Tom Horne

Wings Over Afghanistan

June 21, 2013 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

Do we have great AOPA Sweepstakes winners, or what? If you recall, airline pilot and AOPA member Eric Short won 2011’s “Crossover Classic” Sweepstakes. He’s now the proud owner of that terrific airplane–a fully restored, totally modernized 1974 Cessna 182M. But Eric’s son, Allen, also flies the airplane. But probably not as much as he’d like.

That’s because Allen is a Captain in the U.S. Air Force. He’s based at Offutt AFB in Nebraska but deploys to Afghanistan, where he flies RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft. The RC-135 is a highly modified variant of Boeing’s C-135 Stratolifter. The Air Force gives Allen’s ships the “RIVET JOINT” handle. They perform signals intelligence and electronic warfare missions. Here’s what a RIVET JOINT looks like:


On one of his missions, Allen took along an American flag. Just yesterday, a package was resting against my front door. It was from Offutt, so I knew it had to be from Allen.

Inside was the flag, a certificate, and three patches. One patch bore the logo of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, one represented the USAF Central Command, and one was for the 763rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. As a weather nut, I especially liked 763rd’s patch. It says “Always On The Hunt,” and has a sun with two sundogs. Sundogs–or parhelions–are halos in the form of a colored spot, at the same angular elevation as the sun.

When I delivered the Cessna to the Shorts, it was to an airport near Offutt. I gave checkouts to both Eric and Allen, and on Allen’s ride I happened to look up and see sundogs. “Hey, look, sundogs,” I said, to which Allen responded “that’s our unit’s nickname.” And now I have a Sundog patch. Cool.

Ther certificate reads:

“This American flag was proudly flown for AIRCRAFT OWNERS AND PILOTS ASSOCIATION aboard an RC-135 RIVET JOINT Reconnaissance Aircraft, tail number 62-4132, over the hostile skies of Afghanistan in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM on the 5th day of June, 2013, by the men and women of the 763rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Allen E. Short, Captain USAF

Aircraft Commander”

Now here’s a look at the flag, certificate, and patches:

Part of Capt. Short's payload over Afghanistan

Part of Capt. Short’s payload over Afghanistan

Thanks so much Allen, and here’s hoping we meet you and your father at AOPA Summit this October in Fort Worth.


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