Air commandos posthumously awarded Distinguished Flying Cross

Air Force Maj. Randell Voas and Senior Master Sgt. JB Lackey gave their lives to save as many people aboard their CV-22B Osprey as possible. Because of their sacrifice, 16 of the 20 people aboard the aircraft survived the crash.

More than 14 years later, both Voas and Lackey were honored for their sacrifice by receiving posthumous Distinguished Flying Crosses. This is the second time that Lackey has received the award. He also received a Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in 2002.

During their final mission, Lackey and Voas demonstrated the “mastery, the grit, and the no-fail warfighting mentality we expect of all air commandos,” Lt. Gen. Tony D. Bauernfeind, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, said on Thursday.

“In their last, fateful seconds, they swiftly acted to prevent a catastrophic loss of life,” Bauernfeind said at a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Florida. “The tragic accident claimed the lives of Maj. Voas, Senior Master Sgt. Lackey, Army Cpl. Michael Jankiewicz, and interpreter Reeta Sadozai, but it was survived by two remaining crew members and 14 Army Rangers.”

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At the time of the crash both Lackey and Voas were assigned to the 1st Special Operations Wing, 8th Special Operations Squadron, and deployed to Kandahar Airfield as the 8th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron, said Lt. Col. John Campion, Bauernfeind’s executive officer.

“Randy was a quiet, humble, and loyal leader,” Campion recalled. “He loved flying almost more than anything in the world and never missed an opportunity to develop his airmanship skills, choosing to be quizzed on flying regulations during family road trips and often volunteering to make everyone’s mission products.”

Voas was especially proud of his marriage and the two children he and his wife were raising, and he hoped more than anything that they would be happy with whatever path in life they chose, Campion said.

“JB was trustworthy, kind, and took the core value of integrity seriously,” Campion continued. “He loved taking care of people and having an impact on their lives. He felt he did make an impact.”

Lackey was also a devoted father who spent many hours as a scout master and taking his sons to amusement parks, Campion said.

On April 9, 2010, Voas and Lackey were flying on one of three CV-22B Ospreys transporting U.S. special operations forces on a combat mission to capture a high value target near Qalat, Afghanistan, Campion said.

During the final three miles of the flight, their Osprey went into an unrecoverable descent, according to Voas’ award citation.

“With ground impact only seconds away, Major Voas expertly executed the only maneuver available, a rolling landing,” the citation says. “Major Voas’ experience, extensive training, and measured response allowed him to slow the descent fast enough to fly over three wadies and select a level area suitable for touchdown.”

While Voas was at the controls, Lackey dumped the Osprey’s remaining fuel to lighten the aircraft, his award citation says.

“With the impending forced landing due to the aircraft’s lack of power and lift, Sergeant Lackey ensured the landing gear was down and the fuel dump was terminated prior to touchdown,” the citation says. “He also instinctively relayed the aircraft radar altitude, descent rate, and speed to the crew until ground impact.”

The Osprey’s crew managed to pull off a level landing, but the aircraft’s nose gear collapsed due to the soft sand and bumpy ruts, the citation says. The Osprey started to tumble and caught on fire.

The actions of Voas and Lackey undoubtedly saved the lives of 16 people aboard the Osprey, their citations said. Their selfless devotion to duty brought credit to them and the Air Force.

“Every day that we put on our uniform, we stand on the shoulders of giants,” Bauernfeind said on Thursday. “Those who came before us pave the way that we walk, including Randy and JB.”

“Maj. Voas and Senior Master Sgt. Lackey’s heroism and courage in the face of disaster is a shining example of the spirit and determination that we ask of all air commandos,” Bauernfeind continued. “They are loved, greatly missed, and will never be forgotten.”

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