Retired Col. John “JB” Stone presented the Capt. John Stone award for ‘Outstanding Mission Commander’ to Capt. Paul “Bullet” Young, a pilot assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., during the Red Flag-Nellis 22-3 culmination ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 28, 2022.
At age 85, Stone visited Nellis for two days before presenting this award, which has been given out after every Red Flag-Nellis since 2014. This is the first time that Stone himself has presented the award.
“I must say, I’m honored and flattered to be invited to come talk to this group,” said Stone in his speech to participants of Red Flag 22-3. “I didn’t know if I was in the right Air Force when I started hearing all the stuff that you guys could do and how you do it with such ease.”
The Capt. John Stone award is presented to showcase one exceptional blue-force pilot and their contribution to the exercise. Young not only demonstrated this above his 26 other mission commanders but also exhibited improvement in mission planning and problem-solving, a key component of Red Flag-Nellis.
“Red Flag training prioritizes ‘first-timers combat missions, mission commander upgrades, and flag unique experiences that contribute to the highest readiness levels,” said Col. Jared Hutchinson, 414th Combat Training Squadron, commander.
The significance of Stone and this award predates the first Red Flag in 1975 with Operation BOLO. Operation BOLO was a masterful and strategic plan that destroyed half of the North Vietnamese MiG-21 fighter force in 1966. During that time, disgruntled talk of the same repeated plan created a new way of thinking and planning.
“The idea was to do something new instead of the standard plan,” said Stone. “The best thing we could do is change their idea about shooting down American airplanes.”
In short, Stone devised a tactic to imitate an F-105 Thunderchief bombing formation. This allowed Col. Robin Olds, the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing commander at the time, to lead a group of F-4 Phantom IIs that destroyed about half of the opposing operational forces.
With such history, the Capt. John Stone award is the mark of influential and quintessential planning that will lead the Air Force in surpassing its near-peer challengers. To have the namesake present this award is an honor that only occurs at Nellis Air Force Base.