters in midflight. Their mission is so
critical to flight operations and military intelligence that
they've probably not had to buy a drink ever since.
Lt. Gen. James E. Sherrard III, responsible for all Air Force
Reserves around the world, pinned two Distinguished Flying Crosses
on the lapel of Maj. Randall Nicholson. On Oct. 19, 2001,
Nicholson, pilot pilot and one of a crew of 10, entered hostile
territory near Kandahar, Afghanistan, providing fuel backup for
helicopters. The crew's efforts led to the successful landing of
the first U.S. boots on the ground in Afghanistan. The efforts
earned Nicholson and his crew their first medal. Nov. 4, 2001,
Nicholson and his comrades-in-arms flew their MC-130E into hostile
airspace and performed several refueling missions. They flew in the
dark at 500 feet AGL over the mountains of Afghanistan. Their
night-vision goggles were about all that kept them from getting up
close and personal with a lot of Afghan rocks.
If that's not enough to get your blood pumping, imagine having
to refuel another aircraft in such a configuration. Take a
helicopter, for instance.
"If I bank right, he's got to bank right," said Nicholson, who
resides in Navarre. "It's all he can do to keep up. He's got his
throttle to the wall and just shaking. I've got my flaps down and
I'm 3 to 5 knots above stall speed. "Then when you get engaged by
the enemy, it gets real exciting."
After his second deployment to Afghanistan, Nicholson got word
he had just 30 days to pack for Iraq. The night before he left, he
learned that his wife, Nancy, was pregnant. For five years, the
couple had been hoping for their first child.
"Hopefully everything the reservists have done has made the
world safer, not only for my child, but for the children in
Afghanistan and Iraq," Nicholson told the Pensacola
News-Journal. "Most of them are just like you and me. They
want a better life for the children and families."