Wednesday, October 8, 2014

One of My Heroes

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.
In these modern times people will use the word "hero" to describe a sports star, maybe even a Hollywood actor. Not me.

I don't have a problem if people refer to someone they respect as a hero. Perhaps their Mom or their Dad. Perhaps a police officer, or a fireman. Emergency medical folks could also be considered heroes.

My heroes have always been those who swore the oath to "support and defend the Constitution," the same oath I swore so many years ago. But I'm no hero.

Heroes run towards danger. They run into burning buildings. They march to the sound of the guns. They lay their lives on the line so that others may live.

Of the many fighting men and women I know or have known, very few impress me as much as Air Force Pararescuemen, PJs as we always referred to them. The Nuke had a PJ as an instructor at Air Force Junior ROTC summer camp in Germany. (Yes, in high school The Nuke and The WSO both wore Air Force blue!)

That PJ impressed the heck out of The Nuke, and she is not easy to impress.

Of all the men at the top of the blog, in my Pantheon of Heroes, there is only one enlisted man. 

Chief Master Sergeant Duane Hackney.

Chief was a PJ, one of the best of the best. Makes me damn proud to have worn the same uniform. He was the most decorated enlisted man in the Air Force. We're not talking "battle of Lackland" or Good Conduct medals.

No, we're talking the Air Force Cross, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross (4 awards) w/ Combat "V", the Airman's Medal, the Purple Heart (2 awards), the Meritorious Service Medal (2 awards), the Air Medal (18 awards)the Air Force Commendation Medal (3 awards) w/ Combat "V" and many more.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you CMSgt Duane Hackney.

A man worthy of emulation. A man worthy of remembrance in my Pantheon of Heroes.

HH-3 Jolly Green Giant

All images contained herein are in the Public Domain.


  1. Never wanted to meet a PJ professionally....Unless I needed to.

    Chief Hackney is more than worthy of being on your wall of heroes.

    1. I did meet PJs in their professional capacity. Had a bad cut on my head at Kadena, severed a major blood vessel over my right eye. When I got to the hospital (I think it was on Butler, it was a long time ago) there were two PJs there for some refresher medical training. They sewed me up. I need to tell that story someday.

      PJs are awesome. Yeah, for aircrew, you want to know that the PJs are are there, you just don't want to need them. I get that.

    2. And I thought that was a Dueling Scar you had there!

    3. That's what I tell the chicks.

  2. Nice post. CMSgt Hackney is indeed a hero and here's another CMSgt who's in that same category.

    A couple o' small things... First, thanks for displaying the "old" Chief stripes.

    Second, this: (Yes, in high school The Nuke and The WSO both wore Air Force blue!) And then things went seriously downhill. ;-)

    1. CMSgt Etchberger is indeed in that same category. (Nice post about him over at Sal's not long ago.)

      CMSgt Hackney might have seen the new stripes before he retired, doubt he wore them. (I still have an old uniform with the old MSgt stripes on them.)

      As to the AF blue thing, neither child has any regrets. Nor do I. Just sayin'...

  3. I did a few training flights out of Udorn on the HH-53's from the 40th ARRS and Sgt Hackney was a name everyone knew and admired.

    Looking out the side doors, I always thought that it would get awfully lonely hanging by a wire over the jungle and not knowing who might
    shoot at you at any time. You needed some mighty big stones to do that job!!!!

    CMSgt Hackney definitely earned the title of "HERO" !

  4. Replies
    1. Indeed. He died too young, at 46.

    2. Yep. Big ones. Real big ones as a matter of fact! Made that damn clanging noise everywhere he walked. regards, Alemaster

    3. That's one of the reasons PJs fly in really big helos.

      Need the extra lift for all that, ahem, hardware.

  5. I hate to be a pedantic peckerwood (as snake-eater used to say at Lexs' place) but what you are showing is not the Air Force Cross--it's the Distinguished Service Cross that the Army uses and the Air Force used to award until they developed a design of their own. Oh, and the good CMSgt? Helluva guy. Does anyone know what caused his untimely early death? He was already a legend by the time I arrived at DaNang in fall of 67 but I never ran across him, I think he had rotated out by then.

    1. Hhmm, I got that illustration from an official Air Force website.

      Chief died of a heart attack at age 46. Two years after he retired from the Air Force.

  6. FWIW Sarge, at the time he was given the award, the AF was still using the Army version depicted, above. The origin of this is that, as you know, originally the "Air Force" was part of the Army.(the USAAF) and so didn't have separate decorations of its own.

  7. Lost the whole effing comment....

    Glad to see your handle again VX. Great post OAFS.

    1. Heh. Been there, done that.

      Maybe we should have t-shirts made?


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