Maj. Matthew J. Kuta, a 2005 Air Force Academy grad, on Wednesday will be awarded the Col. James Jabara Award for Airmanship at the Academy, the 55th person to win the award, named for a Korean War jet ace. Kuta took charge during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2014 in which an Army platoon was pinned down inside a canyon under heavy enemy fire while trying to rescue a wounded soldier.
For 40 minutes, Kuta, piloting an F-15E, coordinated Army helicopters, a B-1 bomber, a formation of Italian fighter jets, a drone and two ground-based air controllers. He also established an air refueling operation. Despite some equipment malfunctions, Kuta's actions neutralized the enemy and saved 41 American lives, the Academy says in a news release.
Kuta was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in May 2014.
After that rescue, he flew combat operations into Iraq and Syria, helping to rescue more than 10,000 Yazidi refugees stranded under the threat of anti-aircraft artillery fire.