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Name (Last, First Middle)Donnelly, Robert P.
Branch at time of eventUSAF
RankLieutenant Colonel
SquadronCS 03
Home TownTinker AFB
Home StateOK
High SchoolTorrejon American High School, Torrejon AB, Madrid
High School ActivitiesFootball,Track,NatlHonorSoc
Post High SchoolNone
Academy Experiences
Academic Degree MajorBS Unspec USAFA-1977 MS AeroFng, AFIT 1985 SOS(R) 1984 ACSC(C) 1986 AirWC(S) 1994
Active Duty AssignmentsHeliTng,FtRucker;78:Plt,20SpecOpnsSq,HurlburtFld; 81:Plt,Det18- 40AR&RSq,PlattsburghAFB;84:AFIT(RS),WPAFB;86:Test& EvalMgr,AFWrightAeronlLab,WPAFB;88:FltTestMgr,Shor tTakeoff&Landing/ManeuverTechDemonstratorF- 15,WPAFB;89:OpnsO/Cmdr,Det24- 37ARSq/Cmdr,36RQF,FairchildAFB;93:MH- 60GTransition,KirtlandAFB;94:OpnsO,56RQS,KeflavikN AStnIL;95:Cmdr,56RQS,KeflavikNAStnIL;96:ChOpns&Tng Div,DODExecAgency,CSAR.
Civilian Positions
Award Year1996
Award Summary InformationLieutenant Colonel Robert P Donnelly, Jr., U. S. Air Force Academy class of 1977, is the winner of the 1996 Jabara Award for Airmanship for distinguishing himself by outstanding achievement while leading two HH-60G helicopters in a humanitarian assistance mission near Flatyeri, Iceland on October 25, 1995. On that date, the worst storm since 1934 passed through, the northwest fjords of Iceland, causing an avalanche which devastated the village of Flatyeri. Initial estimates from the remote village indicated 24 missing, 25 injured and 15 to 20 houses buried or destroyed. The raging storm included ceilings ranging from totally obscured to 400 feet,, gale force winds with gusts to 70 knots and a sea state of 40-50 foot waves. The latter hampered Icelandic Coast Guard rescue attempts, and thee government requested helicopter support from the 56th Rescue Squadron based at. Keflavik Naval Air Station. Donneily, squadron commander and alert flight lead, launched with his rescue force of two HH-60G helicopters, Rescue 206 and 208, and proceeded to Reykjavik for maximum upload of emergency medical equipment and personnel, thence to Rif for staging. At Rif, having received an inflight weather report of continuing poor weather conditions enroute to the village, Donnelly decided to proceed and selected an overwater route to minimize instrument flight and severe icing while ensuring terrain avoidance. Enroute, Rescue 206 and 208 encountered worsening weather with lowering temperatures, icing, and winds gusting to 60 knots. Forced to 5,000 feet for a turbulent air refueling, Donnelly then led the flight in an instrument let down using TACAN air-to-air, radar terrain mapping and present position moving map display. Rejoining visually at 300 feet, the two ships proceeded into the fjord at altitudes urging from 75 to 100 feet. Fighting blowing snow, visibility of less than an eighth of a mile, tailwinds in excess of 55 knots and visual illusions, the aircraft made their way to Flatyeri and landed individually in complete white out conditions. Unloading proved to be equally hazardous as snow squalls obscured the landing zone and 50-knot winds moved the helicopters along the ground. The leadership; professional skills and extraordinary airmanship of Lieutenant Colonel Donnelly contributed significantly., to the response of Icelandic Rescue Teams and their ability to provide rescue and comfort to some 40 people. Four of the missing were recovered alive.
Involved Crew Members
Burial Site/DateN/A
Aeronautical Speciality RatingCommand Pilot
Notable Military and Civilian Decorations & AwardsDMSM,MSM(4),AM(2),AFCM(2) Jabara Award
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