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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

This year's Eagles

Gathering of Eagles 2009 is underway and this year's Eagles have arrived at Maxwell Air Force Base.

I'll be doing more coverage this week, but here's a list and short bios of this year's Eagles:

Captain John W. Young: Capt. John Young’s career with the Navy and NASA spanned 52 years. Young served aboard a destroyer in the Korean War and became a Navy fighter pilot and, subsequently, a test pilot. Selected as an astronaut in 1962, he flew the first manned Gemini mission and would ultimately fly into space six times. In April, 1972, Young commanded Apollo 16 and walked on the Moon. After Apollo, he commanded the first Space Shuttle flight and the first shuttle Spacelab mission.

Maj. Gen. John R. Alison: Maj. Gen. Alison’s military career spanned three decades and included service in both WWII and the Korean War. During WWII he served as assistant military attaché in England and the Soviet Union and flew combat missions in the China-Burma-India Theater. He went on to become an ace with seven confirmed and numerous probable kills while flying in, and commanding, the 75th Fighter Squadron “Flying Tigers.” Alison was later chosen by Gen. “Hap” Arnold to serve as co-commander of the newly formed 1st Air Commando Group. His innovative leadership of the 1st Air Commandos helped turn the tide of the Allied war effort in the CBI theater. After the war, Alison served as the assistant Secretary of Commerce, President of the Air Force Association, and as a Vice President of the Northrop Corporation.

Col. Regina C. Aune: Col. Regina Aune was the lead medic during the first mission of Operation BABYLIFT. Minutes after take-off, the pressure door and ramp blew out resulting in rapid decompression and forcing the pilot to conduct an emergency landing. Once on the ground, Aune, then only a lieutenant, helped rescue over 140 helpless and terrified children. One by one she removed the children from the wreckage down to safety. After the incident, Col. Aune was awarded the Cheney Award for her heroic acts and dedication to duty.

Cap. Augusto Bedacarratz: Capt. Augusto Bedacarratz’s distinguished career in the Armada de la Republica Argentina, the Argentine Navy, spanned 31 years. During that time, he flew a total of 3500 hours and performed 200 carrier landings in a variety of naval aircraft. On May 4, 1982, Bedacarratz led a formation of Super Entendards on a long range attack against the British Royal Navy. The damage inflicted by the attack led to the sinking of the HMS Sheffield. It was a dramatic success for Argentina.

Col. Jacksel M. “Jack” Broughton: Col. Jacksel M. “Jack” Broughton’s distinguished Air Force career spanned 26 years. He served four combat tours in Korea and Vietnam, flying 216 combat missions. Broughton was combat ready in every fighter from the P-47 to the F-106 and his numerous commands included the Thunderbirds. He was awarded four Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Silver Stars, and the presidentially awarded Air Force Cross. Broughton has authored three books, including Thud Ridge, which has appeared on the CSAF’s reading list.

Lt. Col. Bruce R. Crandall: In 1965, Lt. Col. Bruce Crandall commanded Company A, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion. During this command, he participated in the aggressive forged doctrinal development and tactical methods for employment of emerging helicopter capabilities. He validated this doctrine during his tours of Vietnam including actions in November 1965 in the Ia Drang Valley by providing support to 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment and a second tour in 1968. Throughout his tours, Crandall flew lead on over 750 missions.

Chief Master Sgt. Wayne L. Fisk: Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Fisk was a pararescueman in Vietnam, flying over 400 combat missions and saving 14 downed aviators. He participated in the famed Son Tay POW camp raid and helped rescue the crew of the SS Mayaguez when it was captured by communist forces in 1975. He was selected as one of the Jaycee’s Ten Outstanding Young Men of America in 1980, and established the USAF Enlisted Heritage Hall at Gunter AFS.

Maj. Gen. James L. Hobson, Jr.: Maj. Gen. James L. Hobson Jr.’s distinguished Air Force career spanned 32 years. During that time, he served combat tours in Vietnam, held numerous commands, and flew a total of 6,850 hours in multiple special operations multi-engine and helicopter aircraft. In October 1983, Hobson led the airfield seizure in Grenada and subsequently won the Mackay Trophy for his actions. He played a role in the creation of Air Force Special Operations Command and retired as its third commander.

Col. Joe M. Jackson: Col. Joe M. Jackson’s distinguished Air Force career spanned nearly 33 years. During that time, he served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam — earning the nation’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. Jackson flew several aircraft during his career, including fighter, bomber, reconnaissance, and transport type aircraft. He flew an impressive 107 combat sorties in Korea, and 298 sorties in Vietnam. Jackson was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, the Airlift/Tanker Association Hall of Fame, and the Combat Airman Hall of Fame.

Eugene F. “Gene” Kranz: Gene Kranz flew the F-80, F-86 and F-100 while in the U.S. Air Force. Later, he became a flight-test engineer and joined NASA working with the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo Programs. In 1969, his “White” Flight team made the first lunar landing become a reality. His leadership was pivotal in bringing the crew of Apollo XIII safely back to Earth in 1970. He also worked with the Skylab Program and became the Director of Mission Operations for the Space Shuttle in 1983. He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Col. Charles E. McGee: Col. McGee started his career breaking barriers with the 99th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group, the famed “Tuskegee Airmen” and downed a German FW-190. The 332nd Fighter Group never lost a bomber under its escort to enemy fighters. He continued his flying career during Korea and Vietnam, earning the highest 3-war total for fighter missions of any Air Force aviator. After a distinguished 30-year military career, he continues to be an advocate of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Gen. Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton: Gen. Lloyd “Fig” Newton’s Air Force career spanned more than 34 years. During that time, he made countless contributions to American aviation, from flying F-4 Phantoms in Vietnam to becoming the first African American Thunderbird pilot to commanding the Air Education and Training Command. He has flown more than 4,000 hours in various aircraft from the T-37 to the F-117 stealth fighter. His accomplishments are a living example of how his philosophy of “no excuses” and “hard work” can lead to inspiring success in life.

Elizabeth “Betty Wall” Strohfus: Elizabeth “Betty Wall” Strohfus audaciously served her nation during WWII as one of only 1074 Women Airforce Service Pilots (W.A.S.P.). She served from 1943 until the group was disbanded in December 1944. Piloting eight different aircraft including the B-17, B-26, P-39, and her favorite the AT-6, she flew anti-aircraft training missions against Army ground and bomber forces, towed aerial targets, and instructed male cadets in the skill of instrument flight. Her critical efforts ensured soldiers and airmen were prepared for combat.

Staff Sergeant David J. Thatcher: On 18 April 1942, David J. Thatcher and seventy-nine other Doolittle Raiders successfully accomplished the first air raid on Japan. Thatcher served as the engineer and gunner for crew number seven. His crew successfully struck the Nippon Steel Factory in Tokyo. The pilot crash-landed the plane quarter mile off-shore from China coastline. In the crash, all but Thatcher were seriously injured. He received the Silver Star for his heroic actions in rescuing the crew.


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I grew up in the military. Mom was an Air Force nurse for a few years, dad was a navigator on B-52s, among other things. One grandfather served in World War II, uncle is retired Navy, other grandfather and great-uncle served in Korea and a cousin is currently serving in the Marine Corps. Currently, I'm the military reporter for the Great Falls Tribune in Montana. Previously, 

As a military kids, we moved all over. As an adult, I've traveled all over and moved for work. But now, I'm putting down roots in Montana with my boyfriend. We just bought a house and are slowly but surely making it our home. We have more land that we know what to do with at the moment. Now we're getting a garden started, tearing down walls and having loads of fun at what we call the Homestead.

In a part life, I did PR for the guy who built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, social media for the National Museum of Health and Medicine, before that, edited two military technology magazines for a publishing group in the DC area and before that, I was the military reporter (among other things) at the Montgomery Advertiser, covering Maxwell Air Force Base, the Alabama National Guard, veterans and anything else military related in the area. And in between all of that, I leave town, preferably the country, whenever possible. It all started when I spent a semester in New Zealand.

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