Cowboy Blob's Saloon and Shootin Gallery

I'm not a real Cowboy, but I play one in the movies.

Monday, February 14, 2005

"Vega-31 is Going Down!"

Nothing clears the sinuses and tightens the sphincter of an airman like a distress call over the radio. On March 27 1999, a USAF officer using callsign "Vega-31" abandoned his aircraft over the Former Republic of Yugoslavia after it had been crippled by a Serb forces surface-to-air missile. Vega-31's evasion and rescue was full of drama for himself and hundreds of service members supporting the NATO strikes.

Great sites on this event here and here.

I actually got to meet Vega-31, who unlike Captain Scott O'Grady, remained in the Air Force after his rescue but doesn't want his name released in association with the event. Vega-31 had some light colonel job in Korea, but really relished giving motivational speeches to airmen. My flight had a low-activity day, so when we were invited to one of these chats, many of us jumped on it. Many of our intel professionals had had a hand in the rescue in some way or other; I tagged along because I was a relatively recent graduate of USAF Survival School and wanted to see how his experiences stacked up compared to O'Grady's.

It was cool that the briefing was classified to the highest clearance we all had in common (that's pretty high). My conclusions were the rescue mission wasn't perfect, but was effective; that Vega-31 had more "on the ball" than O'Grady, and that the intelligence/rescue communities can turn into Mama Grizzly Bear separated from her cub. Pilots knowing they have a team like this behind them motivates them to fight like tigers and such feedback from the iron-droppers made our job that much more satisfying.


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