Sunday, March 18, 2012

TFH 3/18: Captain John Edgar Lackey, USAF

CSAR - Combat Search And Rescue. One of the more dangerous jobs in combat, as if any job is safe. CSAR forces have the role of rescuing shot-down airmen before they can be captured by the enemy. Think about it. An aircraft is shot down and the crew bails out. It reasons to believe that the helicopters that will do the extraction and the fighters and/or attack planes that will fly cover are going to encounter the same anti-aircraft batteries that shot our plane down in the first place - only the rescue forces are at even greater risk because they've got to get down close to the ground. These brave men and women don't care; the lives of their comrades on the deck and running are worth it.

March 18-19, 1972 - 40 years ago - one brave United States Air Force A-1E Skyraider pilot with the 1st Special Operations Squadron, flying from Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, led the rescue of two downed comrades. He remained over the rescue area for more than four hours, at all times exposed to hostile fire. He repeatedly used his own plane to induce enemy guns to fire, thus revealing their position so others could attack and destroy them. The rescue was successful. For his courage, he was decorated with the Air Force Cross.

His name was John Edgar Lackey.

From Military Times' Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Captain John Edgar Lackey (AFSN: 0-15834289), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as an A-1E Tactical Fighter Pilot of the 1st Special Operations Squadron, 34th Tactical Group, Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, in action in Southeast Asia from 18 to 19 March 1972. During this period, Captain Lackey was the commander of an extremely hazardous and complex search and rescue mission that was attempting to recover two American crew members located in one of the most heavily defended segments of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in southern Laos. In order to force the hostile gunners to disclose their positions, Captain Lackey exposed himself to their lethal fire for more than four hours, directing tactical air strikes on each of the more than thirty large caliber weapons as they opened fire, thereby eliminating the threat and allowing the vulnerable rescue helicopter to effect a safe and successful recovery of both crew members. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Captain Lackey reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

In addition to his Air Force Cross, Lackey was also an eight-time recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross (including some with the Valor device) and fifteen-time of the Air Medal for his Vietnam-era flying. After his wartime service, he continued flying with the New Mexico Air National Guard. Sadly, this American hero was killed when his A-7 Corsair II crashed near Socorro, NM on May 1, 1978. He rests in peace at Fairview Cemetery in Tularosa, NM.

Today, the 1st Special Operations Squadron flies the MC-130H Combat Talon II as part of the 353rd Special Operations Group in support of joint and allied special operations forces from their home at Kadena Air Base in Japan.

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