Monday, January 21, 2013

TFH 1/21: Captain Paul T. Johnson, USAF

Paul T. Johnson was born on April 26, 1958. He gained a commission in the United States Air Force in 1985 via Officers Training School at Lackland Air Force Base (today Joint Base San Antonio) in San Antonio, Texas. He was trained as a Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot and was flying with the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing in combat over Iraq and Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm.

On January 21, 1991, then Captain Johnson's A-10 and another from the 354th wing were tasked to support a search and rescue mission for a United States Navy F-14 Tomcat crew who had been shot down the night before. Over six hours, Johnson led his flight extremely deep into enemy territory at great risk. His courage and airmanship meant the rescue was successful, and he was decorated with the second-highest award the Air Force could have bestowed: the Air Force Cross.

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 Paul T. Johnson, United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while serving as an A-10 Pilot with the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing, during Operation DESERT STORM on 21 January 1991. On that date, Captain Johnson was the flight lead on Sandy 57, a two-ship of A-10s tasked for search and rescue alert at a forward operating location. While en route, he received tasking to look for an F-14 crew that had been shot down the night before. During the next six hours he would lead his flight through three aerial refuelings, one attack on a possible SCUD missile site, and three hours of intensive searching deeper inside enemy territory than any A-10 had ever been. He risked his life as he had to fly at a mere 500 feet in order to pinpoint the survivor's location. When an enemy truck appeared to be heading toward his survivor, Captain Johnson directed his flight to destroy it, thus securing the rescue. It was his superior airmanship and his masterful techniques at orchestration that made this rescue happen - the first in the history of the A-10 weapons system. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Captain Johnson reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Today, 22 years after his heroic rescue mission, Johnson still serves in defense of our great Nation. In the intervening years he as held a variety of positions and has also completed two tours commanding combat air units over Afghanistan. He currently holds the rank of Major General and is the Deputy United States Military Representative to the NATO Military Committee. In addition to the Air Force Cross, Major General Johnson is a two-time recipient of the Legion of Merit and also holds a Distinguished Flying Cross.

His Desert Storm-era unit is today known as the 354th Fighter Wing. They are the agressor unit for "Red Flag" exercises that take place over Alaskan skies from their home at Eielson Air Force Base outside Fairbanks.

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