Flying Tiger brings 2007 Chennault award home

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Spencer Gallien
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
A colonel from the 23rd Operations Support Squadron recently laid claim to the 2007 Lt. Gen. Claire Lee Chennault Award which recognizes the top fighter pilot in the Air Force.

Lt. Col. Richard Piazza, 23rd OSS director of operations, believes his developmental and testing work on the A-10C Thunderbolt II while part of the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., contributed to his success and award-winning performance in 2007.

"During 2007, I was finishing up a two-and-a-half year program testing and developing the major upgrade from the A-10A to the A-10C," said Colonel Piazza. "We have received piece-meal enhancements since 1982 which have improved the A-10 but none of them were as large in scope or as significant of a change as the conversion to the A-10C."

The upgrades that Colonel Piazza helped bring on line include the ability to drop the joint direct attack munition, the use of an advanced targeting pod and the integration of a situation awareness data link system. These advancements have contributed to the overall close air support capabilities of the A-10C models.

Despite being honored as the outstanding aerial warfare tactician, the General Chennault award holds a special place for 23rd Wing Flying Tigers, said Lt. Col. Paul Walski, 23rd OSS commander.

After General Chennault separated from the Army Air Corps in 1937 he began the 1st American Volunteer Group, also known as the "Flying Tigers." The unit began training in 1941 and defended, with the P-40 Warhawk, Southeast Asia and western China against Japanese forces following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Flying Tigers were formally introduced into the Army Air Corps in 1942, and at the same time, General Chennault rejoined the Army as a colonel.

The Flying Tigers now fly the upgraded, all-digital A-10C, which will bring the squadron into the foray of 21st century high-bandwidth warfare.

"Colonel Piazza's work with the A-10C model has been phenomenal," said Colonel Walski. "He was the lead operator and test-pilot during the improvement process for the aircraft.

"The changes he helped implement on the A-10C have made a huge impact on the Air Force on multiple levels," added Colonel Walski. "We're all extremely proud and excited for Colonel Piazza; not only are his efforts a reflection upon himself but also on the 23rd Wing and 23rd OSS."

Colonel Piazza was informed of his selection as the General Chennault award winner over a month ago, however, he pointed out that the accomplishment hasn't sunk in yet.

"This award probably won't sink in for a while," said Colonel Piazza. "My selection really is a testament to the highly experienced test-pilots of the 422nd TES, and the hard work that everyone involved with the A-10C upgrade project put in."

The Colonel will travel to the Air Force Association's convention Sept.15 in Washington D.C. to accept the award.