2017 Reunion TACAMOPAC Crew 4 "Celebration of Life" Gathering
A Celebration of life was held for family and friends of TACAMOPAC Crew 4. Guest speaker, John “Admiral” Nelson, Wake Island XO June 21, 1977, shared his memories of the last day of Crew 4. The following are "Admiral's" introduction and his speech.
John “Admiral Lord” Nelson Introduction by Vern Lochausen, CAPT USN RET., TCVA President & Historian, 2017 TACAMO Hall of Fame Inductee
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I don’t know if you believe in serendipity, a universal order, just plain luck, or the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote in Romans 8: 28- “we know that in all things the Lord works for the GOOD of those who love him and have been called to HIS purposes". No matter which, the entire Crew 4 Quest experience has been filled with such. First was Melissa Russell Vines finding us and our plans to honor her father’s crew. Then came Rebecca Barker Flint finding the family of Monte Nichols. When VQ-3 created the memorial we will see tomorrow, a current air traffic controller from Wake Island found us thru a TACAMO veteran and sent us sand from the beach off runway 10 there. When we finally were in Hawaii to set up for the Punchbowl Memorial, a US Marine found us and volunteered to play Amazing Grace on his bag pipes. But most interestingly, “Admiral" John Nelson (Maj. USAF Ret.) found a TCVA "Press Release" about the Crew 4 Memorial service held at NAS OKC in 2015. He emailed then VQ-3 OPS Boss LCDR KY Jarboe (now a commander selectee) to share his story about Crew 4. KY contacted TCVA and we did some research and talked to John and found him to be the genuine article. We shared some information and invited him to this reunion. He accepted and volunteered to tell his story.
In my research, I learned that John Nelson had served alongside VADM Black Nathman, a pretty famous Navy Fighter pilot and dynamic leader. They were both part of the joint Red Eagles squadron. Naval Officers in that joint unit gave him that call sign and John and Black still attend Red Eagles reunions. That squadron was a top secret unit that flew MIG 23’s during the Viet Nam war. They taught American fighter pilots how to defeat the MIG by flying against them using standard and not so standard MIG tactics. The squadron flew more than 15,000 MiG sorties and trained more than 5,900 Air Force, Navy and Marine air crews. To this day, it's considered the most advanced air combat training program undertaken by the United States military, a precursor and peer of US Navy “Top Gun” program. John is credited with being the only U.S. military officer to ever take the Oath of Office in an operational MiG-23 aircraft
John was famous before all that. He is an Oroville California native. Meeting him yesterday, I can see he was a real jock. He set football records in his high school, scoring touchdowns and kicking field goals. He was inducted into the Oroville Union High School District Hall of Fame in September of 2014. He graduated from Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah and was commissioned as I was thru the ROTC program.
From 1968-1988, he served in the Air Force in a variety of organizations and locations around the world. He went to Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for operations against an opposing armed force. He escorted Air Force Capt. Wesley Rumble home after Rumble's release as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Besides his service as a missile launch control officer and logistics officer, John had a brief tour as the executive officer/vice commander of Wake Island Air Force Base.
Some of John’s post Air Force work we can’t really talk about but we can say that it was about national security, the safety of the President, and counter-terrorism tactics. He contributes his time and talent now as a retiree to a number of Boy Scout, police outreach programs, and other charitable events. Nelson and his wife, Susan, now live in Utah and enjoy their three children and many grandchildren.
And now that I have painted him as truly 10 feet tall, it is my distinct honor and pleasure to introduce to you, John “Admiral” Nelson.
The "Admiral's" account of June 21, 1977: