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Members of the AC-130U Gunship aircrew known as "Spooky 43," along with Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson and Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Stephen Wood pose for a group photo in front of the MacKay trophy Nov. 29 in Arlington, Virginia. The aircrew members received the trophy during an awards dinner. 

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) -- On Nov. 2, 2016, fourteen AC-130U Gunship crewmembers provided close-air-support to a U.S. Special Forces team and 43 Afghan soldiers near Kunduz, Afghanistan. The crew's persistent fire support, presence of mind and courage during two hours of intense combat ultimately saved 50 lives.

For their actions the aircrew of the AC-130U Gunship known as "Spooky 43" were presented the 2016 Mackay Trophy by Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson at an awards ceremony in Arlington, Virginia, Nov. 29, 2017.

First awarded in 1912, the Mackay Trophy honors the most meritorious U.S. Air Force flight of the previous year, and the aircrew that demonstrated gallantry, intrepidity, initiative, resourcefulness and achievement of outstanding results in combat or non-combat conditions.

"To the Airmen of Spooky 43, and your families I'm really honored to be here with you tonight and I'm honored to be serving in the U.S. Air Force with Airmen like you," said Wilson. "Thank you for your selfless service. Thank you for courage."

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According to their citation, the crew distinguished themselves by participating in a sustained aerial flight while assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Special Operations in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

"There are air commandos out there taking the fight to the enemy this very moment across the globe, ordinarily doing extraordinary things," said Maj. Aaron Hall, "Spooky 43" fire control officer. "The night of Nov. 2, (2016), our 14-man team of air commandos did what Spooky crews have done and continue to do. We rode our war chariot into battle and that mighty chariot is an AC-130 known as Spooky."

Many distinguished aviators throughout history have been awarded this trophy, including names such as Eddie Rickenbacker, Ira Eaker, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, Gen. Hap Arnold and Chuck Yeager. The crew name of that AC-130U gunship will now adorn the same trophy as these aviation heroes.

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