Captain Joseph Khumalo, known to the crews as Knight, admits that his piloting accomplishments don't dot the record books. "I'm not a cockpit genius like Hunter or a marksman like Angel. I'm an ordinary man. I'm a pilot. It's my job."
Yet wingleaders tend to breathe a sigh of relief when they draw Khumalo as wingman. Knight has a reputation of utter reliability in combat. "I got my nickname in the Enyo Engagement. The Kilrathi were swarming like flies. I was a second looie assigned as wingman to Captain Maria 'la Doña' Alvarez. We were hugging the deck of this transport and strafing it, did a tight turn going from its back to its belly, and ran right through a swarm of fighters headed the other way. And defensive maneuvering in those quarters would've cut me off from la Donña, so I just fired as fast as I could, and got lucky: I was an ace coming out of that pack, and had picked off a couple of fighters going after my wingleader. La Doña put on her thickest accent and said, 'Ooh, eet's my White Knight,' and the name stuck.
"But, honestly, I don't feel that way, I'm not a knight-errant. I'm a soldier. Not all of us can be geniuses... but I'm going to do the best I can with what I can," Khumalo, 36, hails from Kroonstad, South Africa.
|Know Your Ranks
If you can't tell a major from a lieutenant colonel without having to look, you'll sooner or later find yourself in a humiliating conversation with a superior officer. Learn these rank insignia so well that you can identify them out of the corner of your eye at fifty paces. Clockwise from upper left, they are:
2nd Lieutenant1st LieutenantCaptainMajorLieutenant ColonelColonel