Chief Master Sgt. Duane Hackney was the first living enlisted recipient of the Air Force Cross during the Vietnam War. The three others before him were awarded the medal posthumously.
On Sept. 9, 1967, Sgt. Duane D. Hackney, a pararescue man in the Vietnam War, received the Air Force Cross for bravery, thereby becoming the first living enlisted man to receive the award. He placed his own parachute on the rescued pilot after their helicopter was hit by enemy fire. Hackney received the award for his actions, second only to the Medal of Honor. Hackney was the youngest person and the fourth enlisted member to receive the medal.
In June 1965, Duane Hackney graduated from Beecher High School in Flint, Mich. He was president of the senior council. He had lettered in football, baseball and swimming and had received an athletic scholarship offer. He was about to make a momentous decision -- to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. It was the first of several decisions that resulted in him becoming the one of the most decorated Airman in Air Force history.
His second decision was choosing a career field during career counseling sessions at basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He was searching for a career that would not only hold his interest for the next four years, but also fulfill his desire to be of genuine service to the nation and the Air Force. So he chose the shortest line -- the one that led to pararescue and more than 70 individual awards, including the Air Force Cross.
His next important decision was made after graduating from pararescue training. He was an honor graduate in every phase of the tough, year-long course and earned the right to pick his assignment. He turned down Bermuda and England and volunteered for Det. 7, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Da Nang, Vietnam.
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