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Kentucky Air Derby tests crews' airmanship

A C-130, piloted by aircrew members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 165th Airlift Squadron, approaches a drop zone at Fort Knox, Ky., during the unit's first-annual Air Derby competition Oct. 22, 2011. Family members of the Airmen were in attendance to witness the friendly competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

A C-130, piloted by aircrew members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 165th Airlift Squadron, approaches a drop zone at Fort Knox, Ky., during the unit's first-annual Air Derby competition Oct. 22, 2011. Family members of the Airmen were in attendance to witness the friendly competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

A C-130, piloted by aircrew members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 165th Airlift Squadron, deploys cargo over a drop zone at Fort Knox, Ky., during the unit's first-annual Air Derby competition Oct. 22, 2011. Family members of the Airmen were in attendance to witness the friendly competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

A C-130, piloted by aircrew members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 165th Airlift Squadron, deploys cargo over a drop zone at Fort Knox, Ky., during the unit's first-annual Air Derby competition Oct. 22, 2011. Family members of the Airmen were in attendance to witness the friendly competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

A C-130, piloted by aircrew members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 165th Airlift Squadron, deploys cargo over a drop zone at Fort Knox, Ky., during the unit's first-annual Air Derby competition Oct. 22, 2011. The contest scored crews in multiple areas, including threat and airspace avoidance, airdrop accuracy and assault landing accuracy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

A C-130, piloted by aircrew members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 165th Airlift Squadron, deploys cargo over a drop zone at Fort Knox, Ky., during the unit's first-annual Air Derby competition Oct. 22, 2011. The contest scored crews in multiple areas, including threat and airspace avoidance, airdrop accuracy and assault landing accuracy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

Cargo deployed from a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 Hercules lands within feet of its intended target during precision airdrops conducted Oct. 22, 2011, at Fort Knox, Ky., as part of the 165th Airlift Squadron's first-ever Air Derby. The contest scored crews in multiple areas, including threat and airspace avoidance, airdrop accuracy and assault landing accuracy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

Cargo deployed from a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 Hercules lands within feet of its intended target during precision airdrops conducted Oct. 22, 2011, at Fort Knox, Ky., as part of the 165th Airlift Squadron's first-ever Air Derby. The contest scored crews in multiple areas, including threat and airspace avoidance, airdrop accuracy and assault landing accuracy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Rechel)

A Kentucky Air National Guard combat controller observes as one of the unit's C-130s approaches the runway at Fort Knox, Ky., during the first-annual Air Derby, held Oct. 22, 2011. The contest scored aircrews in multiple areas, including threat and airspace avoidance, airdrop accuracy and assault landing accuracy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

A Kentucky Air National Guard combat controller observes as one of the unit's C-130s approaches the runway at Fort Knox, Ky., during the first-annual Air Derby, held Oct. 22, 2011. The contest scored aircrews in multiple areas, including threat and airspace avoidance, airdrop accuracy and assault landing accuracy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

A Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 touches down at Fort Knox, Ky., during the 165th Airlift Squadron's first-annual Air Derby, held Oct. 22, 2011. The contest scored aircrews in multiple areas, including threat and airspace avoidance, airdrop accuracy and assault landing accuracy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

A Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 touches down at Fort Knox, Ky., during the 165th Airlift Squadron's first-annual Air Derby, held Oct. 22, 2011. The contest scored aircrews in multiple areas, including threat and airspace avoidance, airdrop accuracy and assault landing accuracy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

FORT KNOX, Ky. -- Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 165th Airlift Squadron completed essential training here Oct. 22 while competing for "best aircrew" bragging rights in the first-annual Kentucky Air Derby.

Six crews of six members each tested their airmanship skills in multiple areas as they flew airdrop missions aboard C-130s, said Maj. Randall Hood, chief of tactics for the 123rd Operations Group. Points were given for threat and airspace avoidance; threat calls and reactions; time on target; airdrop accuracy; time of arrival; and assault landing accuracy.

"This mission was first and foremost a training mission," said Hood, who organized the Air Derby with the help of Maj. Benjamin Bull and Capt. Josh Ketterer.

"We conducted 12 low-level (approaches); six low-cost, low-altitude airdrops; six tactical arrivals; multiple threat scenarios; and six assault landings, the results of which provided for very comprehensive and realistic training in preparation for our real world mission."

In addition to the valuable training, the event offered a unique chance for unit members' families to come out and see airdrops first-hand.

"With the cooperation of Fort Knox, we had the opportunity for our families to observe how we train to conduct our wartime mission," Hood said. "It is these opportunities that allow our families to understand what it is we do in preparation for, and in, the fight.

"Allowing them to observe us conduct our mission gives them confidence in our abilities," he added.

"I think it is great that we are able to come out and see this, because it is not something everyone gets to do," said Debbie Mildenburger, whose husband, Lt. Col. Fred Mildenburger, was aircraft commander for one of the crews. "It gives us a feel for what they do when they go overseas."

The winning crew consisted of aircraft commander Maj. Carl Watkins, co-pilot Maj. Chris Engleman, navigator Maj. Brian Story, flight engineer Staff Sgt. Matt McKeehan and loadmasters Master Sgt. Cyndi Benskin and Airman 1st Class Josh Relogle.

"They earned the right to be proud," said Lt. Col. Shawn Dawley, commander of the 165th Airlift Squadron. "They were competing against other professionals who are just as trained, just as experienced -- and on that day, this crew was the best out there. It was a well-deserved victory."