06/03/11 — 4th but first ... to earn inaugural James H. Doolittle Award

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4th but first ... to earn inaugural James H. Doolittle Award

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on June 3, 2011 1:46 PM

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Photo courtesy of 4th Fighter Wing Senior Airman Gino Reyes

Lt. Gen. Richard Newton III, left, Air Force assistant vice chief of staff, presents 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Patrick Doherty with the inaugural Doolittle Award at the Air Force Memorial Thursday.

From the skies over Europe to the valleys of Afghanistan, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base's 4th Fighter Wing has been answering its nation's call since World War II.

And for its airmen's "bravery, determination, discipline, esprit de corps, and superior management of joint operations while accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions in multiple conflicts," the unit often characterized as the "crown jewel" of the Air Force was named, Thursday, the first recipient of the Air Force Historical Foundation James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle Award.

Several dozen representatives from the wing traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to mark the latest chapter in what 4th Wing Commander Col. Patrick Doherty referred to as a storied tradition of excellence.

"It's an honor to receive this award on behalf of all those airmen -- dating all the way back to the Eagle Squadrons. We consistently stand on their shoulders -- their victories and their losses -- and we look back on that history," he said. "We're all incredibly proud of what they achieved to uplift the 4th Fighter Wing, but we are also incredibly proud of what our airmen are doing today.

"Good Lord, I mean, you look at their performance and at the records they are shattering ... with a 23-year-old aircraft and all the challenges that go along with longer deployments ... it's just incredible."

There are currently more than 300 4th airmen deployed to locations across the world.

And by the fall, nearly 1,000 will be in harm's way -- Doherty acknowledged that members of the 335th Chiefs, and many of the Seymour Johnson F-15E Strike Eagles that keep soldiers on the ground in the fight, are scheduled to begin six-month stints in Afghanistan in September.

So despite the fact that the wing paused Thursday to celebrate its latest victory, its commander said his airmen, upon their return to Goldsboro, will stand ready to pick right back up with their daily charge.

"We're honored and privileged. It's pretty humbling," he said. "But we've always been told we're the crown jewel of the Air Force and we know the high expectations that brings with it. So we have to continue that high level of performance because we know our nation depends on us.

"Our airmen, they know they are going into a conflict. So my hat's off to them. That's why I'm so filled with hope for the future. They are just incredible, incredible Americans and we should all be incredibly proud of what they are doing."