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Shaw pilot named best in the Air Force
U.S. Air Force Capt. Hugh Walker, Maj. Brian Grossweiller, Capt. Jason Blodzinski, Capt. Joe Schenkel, and Capt. Patrick McAndrew, 77th Fighter Squadron pilots, depart the Shaw AFB flightline after returning from Afghanistan Apr. 13, 2013. Capt. Walker was recently awarded the Lt. Col. Anthony C. Shine Award and the Robbie Risner Award for his contributions as a fighter pilot and weapons officer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Krystal M. Jeffers/Released)
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Shaw fighter pilot named best in the Air Force

Posted 5/21/2013   Updated 5/22/2013 Email story   Print story


by Capt. Ann Blodzinski
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/21/2013 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- After returning from Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan April 13, a 77th Fighter Squadron weapons officer has more than just a homecoming to celebrate.

Capt. Hugh Walker was welcomed home with two prestigious awards, the Lt. Col. Anthony C. Shine Award and the Robbie Risner Award.

The Lt. Col. Anthony C. Shine Award, awarded by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, focuses attention on and accords recognition to an outstanding fighter pilot for proficiency and professionalism in flying a fighter aircraft, making him the number one fighter pilot in the Air Force.

"Capt. Walker is the epitome of what being a weapons officer is all about," said Lt. Col. Johnny Vargas, 77th FS commander. "He is humble, approachable and credible. He has instructed the men and women of the 77th FS and taken us to a level of capability previously not thought possible, enabling us to excel during combat operations in both Libya and Afghanistan. He is a true professional both on the ground and in the air. He is a warrior. He is a fighter pilot."

Current Shaw AFB leaders Maj. Gen. Lawrence Wells, 9th Air Force commander, and Col. Clay Hall, 20th FW commander, have both been previous Shine Award winners.

The Robbie Risner Award was created in September 1976 and is awarded to the Air Force weapons officer who makes the biggest combat impact in the first year after graduating from the Weapons Instructor Course at Nellis AFB, Nev.

It is said among the flying community that the Risner Award in combat aviation is like the Heisman Trophy in college football, said Vargas.

"Capt. Walker epitomizes the determination and leadership of the award's namesake as he continually strives to train the men and women of the 77th FS and the 20th Fighter Wing," said Col. Clay Hall, 20th FW commander. "Robbie Risner is a shining example of all that is good about the history and heritage of the U.S. Air Force and Capt. Walker has and will continue to proudly embrace that history."

While assigned to Shaw, Walker has had plenty on his schedule as a weapons officer, according to Vargas. Within weeks of signing in to the base, Walker was sent to Operation Unified Protector supporting NATO operations over Libya where he was able to cut layers of unnecessary coordination, revamp the kill chain processes, and reduce the time from detection to destruction of targets.

At a recent farewell, Walker had a moment to reflect and say a few words as he moves on to a new adventure at Nellis AFB, his next assignment. Being a humble pilot, he stood smiling amongst his fellow pilots from the 77th FS "Gamblers" while explaining his simple happiness in having contributed to their success as a squadron over the last two years.

"These awards are a huge honor, but I was just doing what I thought was my job, nothing more," said Walker. "12-16 hour days, six days a week with two wars in two years is just how it is for fighter pilots. I was just trying to come close to being the weapons officer that my previous (WIC) 'Patches' had been."

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