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Misawa pilots save Iraqi civilians, earn 2014 Mackay Trophy
U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh accompanied by a National Aeronautic Association spokesman present the Mackay Trophy to Capts. David Kroontje and Gregory Balzhiser during the NAA fall awards ceremony in Arlington, Virginia, Dec. 3, 2015. The trophy is awarded for the “most meritorious flight of the year by an Air Force person, persons, or organization.” Kroontje and Balzhiser earned the trophy as a result of their heroic efforts during an air strike that helped Peshmerga forces the next day set up a safe corridor from Mount Sinjar, Iraq, saving the lives of 40,000 stranded civilians including women, children, elderly, and the infirm. Kroontje has since transferred to the 560th Flying Training Squadron at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, and Balzhiser is now a member of the 31st Operations Support Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (Courtesy photo)