LOUISVILLE, Ky. –
The Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing has been named the top mobility flying unit in Air National Guard for 2021, officials announced here today.
The unit earned its fifth Curtis N. “Rusty” Metcalf Trophy for meritorious service from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, according to Col. Bruce Bancroft, wing commander. The award is bestowed by the National Guard Association of the United States each year on the airlift or tanker unit that demonstrates the highest standards of mission accomplishment.
The wing previously earned Metcalf Trophies in 1994, 2002, 2007 and 2014.
“The Metcalf Trophy is a big deal,” Bancroft told Airmen and family members gathered for the announcement in the main hangar at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base. “It (recognizes) the best. That’s not the top 5 percent, top 10 percent. That is the number-one airlift wing in the National Guard.”
Bancroft also announced that the wing had earned the 2021 Distinguished Flying Unit Plaque, bestowed by the Guard association, as one of the five highest-rated flying units of any type in the Air Guard, including fighter wings. The 123rd has now won the Distinguished Flying Unit Plaque 10 times since 1960.
“I just want to say thank you very much,” Bancroft told his Airmen. “This is a testament to what you all accomplished to get these awards in our trophy case.”
Both honors are based on the wing’s accomplishments in 2020. During that time, the unit deployed 113 Airmen to five countries and four geographic commands — many in harm’s way — for a total of 10,928 days’ service.
More than 100 Airmen and four C-130H Hercules aircraft were sent to U.S. Central Command in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel, flying 4,948 sorties while safely transporting 8,479 tons of cargo and 12,008 passengers across the theater of operations. The 123rd interoperated with another unit flying C-130J-model aircraft while deployed — an Air Force first — and still managed to attain a nearly unprecedented 99 percent mission effectiveness rate.
The unit also conducted 14 missions in support of critical humanitarian relief and medical assistance following the massive port explosion in Beirut, Lebanon; and deployed five special tactics Airmen for personnel recovery and special reconnaissance missions in U.S. Central Command.
Back home, the wing’s civil engineering squadron built a 288-bed field hospital for COVID patients in just five days, then rapidly expanded it to 1,200 beds. More than 70 Airmen also served on state active duty to augment Louisville law enforcement and crowd control efforts during mass civil disturbances over the summer.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that is a quick snapshot of what you did — what this wing did — to have these two pieces of metal sitting on our table,” Bancroft said in conclusion. “Give yourselves a round of applause.”