Retired Col. John “JB” Stone visits Nellis AFB to present Red Flag-Nellis award in his honor

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.

Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades
Participants from Red Flag-Nellis 22-3 sit with retired Col. John “JB” Stone, for the final remarks and the Red Flag culmination ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 29, 2022. Stone is the namesake to the Capt. John Stone award for ‘Outstanding Mission Commander’ that is awarded to an exceptional blue-force pilot for their contribution to the exercise.

“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.

Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades
Capt. Paul Young, a pilot assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson, N.C., accepts the Capt. John Stone award for ‘Outstanding Mission Commander’ by its namesake, retired Col. John “JB” Stone, during the Red Flag-Nellis 22-3 culmination ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 28, 2022. The Capt. John Stone award is the mark of influential and quintessential planning that will lead the Air Force into surpassing its near-peer challengers.

“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.

Retired Col. John “JB” Stone, the tactician behind Operation BOLO, autographs a journal from one of the Red Flag-Nellis 22-3 participants during the culmination ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 29, 2022. Stone was the tactician behind Operation BOLO, a mission during the Vietnam War that destroyed half of the North Vietnamese MiG-21 fighter force in 1996.

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.

Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades
Retired Col. John “JB” Stone, the tactician behind Operation BOLO, and his son, retired Col. Jon Stone, pose in front of an F-22A Raptor assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, during Red Flag-Nellis 22-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 29, 2022. John Stone was here in order to present the Capt. John Stone award for ‘Outstanding Mission Commander’ for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades)

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.

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