Friday, March 9, 2007

TOP STORY >>Award named for fallen loadmaster

By Master Sgt. Bob Oldham
189th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

An Air Force Reserve Airman on Feb. 28 was the first to receive the Professional Loadmaster Association’s Senior Master Sgt. Philip J. Stickney Basic Loadmaster Top Graduate award as the top loadmaster graduate from the Arkansas Air National Guard’s Enlisted Aircrew Academic School.

Tech. Sgt. Tracy L. League, a loadmaster trainee with the 731st Airlift Squadron in Colorado, is the first recipient. An award had been given to the top graduate of each loadmaster class for the past two decades, but this was the first award given with the late Sergeant Stickney’s name attached.

“I didn’t expect it after all this length of time,” said Sergeant Stickney’s widow, Pat. The award is a way for his Air Force legacy to continue. Their son, Phillip, was on stage to present the award to Sergeant League. “It’s an honor to be part of the presentation from the loadmaster school,” said Sergeant Stickney’s oldest son Phillip, who was 12 when his father passed away on a mission over Vietnam.

Sergeant Stickney was a loadmaster with the 62nd Troop Carrier Squadron based in Tennessee. He was temporarily assigned to DaNang, Vietnam, in 1966. The 62 TCS is a predecessor of the 62nd Airlift Squadron currently located here on base.
On May 31, 1966, his mission was to airdrop a specifically designed weapon on the 540-foot long Ham Ron Bridge. The bridge was located on the Northeast edge of Thanh Hoa in North Vietnam. The 5,000-pound, pancake-like weapon was expected to deliver a massive blow to the bridge. At 8-feet in diameter and 2.5-feet thick, the weapon filled the width of the aircraft.

Sergeant Stickney, at the time an airman first class, and his crew flew a low-level approach under radar to the bridge. At the same time with two F-4s were used as decoys to confuse the enemy. Under enemy anti-aircraft artillery fire as Sergeant Stickney and his crew approached the target, eye witness accounts from the other two aircraft indicate a “large ground flash” occurred. Sergeant Stickney and the crew were never heard from again.

Identified as missing in action, Sergeant Stickney was posthumously promoted to senior master sergeant. On April 10, 1986, the Vietnamese returned the remains of three of his crew members. Sergeant Stickney’s remains were not recovered until 1998 and eventually identified in 2004. Because he was adopted, officials were delayed in finding a blood relative to collect a DNA sample to compare with the remains.

On Memorial Day 2004, he was buried in the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock — 38 years after his mission to destroy the bridge.

The Professional Loadmaster Association was formed in the State of Washington as an active membership organization for a group of professionals recognized as loadmasters. PLA membership consists of current and former military and civilian loadmasters who have flown as an aircraft loadmaster performing aircrew duties on transport aircraft. In addition to the award, Sergeant League will also receive a one-year, paid membership in the PLA.


Post a Comment