The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) has announced the recipients of the 2020 Mackay Trophy. USAF Lieutenant Colonel Joel Bier and Lieutenant Colonel Leif Nordhagen, the aircrew of Hawg 53 flight, will share the honor for a combat mission flown on Jan. 5, 2020.
Hawg 53 was deployed from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, as a two-ship formation of A-10Cs, flying out of the 455th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 451st Air Expeditionary Group, Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
The two pilots were ordered to support an Afghan combat outpost that was under heavy attack from Taliban forces. As the only airborne asset available, Hawg 53 encountered dangerous weather, mountainous terrain, inexact controllers and a determined enemy. Bier and Nordhagen were nevertheless able to halt the attack and save the outpost from being overrun. Their action saved the lives of 30 Afghan soldiers.
First presented by Clarence Mackay in 1912 and later deeded to the National Aeronautic Association, the Mackay Trophy is administered by the United States Air Force and NAA. The honor is awarded for “the most meritorious flight of the year by an Air Force person, persons, or organization.” The Mackay Trophy is on permanent display at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.