Drone Pilot To Receive First Air Force Cross Medal Since VietnamBy Kimberly Motan, Associated PressINDIAN SPRINGS, NV – An Air Force drone pilot who managed to fly his MQ-9 Reaper for 76 straight hours through multiple firefights will receive the Air Force Cross, Air Force officials confirmed today. Major Toby Keene will be the first Airman to receive the nation's second highest award since the Vietnam War.He is also the first American to receive this level of aerial combat decoration for actions taken inside the United States since the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Keene, from Dubuque, Iowa, will receive the award for his meritorious actions at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada during August 2012. During a week of heavy combat, he stayed at his console for more than three straight days, remotely piloting his Reaper drone through dozens of firefights 7,000 miles away in Afghanistan. His aircraft was severely damaged by small arms fire.The Air Force is already trumpeting Major Keene as a modern-day Carlos Hathcock, the legendary Marine sniper with 93 confirmed kills in Vietnam. Air Force officials have pointed out that Major Keene's 179 confirmed kills during the operation arguably make him one of the greatest marksmen in history. There are already plans to use him in recruiting commercials, similar to the Israeli Defense Force's public parades for missile ace Idan Yahya.Major Keene recently received a congratulatory phone call from Vice President Joe Biden at Creech Air Force Base. "When they told me the Vice President of the United States was calling for me, I was a little reluctant to pick up the phone. It was my lunch break, and if you don't get in line at least an hour early, the only prime rib they have left is medium well."Major Keene eventually took the call while sipping a White Russian and sunning himself at the base relaxation pool in-between missions. This medal will be in addition to the Purple Heart he has already been awarded for severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome pain endured during the same event.A designated senior master drone pilot, Keene has never flown a conventional aircraft. His reporting senior, BGEN Jonathon Manziel says, "…it doesn't really matter, Keene won a PlayStation TWO flight simulator competition in high school, demonstrating the superior airmanship skills we are looking for." Also, Manziel noted that he actually put Keene in for a Meritorious Service Medal (his twelfth of this lesser award) "…but the White House 'bumped it up.'""Most people think of drone pilots as glorified computer junkies, but we're really modern-day snipers," Major Keene told the Associated Press. "We're out there, days at a time, watching the same compound, with nothing but candy bars from the vending machine to keep us going and the sounds of Sons of Anarchy playing on our iPods."Keene was accepted by and attended the United States Air Force Academy after failing to meet the academic standards required by Texas A&M University. "I also could have attended the University of Texas, but they aren't in the SEC!" Keene said.The Associated Press has learned that the U. S. Navy had offered Major Keene a congratulatory flight with the Blue Angels. Keene declined the invitation and, while turning away, muttered something on the order of "…pulling G's is for pussies…"OKAY, so how far into this parody were you when you realized you were being had?