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Patriotic Article
Heroes and Patriots
By USAF SSgt. Alexy Saltekoff

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Medal of Honor Recipients Speak at AFA Conference
(September 22, 2010)

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WASHINGTON (AFNS - 9/20/2010) -- Three Medal of Honor recipients answered audience questions as part of a panel at the 2010 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition at National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Md., Sept. 15.
Joe Jackson, George Day and Leo Thorsness all began their military careers as enlisted members and retired as Air Force colonels.

During the panel discussion, they spoke about their time in uniform, the importance of training and the value of good leadership.

A retired chief master sergeant wanted to know the name of the pilot who rescued two of his troops from Kham Duc in South Vietnam, because the chief wanted to thank him.
 (Left to right) Retired Col. Joe Jackson, retired Col. George Day and retired Col. Leo Thorsness participated in a question and answer session Sept. 15, 2010, at the Air Force Association annual Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition at National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Md. All three men received the Medal of Honor for exceptional bravery while in combat actions during the Vietnam War. U.S. Air Force photo by Michael J. Pausic
(Left to right) Retired Col. Joe Jackson, retired Col. George Day and retired Col. Leo Thorsness participated in a question and answer session Sept. 15, 2010, at the Air Force Association annual Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition at National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Md. All three men received the Medal of Honor for exceptional bravery while in combat actions during the Vietnam War. U.S. Air Force photo by Michael J. Pausic
"It was me, I suppose" Colonel Jackson said, referring to the rescue that earned him the Medal of Honor.  
He said there were three men rescued, a C-130 Hercules navigator and two combat controllers.

The three had inadvertently been left behind after an outpost evacuation. They boarded Colonel Jackson's still-moving C-123 Provider while under a mortar barrage and automatic weapons fire attack.

Several attendees asked Colonel Day and Colonel Thorsness about their time as prisoners of war.

"A lot of brutality, a lot of mistreatment," Colonel Day said. "The meals were 600 to 800 calories a day. The rooms were tiny. It was colder than all get out in the winter and hotter than hell in the summer. There was a perpetual effort to take you down as a human."

The panel discussion also touched on Air Force training and opportunities. Panel members lauded current options for Airmen and offered them advice.

"The Air Force is a great opportunity for a career, especially for enlisted people," Colonel Jackson said. "They give you all of the opportunities in the world to improve yourself. One important part of your career is training. Train so that everything you do is automatic."

Leadership principles were the final topic discussed.

"There are three things that will always be in your favor," Colonel Jackson said. "Your integrity, service before self and excellence in all you do."

One leadership technique he said worked well for him was to generate loyalty by looking out for the interests of his troops, such as family matters.

Colonel Thorsness advised Air Force leaders to include junior Airmen in their decision-making processes.

"Look to the young people," he said. "Give them as much slack as you can to help you make decisions. There is so much potential in young people that doesn't get tapped because of insecurities in you as boss."

All three of the panel members received the nation's highest military decoration for action in the Vietnam War.

Colonel Day, a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, received more than 70 decorations during his military career, most of them combat-related. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions while spending nearly six years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Colonel Jackson, also a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, received the Medal of Honor for a dangerous impromptu rescue of three Airmen.

Colonel Thorsness received the Medal of Honor for actions involved in the rescue of two downed aircrew members, and he later spent six years as a POW during the war. 

By USAF SSgt. Alexy Saltekoff
Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs
Copyright 2009

Reprinted from Air Force News Service

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