Tag Archives: Pararescueman

6 February 1967

General Howell M. Estes, Jr., presents the Air Force Cross to Airman 1st Class Duane D. Hackney, 9 September 1967. (U.S. Air Force)
General Howell M. Estes, Jr., presents the Air Force Cross to Senior Airman Duane D. Hackney, 9 September 1967. (U.S. Air Force)

heroism046 February 1967: That Others May Live. Airman 2nd Class Duane D. Hackney, U.S. Air Force, 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, rescued the pilot of a downed aircraft and earned the Air Force Cross. He was the first living recipient of the Air Force Cross.

With more than 70 individual medals, Chief Master Sergeant Hackney was the most highly decorated enlisted man in United States Air Force history.

His citation reads:

Air Force Cross
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 Airman Second Class Duane D. Hackney (AFSN: 16827003), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while serving with the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, 3d Air Rescue and Recovery Group, DaNang Air Base, Vietnam, as a Paramedic (Pararescueman) on an unarmed HH-3E Rescue Helicopter near Mu Gia Pass, North Vietnam, on 6 February 1967. On that date, Airman Hackney flew two sorties in a heavily defended hostile area. On the first sortie, despite the presence of armed forces known to be hostile, entrenched in the vicinity, Airman Hackney volunteered to be lowered into the jungle to search for the survivor. He searched until the controlling Search and Rescue agency ordered an evacuation of the rescue crew. On the second sortie, Airman Hackney located the downed pilot, who was hoisted into the helicopter. As the rescue crew departed the area, intense and accurate 37-mm. flak tore into the helicopter amidships, causing extensive damage and a raging fire aboard the craft. With complete disregard for his own safety, Airman Hackney fitted his parachute to the rescued man. In this moment of impending disaster, Airman Hackney chose to place his responsibility to the survivor above his own life. The courageous Pararescueman located another parachute for himself and had just slipped his arms through the harness when a second 37-mm. round struck the crippled aircraft, sending it out of control. The force of the explosion blew Airman Hackney through the open cargo door and, though stunned, he managed to deploy the unbuckled parachute and make a successful landing. He was later recovered by a companion helicopter. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Airman Hackney reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”

A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant (66-13290) ot the 37th ARRS, hovering in ground effect at Da Nang, 1968. (U.S. Air Force)
A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant (66-13290) of the 37th ARRS, hovering in ground effect at Da Nang, 1968. (U.S. Air Force)

The following is excerpted from Chief Master Sergeant Hackney’s U.S. Air Force biography:

Airman 2nd Class Duane D. Hackney, USAF, with jungle penetrator, aboard a Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, Southeast Asia, 1967 (U.S. Air Force)
Airman 2nd Class Duane D. Hackney, USAF, with jungle penetrator, aboard a Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, Southeast Asia, 1967 (U.S. Air Force)

“. . . His pararescue career began quickly. Three days after reporting for duty, Hackney, now an airman second class, flew his first combat mission. On his 10th mission, in April 1966, he was hit by enemy fire while pulling a wounded Marine pilot aboard his HH-3E Jolly Green Giant. Five times in the months ahead his helicopter was shot down. He earned four Distinguished Flying Crosses and 18 Air Medals for single acts of heroism. Then came Feb. 6, 1967 and the mission that would lead to the second highest award for heroism given by the U.S. Air Force.

“That morning he descended from his HH-3E to look for a downed pilot near Mu Gia pass, North Vietnam. He searched for two hours until bad weather forced a return to base. A few hours later, radio contact with the pilot was re-established and another rescue was attempted. This time, the severely wounded pilot was found. The wounded pilot hugged Hackney and said, ‘You’re beautiful.’

” ‘Hey man,’ said Hackney, ‘I’m not the stewardess.’

“Hackney carried the pilot back to the helicopter to begin their retreat. They had to hurry because it was rapidly becoming dark. Before they could clear enemy air space, anti-aircraft artillery struck the helicopter, filling the compartment with smoke and fire. Hackney strapped his own parachute on the pilot’s back and helped him get out the door. He found a spare, oil-stained parachute just as a second 37-mm antiaircraft shell ripped into the helicopter. Before he could buckle the chute, the Jolly Green Giant’s fuel line exploded, blasting Hackney through the door. Holding on to the chute with his arms, he managed to pull the cord before plummeting into the forest 250 feet below. The chute slowed his fall, but he still plunged 80 more feet to a rock ledge.

“Severely burned and pierced by shrapnel, Hackney managed to evade capture. When an A-1 Skyraider passed overhead, he fired a flare. A chopper mission was sent in and the rescuer was rescued. When he got back to Da Nang Air Base, he was told that he was the only survivor of the thwarted mission. Four other crew members and the pilot they had gone to save had died.

“For giving up his parachute and risking his own life, Hackney received the Air Force Cross. Hackney was presented the medal by Gen. Howell M. Estes Jr., the commander of Military Airlift Command.

“Hackney continued his distinguished Air Force career, retiring in 1991 as a chief master sergeant. In 1993, he died of a heart attack in his Pennsylvania home. He was 46 years old.”

Chief Master Sergeant Duane D. Hackney, United States Air Force (195x–1993)
Technical Sergeant Duane D. Hackney, United States Air Force (1947–1993)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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9 November 1967: Air Force Cross, Sergeant Larry Wayne Maysey, United States Air Force

"That Others May Live." Bronze sculpture of Sergeant Larry Wayne Maysey, United States Air Force, by Wayne Hyde. The memorial is located on Main Street, Borough of Chester, New Jersey. (© Sheena Chi)
“That Others May Live.” Bronze statue of Sergeant Larry Wayne Maysey, United States Air Force, by Wayne Hyde. The memorial is located on Main Street, Borough of Chester, New Jersey. (© Sheena Chi)

 AIR FORCE CROSS

Awarded posthumously for actions during the Vietnam War

Sgt. Larry W. Masey
Sergeant Larry W. Maysey, Rescue Specialist, United States Air Force

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pride in presenting the Air Force Cross (Posthumously) to Sergeant Larry Wayne Maysey (AFSN: 12751422), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an HH-3E Rescue Specialist (Pararescueman) of the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, 3d Air Rescue and Recovery Group, DaNang Air Base, Vietnam, in Southeast Asia on 9 November 1967. On that date, Sergeant Maysey attempted the night extraction of a ground reconnaissance team after his helicopter had been severely damaged. Two other helicopters had been shot down and a third extensively damaged in previous attempts. During the rescue attempt, Sergeant Maysey unhesitatingly exposed himself to the hail of hostile fire to assist wounded survivors into the helicopter. The hostile forces closed in quickly, and as the damaged helicopter departed, it was shot down. Though his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Sergeant Maysey reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Action Date: 9-Nov-67

Service: Air Force

Rank: Sergeant

Company: 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron

Regiment: 3d Air Rescue and Recovery Group

Division: DaNang Air Base, Vietnam

Air Force Cross
Air Force Cross

Larry Wayne Maysey was born 18 November 1946 in the Borough of Chester, new jersey. he was the son of Charles and Charlotte Maysey. He attended West Morris High School, graduating in 1965.

After graduating from high school, Larry Maysey enlisted in the United States Air Force, and was selected for training as a Pararescue Jumper at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The “PJs” of the U.S. Air Force are graduates of an two-year training course, known as “the Pipeline,” which is one of the most intense training programs of any military service. The failure rate is about 80%.

Sergeant Maysey arrived in Vietnam in mid-October 1967, assigned to the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On 9 November 1967, he was one of the crew of “Jolly Green 26,” A Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter.

Sergeant Maysey’s remains were not recovered. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing, at the Honolulu Memorial, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 October 1991

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26118 of the 12th Rescue Wing—a sister ship of Jolly 110—recovers pararescue jumpers during a training mission outside of San Francisco's Golden Gate. (TSGT Lance Cheung, U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26118 of the 129th Rescue Wing, California Air National Guard, recovers pararescue jumpers during a training mission outside of San Francisco’s Golden Gate. (Technical Sergeant Lance Cheung, U.S. Air Force)

30 October 1991: United States Air Force Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk, 88-26110, call sign “Jolly 110,” assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard, headed out into a hurricane that would become known as “The Perfect Storm.” Aboard were Major C. David Ruvola, pilot; Captain Graham Buschor, co-pilot; Staff Sergeant James R. Mioli, flight engineer; and pararescue jumpers Technical Sergeant John Spillane and Technical Sergeant Arden Rick Smith. Their mission was to attempt a rescue 250 miles (400 kilometers) out to sea.

Due to the severity of the storm—a weather buoy located 264 miles (425 kilometers) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, reported a wave height of 100.7 feet (30.7 meters) on 30 October, the highest ever recorded in that part of the Atlantic Ocean—the Pave Hawk crew was unable to make the rescue and had to return to their base.

Having already refueled from the Lockheed HC-130 Hercules tanker three times during the mission, and with low fuel, a fourth refueling was needed for the helicopter to make it back to the mainland. Because of the the extreme turbulence and lack of visibility, Jolly 110 could not make contact with the refueling drogue trailing behind the airplane.

Major Ruvola made more than 30 attempts, but finally both drogues had been damaged by the severe conditions. With just twenty minutes of fuel remaining, Jolly 110 would have to ditch in the middle of “The Perfect Storm.”

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26109, sistership of "Jolly 110", ready for refueling from a C-130. (U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26109, a sistership of “Jolly 110,” ready for refueling from a Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadow, 69-5828. This helicopter was destroyed 7 January 2014, when it crashed off the coast of England following multiple bird strikes at 130 knots. The four-man crew was killed. (TSGT Justin D. Pyle, U.S. Air Force)
Technical Sergeant Arden R. Smith, Pararescue Jumper, 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)
Technical Sergeant Arden R. Smith, Pararescue Jumper, 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)

Unable to refuel, Major Ruvola made the decision to ditch the helicopter into the sea while the engines were still running. At 9:30 p.m., the Sikorsky’s number one engine flamed out from fuel starvation. With one engine still operating, Ruvola held the Pave Hawk in a hover over the raging ocean while Buschor, Mioli, Spillane and Smith jumped.

When the number two engine flamed out, Ruvola put the Pave Hawk into a hovering autorotation. Its blades came to a sudden stop when they hit the face of an oncoming wave. Ruvola was about 15 feet (4.6 meters) under water by the time he was able to escape from the sinking helicopter.

The Pave Hawk had gone down 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of Montauk Point in 100-knot (185 kilometers per hour) winds and 80-foot (25 meter) waves. After five hours in the water, four airmen were rescued by USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166), a 48-year-old former U.S. Navy fleet tug, operated by the Coast Guard since the end of World War II as a medium endurance cutter.

The search for Rick Smith continued for a week. He was never found.

USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166). (U.S. Coast Guard)
USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166). (U.S. Coast Guard)
USCGC Tamaroa (WHEC-166) pitches and rolls in heavy seas during the rescue of Satori, during "The Perfect Storm". (U.S. Coast Guard)
USCGC Tamaroa (WMEC-166) pitches and rolls in heavy seas during the rescue of Satori, a 32-foot sail boat, 29 October 1991. (U.S. Coast Guard) 

The U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk is medium-sized twin-engine combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) helicopter, developed from the Army UH-60A Black Hawk transport. These helicopters were upgraded with an extendable probe for air-to-air refueling and additional fuel tanks in the cabin. They were given the project name Credible Hawk.

The Credible Hawks were further upgraded to the MH-60G Pave Hawk standard, which incorporated an sinertial navigation system, GPS, and Doppler radar for precision navigation. Low-light television, infrared cameras and night vision systems allowed the MH-60G to operate at night and very low altitude. The Pave Hawk is equipped with an Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS), a very sophisticated autopilot which incorporates automatic hover capability.

Some of the MH-60G Pave Hawks received further upgrades for the special operations mission. Helicopters dedicated to CSAR were redesignated HH-60G. A rescue hoist capable of lifting 600 pounds (272 kilograms) from a 200-foot (60.7 meter) hover is incorporated on the upper right side of the fuselage.

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk, 88-26107, sister ship of 88-26110, which was lost in "The Perfect Storm".
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk, 88-26107, sister ship of 88-26110, which was lost in “The Perfect Storm.” (U.S. Air Force)

The HH-60G is operated by a crew of two pilots, a flight engineer and gunner. For rescue operations, pararescue jumpers, the famous “P.J.s,” are added to the crew. The helicopter has an overall length of 64 feet, 11 inches (19.787 meters) with rotors turning. The fuselage is 49 feet, 10 inches (15.189 meters) long and 7 feet, 9 inches (2.362 meters) wide. Overall height (rotors turning) is 16 feet, 11 inches (5.156 meters).

The fully-articulated main rotor has a diameter of  53 feet, 8 inches (16.358 meters) and turns counterclockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) The main rotor turns 258 r.p.m., resulting in a blade tip speed of 725 feet per second (221 meters per second). The four blades have a chord of 1.73 feet (0.527 meters) and 18° negative twist. The blade tips are swept back at a 20° angle. The four-blade tail rotor assembly is mounted on the right side of a pylon in a tractor configuration. The tail rotor plane is inclined 20° to the left to provide approximately 400 pounds of additional lift. The tail rotor turns clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor has a diameter of 11 feet (3.353 meters) and each blade has a chord of 0.81 feet (0.247 meters). The tail rotor has a tip speed of 699 feet per second (213 meters per second).

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26106, sister ship of Jolly 110, at William J. Fox Field, Lancaster, California. (Alan Radecki)
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26106 at William J. Fox Field, Lancaster, California. (Alan Radecki)

Power is supplied by two General Electric T700-GE-701C turboshaft engines which are mounted on top of the fuselage on either side of the transmission and main rotor mast. They have a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 1,662 shaft horsepower, each, at Sea Level on a Standard Day. Maximum Power (10 minute limit) is 1,890 shaft horsepower, and the One Engine Inoperative (OEI) rating is 1,940 shaft horsepower (2½ minute limit.) The -701C is 3 feet, 10 inches (1.684 meters) long), 1 foot,3.6 inches (0.396 meters) in diameter and weighs 458 pounds (208 kilograms). The helicopter’s main transmission is rated for a maximum 3,400 horsepower.

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 91-26403, 33rd Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, 2001. (MSgt Val Gempis, United States Air Force)

The HH-60G has a cruise speed of 184 miles per hour (296 kilometers per hour) and its maximum speed is 224 miles per hour (361 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) and maximum range is 373 miles (600 kilometers). The hover ceiling, in ground effect (HIGE) is approximately 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and out of ground effect (HOGE) is about 6,000 feet (1,830 meters).

Defensive armament consists of two GAU-18A .50-caliber machine guns.

Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 89-26212. (U.S. Air Force)
Captain Marisa Catlin, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, flies a Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk, 89-26212, over the Kunar Province, Afghanistan, 9 February 2011. (Captain Erick Saks, U.S. Air Force)

The U.S. Air Force initially purchased 112 HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, though as of May 2016, 96 remain in service. Most of these are approaching their design airframe lifetime limit of 7,000 flight hours. Several have passed 10,000 hours. The Air Force will replace them with a new HH-60W, a combat rescue helicopter based on the Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk. Currently, 21 U.S. Army UH-60Ls are being modified to replace HH-60G losses. The next CSAR helicopter, the HH-60W, based on the Sikorsky UH-60M, is expected to make its first flight in late 2018.

The first Sikorsky HH-60W airframe ready for final assembly at Stratford, Connecticut, February 2018. (Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 April 1966

Airman 1st Class William Hart Pitsenbarger, United States Air Force

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863 has awarded in the name of the Congress the Medal of Honor posthumously to:

A1C WILLIAM H. PITSENBARGER
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE
for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty Near Cam My, 11 April 1966:

Rank and organization: Airman First Class, U.S. Air Force, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam.

Place and date: Near Cam My, 11 April 1966

Entered service at: Piqua, Ohio

Born: 8 July 1944, Piqua, Ohio

Citation: Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on 11 April 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an on-going firefight between elements of the United States Army’s 1st Infantry Division and a sizable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground. On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day were recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get one more wounded soldier to safety. After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind, on the ground, to perform medical duties. Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time, he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible. In the vicious fighting which followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and airman Pitsenbarger was finally fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.

Airman 1st Class William Hart Pitsenbarger, United States Air Force, with his Colt M-16 rifle and Kaman HH-43 Huskie rescue helicopter. (U.S. Air force)
Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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