Academy honors '06 graduate with Jabara Award

Capt. Charles Napier and his family pose for a photo after watching the 2018 Basic Cadet Training Big Bad Basic event here July 31. Napier was honored with the 2014 Col. James Jabara Award for Airmanship during a ceremony. The award is jointly presented on behalf of the Academy, the Association of Graduates and the Jabara family. Jabara was the first jet fighter ace and the second leading ace in the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force photo/Liz Copan)

Capt. Charles Napier and his family pose for a photo after watching the 2018 Basic Cadet Training Big Bad Basic event here July 31. Napier was honored with the 2014 Col. James Jabara Award for Airmanship during a ceremony. The award is jointly presented on behalf of the Academy, the Association of Graduates and the Jabara family. Jabara was the first jet fighter ace and the second leading ace in the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force photo/Liz Copan)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- A 2006 Air Force Academy graduate received the 2014 Col. James Jabara Award for Airmanship during a luncheon ceremony in Doolittle Hall July 31.

Capt. Charles Napier received the award from Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost, the Academy's dean of the faculty, who presented it on behalf of Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, and Mr. William "T" Thompson, President and CEO of the Association of Graduates. The AOG planned and hosted the luncheon.

Napier distinguished himself through his heroic actions as an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter pilot to evacuate three critically wounded Soldiers in Afghanistan during a mission in December 2012.

Napier flew as the second HH-60 in a two-ship formation assigned to the 26th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar Airfield. On Dec. 10, he and his flight lead flew on a high-risk mission to rescue four critically wounded coalition soldiers following an insurgent attack with small-arms fire and an improvised explosive device near the village of Sperwhan Ghar, according to his Distinguished Flying Cross Medal citation.

Upon arriving at the evacuation site, he executed a challenging restricted-visibility approach into a heavily rutted field to insert a team of three pararescuemen. Insurgents in a nearby concealed compound immediately opened fire on his helicopter.

With his medics on the ground, Napier engaged the insurgents. He flew within 20 meters of enemy positions, shielding friendly forces on the ground and marking positions for Army OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter crews.

Napier flew back into the hot landing zone to extract three of the wounded and the pararescuemen, according to the medal citation. He directed his crew in providing suppressive fire during the formation's departure.

Armacost said Napier's outstanding record goes back to his time as a cadet at the Academy.

He was a distinguished graduate in the first year of the Academy's system engineering program and represented the Air Force Academy in the exchange program with the Naval Academy in 2004.

"Everything he did here was tied to the notion of excellence, representing what the Air Force is all about and placing service before self," Armacost said.

Napier said receiving the Jabara Award was humbling, but he didn't win it by himself.

"This ... wasn't something I did on my own," Napier said. "I had a helicopter crew and a wingman and two teams of PJs. It took all of us and our maintainers, our unit and everybody else. It's a mission anyone else would have executed; I just happened to be the one who received the scramble call."

Napier has deployed to Afghanistan three times and flown approximately 300 combat hours. He is currently on an exchange assignment with the French air force. He said the best parts of flying combat search and rescue missions for him is a sense of helping people and the passion that everyone in the unit has for the mission.

"It's overwhelming to work with guys who, when the scramble call goes out, sprint with everything they have," he said.

Napier previously received both the Distinguished Flying Cross Medal and the Combat Action Medal for his heroic actions. He is the 52nd Air Force Academy graduate selected for the Jabara Award, which is presented to an Air Force Academy graduate, living or deceased, whose actions directly associated with an aerospace vehicle set him or her apart from contemporaries. The award is jointly presented on behalf of the Academy, the Association of Graduates and the Jabara family. Jabara was the first jet fighter ace and the second leading ace in the Korean War.

(Retired Lt. Col. Steven Simon and Senior Airman Veronica Ward contributed to this report.)