2003 Superior Achievement Award

Presented to: Major Donald A. Aspden

Citation: For his meritorious achievements as MC-130P Navigator in Iraq combat operations and his innovations in developing and executing new, all-weather, low-level MC-130P navigation procedures.


Major Donald A. Aspden distinguished himself as an MC-130P Navigator, augmenting the 67th Special Operations Squadron (SOS), 352nd Special Operations Group, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, U.K., while engaged in aerial combat in the Kurdish Autonomous Zone of northern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 25, 2003. During this mission, Maj. Aspden ensured the on-time delivery of 25,000 pounds of munitions, weapons, and 30 special forces advisors critical to opening a northern front against the Iraqi Republican Guard in spite of tremendous challenges presented by both enemy air defenses and poor weather conditions.

Prior to this mission, the MC-130P aircraft was utilized only in visual meteorological conditions (VMC) during low level flight because of a lack of specialized equipment and procedures needed for operations in less than VMC -conditions.

Maj. Aspden expertly directed a low-level ingress through mountainous terrain in nearly complete instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) that included lines of embedded thunderstorms. This astounding leap in capability was accomplished by using procedures that Maj. Aspden and other 67th SOS air crew members developed for their aircraft, an aircraft that is not equipped with terrain following/terrain avoidance radar. Created due to military necessity, these procedures had never been tested prior to this combat mission. Maj. Aspden made valuable changes and innovations to navigation procedures that greatly improved the safety and demonstrated the effectiveness of IMC low-level and IMC self-contained approach operations in the MC-130P aircraft. His actions significantly improved the combat capability of Air Force special operations.

Maj. Aspden is an evaluator navigator and mobility officer at the 550th Special Operations Squadron, 58 Special Operations Wing, Kirtland AFB, NM.

Maj. Aspden graduated from Norwich University in 1988 before attending Undergraduate Navigator Training at Mather AFB, Calif.