HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. – More than 1,800 servicemembers, families and friends gathered together to celebrate the lives of two fallen Air Commandos in a joint memorial service at the Freedom Hangar here Apr. 15, 2010.
Maj. Randell Voas, 8th Special Operations Squadron evaluator pilot, and Senior Master Sgt. James Lackey, 8th SOS evaluator flight engineer, died when their CV-22 Osprey crashed in southern Afghanistan Apr. 8.
“Today we honor and remember two brave men who volunteered their lives and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Col. Greg Lengyel, 1st Special Operations Wing commander. “They sacrificed their lives for the defense of our country and our way of life, and it has been my distinct honor to serve with both of these men for many years.”
Major Voas, a former Army chief warrant officer, received his commission in 1999 and flew both MH-53 PAVE LOW and UH-1 helicopters before beginning his training on the CV-22 as part of the initial cadre in 2006. While deployed in 2003, Major Voas supported the largest airdrop since Vietnam, earning him the 2003 Cheney Award, and has amassed more than 160 combat hours throughout his career.
Sergeant Lackey, a former A-10 and F-15 crew chief, joined the Air Force in 1986 and retrained as a flight engineer, flying on MH-53s where he earned various medals and awards, including a Distinguished Flying Cross in 2002 for his actions during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
“When it came to flying, Randy and JB were a [director of operations] dream,” said Lt. Col. Matt Glover, 8th SOS director of operations. “Flying was their priority, and nothing ever got in the way of that. They instructed with the intangible experience that only flight time could bestow, but more significantly, we lost men who inspired others, men of integrity who set the standards.”
During the ceremony, Colonel Lengyel presented the Lackey and Voas families with the medals the Air Commandos had earned but not yet received for their key roles in the historic first deployment of the CV-22 in 2009. Major Voas’ family received an Aerial Achievement Medal, an Air Medal and a Meritorious Service Medal, while Sergeant Lackey’s family was presented an Air Medal and a Meritorious Service Medal.
Also posthumously presented to the Airmen’s families was the Army Ranger scroll. Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Merritt and Maj. Nathaniel Farris, both from the 75th Ranger Regiment, presented the scrolls which are earned by those who have fought side-by-side with Army Rangers. “Rangers lead the way, and Commandos, thanks for ‘having the guts to try,’” the Sergeant Major said, referencing the famous quote made by the Rangers to the 8th SOS following Operation EAGLE CLAW in Iran in 1980, part of the 8th SOS’s heritage.
Corporal Michael Jankiewicz, U.S. Army Ranger, along with a civilian employee, also died in the in the crash that claimed both Airmen’s lives.
“These two brave men regularly volunteered for dangerous and challenging missions; men who understood the evil intent of our determined enemy, and who willingly placed themselves between the enemy
and our families,” said Col. Buck Elton, 1st Special operations Group commander. “When we think of J.B. and Randy, we will not be reminded of emptiness and sorrow; we will be reminded of men we respect, men we emulate and men we will be forever grateful to have served with.”
The families also received a memorial shadowbox, and a flag-folding ceremony concluded the memorial service for the two Airmen.
The CV-22 is a tilt-rotor aircraft which enables U.S. Special Operations Command to conduct night-time, long-range, infiltration and exfiltration missions. Its versatility, speed and vertical-lift capability is not met by any other existing fixed- or rotary-wing platform.
The cause of the crash is unknown at this time. The Air Force is committed to a thorough investigation, and more information will be released when it becomes available.