Five years since he graduated from the Air Force Academy, Capt. Alexander Boules has won the school’s highest award for airmanship.
The Jabara Award, named for James Jabara, the second-leading ace of the Korean War, is given by the academy, its Association of Graduates and the Jabara family to recognize aerial feats.
An A-10 Warthog pilot, Boules used his plane and its 14-foot-long, 30 mm cannon to save an Afghanistan National Army Special Forces team locked in a 5-hour firefight with Taliban insurgents last year.
“When I tuned in the Afghan team’s radio frequency, I heard frantic yelling,” he said on the academy’s website.
The A-10, first flown in 1972, was specially designed to help troops on the ground. With its massive tank-killing cannon and a variety of bombs, rockets and missiles, it has proven to be one of the military’s most useful aircraft for taking on insurgents in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
While the A-10 is known for its ability to loiter over battlefields, the 2019 battle lasted more than 5 hours, draining the tanks of Boules’ plane and the A-10 and two F-16s that arrived to help.
“We refueled from KC-135 and KC-10 refueling aircraft 11 times that night,” he said.
Boules helped orchestrate the difficult night refueling while keeping constant pressure on the Taliban attackers, allowing the allied special forces team to survive.
The four planes rained munitions on the Taliban fighters.
The academy’s superintendent, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, wrote in a citation accompanying the award that “overwhelming firepower provided by A-10s and F-16s under the tactical lead of Captain Boules forced the enemy to retreat.”
Boules, a standout on the academy’s water polo team, said he always wanted a future in the cockpit.
“The first time I raised the landing gear? That was the happiest moment of my life,” he said.
The normal rites that accompany the Jabara award are on hold as the academy waits out coronavirus. The school said it plans a formal ceremony next year.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx