A pilot for one of the two V-22s that rescued a downed F-15E pilot from Libya in March 2011 was recently recognized for her actions during an award ceremony at the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 hangar at NAS Patuxent River.
Marine Corps Capt. Rebecca Massey, now assigned to HX-21 as a test team pilot, received the Air Medal with ‘V’ for valor Jan. 14 for her actions as a member of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266 Reinforced supporting the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in spring 2011.
The 26th MEU was embarked on the Wasp class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) supporting Operation Odyssey Dawn, the armed suppression of the Libyan government’s air defenses and ground forces in March 2011 when an F-15E aircraft was downed near Benghazi, Libya. Massey was part of the MEU Tactical Recovery of Aircraft Personnel (TRAP) recovery team on alert for this type of event and along with another MV-22 and two CH-53 Super Stallions responded.
The F-15E has a crew of two aviators, a pilot and weapons officer, both of which ejected safely from the aircraft, however, the crewmembers became separated after ejecting. The weapons officer was recovered by rebel forces allied against the Libyan government, but the pilot landed in hostile territory.
Massey, the co-pilot of her aircraft, and her MV-22 wingman were in the air for the recovery within two hours of the initial report of the crash. The TRAP team was directed to the location of the F-15E pilot and maneuvered to recover the pilot. Massey’s wingman made the landing while Massey’s crew circled overhead preparing for the return back to USS Kearsarge. Upon recovery of the F-15E pilot, which took less than 90 seconds on the ground, the TRAP team proceeded back to Kearsarge for a total round trip of more than 300 nautical miles (345 miles) in less than 90 minutes.
Massey said it was a humbling experience to receive the Air Medal and attributed the accolades to her fellow TRAP teammates.
“I am very honored to have received this medal, but the credit really should go to my crewmates and squadron maintainers who made it possible for me to help rescue the F-15E pilot.
Massey also credits the Osprey for making that mission easy to accomplish.
“I really enjoy the flexibility that this aircraft provides, and it’s a joy to fly,” said Massey, who has flown Ospreys for nearly six years. “Although I believe this mission could have been accomplished by other legacy USMC TRAP assets, I don’t think any other aircraft could have done it as quickly or efficiently.”
Massey joined HX-21 in July 2012 and according to V-22 Joint Program Office Program Manager Marine Corps Col. Greg Masiello, her experience and professionalism are a welcome addition to the program.
“We are grateful to have Capt. Massey here at Pax and as part of the larger ‘Osprey Nation,’” Masiello said. “Capt. Massey exemplifies the professionalism we find in our MAGTF officers serving forward and aboard ships everyday in our corps. The fact that she, her flight crew and wingmates were able to respond faster than any legacy asset is testament to the Marines ‘standing the watch’ and the versatility of the V-22.”