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Reservist to receive Air Force Academy airmanship award

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- A 1979 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy is going back to school May 13.

Lt. Col. Keith Schultz, deputy commander of the 917th Wing’s Operations Group here, will accept the academy’s 2005 Col. James Jabara Award for Airmanship during lunch in the academy’s Mitchell Hall.

The award honors him for heroism and sustained superior performance as a B-52 aircraft commander, mission commander, test evaluator and instructor pilot.

“Seldom in the history of aviation do we have a unique situation where a single individual has the ability to conceptualize, test, develop and then validate the new weapon system in actual combat operations. However, such is the case of Lt. Col. Keith Schultz ... ” So begins the nomination package submitted by Air Force Reserve Command.

Colonel Schultz’ story impressed the superintendent and senior academy officials on the 2005 Jabara Selection Board. Named in honor of Col. James Jabara, America’s first jet ace, the Air Force Academy gives the award annually to an academy graduate whose actions directly associated with an aerospace vehicle set him or her apart from contemporaries.

While in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom, Colonel Schultz saw the need for improving close air support from high altitude.

“He had been pursuing the innovative notion of mounting a Litening Pod II on the wing of a B-52,” his award nomination stated. “In theory it was plausible but much needed to be done to implement the plan.”

As the war in Iraq intensified, he had to overcome several obstacles. For example, he had to map the coverage to avoid the cockpit crew being blinded by lasers. By his initiative, determination and personal involvement, he validated the process in four months. A process typically takes two years to complete.

Colonel Schultz worked with the systems program office of Northrop Grumman and Boeing to lay wiring throughout the airframe and to develop software to interface with the B-52 bombing system.

He arranged the test schedule and flew test sorties. These sorties identified several problems, such as the high altitude limitation of the original fusing. He helped overcome this and other problems.

His award nomination described the importance of the modification. “With this new Litening II capability, the crew could now estimate in real time the nature of the target, identify friendly or collateral damage concerns, and decline a target if it is not fit for strike.”

Colonel Schultz used that capability in combat April 11, 2003, as the aircraft commander of Facet 32 on a single-ship killbox interdiction/close air support mission in northern Iraq.

His nomination read: “On this date Facet 32 was tasked as rapid advances by coalition forces created a dynamic battlefield environment, complicating target detection and positive identification for all players. Facet 32 immediately stepped in to provide a much needed capability using their recently fielded Litening II targeting pod to survey the area between Mosul and the Syrian border for enemy forces engaging the advancing coalition ground assault. Lt. Col. Schultz quickly made the transition from surveillance to strike operations and proceeded to an airfield in the vicinity of Saddam Hussein’s home in Tikrit, for tasking with a ground forward air controller.”

The crew had to fly over areas defended by SA-2 and SA-8 surface-to-air missile sites, verify target locations and evaluate collateral damage concerns.

“Lt. Col. Schultz penetrated the SAM site and released a GBU-12 laser-guided weapon on a command center with dead on accuracy,” stated his nomination. “He then executed two more attacks in the target area destroying a communications complex, denying the enemy’s ability to control combat operations. This historical event marks the first-ever B-52 release and self-designation of a laser guided weapon in history.”

Gen. Tommy Franks, then commander of U.S. Central Command, personally recognized Colonel Schultz for his accomplishments on the 15-hour flight. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Colonel Schultz flew 200 hours in combat and dropped 275,000 pounds of munitions.

The Barksdale AFB reservist joins a distinguished group of academy graduates who have been honored since the first Jabara Award in 1968. Recipients of the award include 1964 academy graduates Karl Richter and Steve Ritchie, heroes of the Vietnam War, and pioneering astronaut Karol Bobko, a 1959 graduate.

In addition to the award luncheon, the academy’s Association of Graduates will hold a dinner May 13 in honor of Colonel Schultz.