Three USAF RC-135S Cobra Ball spy planes were airborne when North Korea launched Hwasong-15 ICBM

Former USAF specialist who defected to Iran was RC-135 aircrew member during OIF. She Earned the Air Medal for her contributions during the Iraq War.

By Dario Leone
Feb 15 2019
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Former Tech. Sgt. Monica Elfriede Witt was charged with espionage on Feb. 13, 2019

Former Tech. Sgt. Monica Elfriede Witt, a former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence specialist who had defected to Iran and who was charged with espionage on Feb. 13, 2019, served as an airborne crypto linguist on board a RC-135 during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Military Times revealed.

She earned the Air Medal as a result. The citation says she had “distinguished herself by meritorious achievement while participating in sustained aerial flight from March 29 to April 18.”

In March 2003, then-Staff Sgt. Witt was serving as an airborne crypto linguist with the 95th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, 398th Air Expeditionary Group, out of Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Crete.

The U.S. invaded Iraq on March 20, followed by three weeks of major combat operations.

Witt was a member of the aircrew of an RC-135 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft forward deployed from RAF Mildenhall in Great Britain.

“During this period, the airmanship and courage of Sergeant Witt in the successful accomplishment of these important reconnaissance missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, under extremely hazardous conditions, demonstrated her outstanding proficiency and steadfast devotion to duty,” the citation states. “The professional ability and outstanding aerial accomplishments of Sergeant Witt reflect great credit upon herself and the United States Air Force.”

President George W. Bush awarded the Air Medal to Witt, and the citation, dated Dec. 2, 2004, was signed by Lt. Gen. Walter Buchanan III, then-commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

Witt later became a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and was last assigned to the 2nd Field Investigations Squadron, Joint Base Andrews, in Maryland. She separated in June 2008 as a technical sergeant, and defected to Iran in 2013.

Former USAF specialist who defected to Iran was RC-135 aircrew member during OIF. She Earned the Air Medal for her contributions during the Iraq War.
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. RC-135S Cobra Ball 55th Wing, 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, 61-2663 – Offutt AFB, NE – 2015

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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