United States Air Force Academy

Go to home page
The Academy

Special Ops pilot chosen for Jabara Award


By Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo, Nov. 8, 2018

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – The U.S. Air Force Academy formally recognized its 2018 Jabara Award for Airmanship recipient Nov. 8.

The Jabara Award for Airmanship is awarded each year to the Academy graduate whose accomplishments demonstrate superior performance in fields directly involving aerospace vehicles.

Maj. Marc Catalano, a 2006 Academy graduate, was chosen for the award for his actions while deployed as an aircraft commander to Iraq in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Resolute Support.

On the night of Oct. 21, 2016, Catalano and his AC-130U crew of 14 Airmen conducted three distinct operations in which he defended his aircraft against well-aimed anti-aircraft artillery, killed 21 enemy fighters attacking an American outpost and firing suppressive rounds to create a diversion for more than 200 hostages to escape an ISIS kidnapping network.

Ultimately, Catalano and his crew’s actions were critical to Coalition forces recapturing Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS terrorists, and ensuring the survival of U.S. forces.

“It is a truly humbling experience to receive the notification that I had been selected as this year’s winner,” said Catalano. “I know that even though my name is on the award, it is a reflection of my crew and the entire Gunship community’s accomplishments on the battlefield.”

Catalano said he remembers that night vividly.

“The image that still stands out most in my mind was watching the human shields escaping after my crew’s actions,” he said. “I know that was only possible through the unparalleled effort put forth by the entire team that night all the way from the ISR specialists that found the targets, to the Air Operations Center processing the information, to ultimately my crew destroying the enemy vehicles.”

The 2006 Academy graduate credited the large crew construct of the AC-130 mission-set for the successes of that particular night.

“We have large crews on the AC-130, which enables us to delegate duties and back each other up,” he said. “Another contributing factor to our success is knowing that everyone’s input, from senior airman to lieutenant colonel, is valued.

“We live, operate and fight as a cohesive unit, and I think that this specific mission paints that very clearly. It’s because of this that we are committed to one another personally and professionally.”

Fostering strong interpersonal relationships with his crew is an attribute Catalano fortified during his time at the Academy.

“The Academy was a grueling 4 years; each year with its own challenges, but I came out on the other side being able to handle more than I thought possible,” he said. “No one can get through the Academy alone, and the friendships I built there still have a profound impact in my life today.”