CSAF presents Mackay Trophy to 53rd Wing pilot for most meritorious flight of 2022

  • Published
  • By Capt Lindsey Heflin
  • 53rd Wing
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Allvin presented Maj. Stephen Keck, 422d Test and Evaluation Squadron F-15E pilot, the 2022 Mackay Trophy on Jan. 11, 2024, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. 

“Major Keck’s inspiring actions reflect exactly what it takes to be a stellar Airman and aviator – ingenuity, tenacity, and audacity,” said Allvin. “Moreover, any time your name is on a trophy alongside the likes of Hap Arnold, Eddie Rickenbacker, and Chuck Yeager, you have done something truly special.”

Keck received this honor for his actions while serving as the Defensive Counter-Air Team Lead for the 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron during a mission at an undisclosed location.

While supporting a special operations team in contested enemy territory, Keck and the weapons system officer, Lt. Col. John Rabun, identified a critical error during ingress that would have given away the task force’s position. In response, Keck and Rabun corrected the error by being proactive and shifting to a more aggressive posture of their forces.

During the mission, Keck also identified an adversary aircraft in the contested airspace and initiated an intercept to ensure the safety of ground forces. Ultimately, the success of the operation resulted in the capture of a senior terrorist leader.   

“The team I worked with during the mission was outstanding,” said Keck. “When we flew that night, we had a very well developed and understood game plan that enabled our ability to operate at our best. Flying alongside other folks at the top of their game ready to use their capabilities to fight our enemies and protect our allies was an awesome feeling.”

Awarded for the “most meritorious flight of the year” by an Air Force individual, group, or organization, the Mackay Trophy is one of the longest-standing aviation awards in the nation having first been given to 2nd Lt. Henry H. ‘Hap’ Arnold in 1912.

Presented by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force annually, the Mackay Trophy is remarkable in that the achievements inscribed on the base of the trophy symbolize the growth of American military aviation from its beginnings to now. The trophy is housed on permanent display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
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