Hero • pilot becky massey helps rescue downed airman
One of Morgan County’s own recently received recognition for helping rescue a downed airman in March 2011.
A 1998 graduate of Morgan County High School, Marine Corps Capt. Rebecca “Becky” Massey helped rescue an F-15E pilot who landed in hostile territory near Benghazi, Libya.
On Jan. 14 of this year Massey received the Air Medal with ‘V’ for valor for her actions.
At the time of the rescue she was a member of Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 Reinforced supporting the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which was embarked on the USS Kearsarge.
Massey, the co-pilot of her aircraft, participated in a total round trip of more than 300 nautical miles (345 miles) in less than 90 minutes.
According to a NAVAIR News Release, Massey said, “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 is now assigned to HX-21 in Patuxent River, Md. as a test team pilot. On Nov. 11, 2012 she married Marine Corp Capt. Dave Hagner.
Her father, Larry Massey, explained the time lapse between Massey’s actions and recognition of those actions.
He said it had to work its way up the Marine hierarchy, then through the Department of Defense, then to the President before working its way back down.
Larry said he knew about the mission and the medal about a month or two before the medal was presented.
Massey’s parents and grandmother recently spoke of their pride in her.
Her father said he thought her actions were great.
“I was pretty proud,” he said. “Of course, she just does what she’s told but she does a good job of it.”
He noted that his late father, Massey’s grandfather, was a Marine fighter pilot during World War II who flew in the South Pacific.
“He’d be pretty proud of her, I’m sure,” he said. “Pretty proud she got to be part of the mission.”
Massey’s mother, Ruth Porter, said they followed the rescue mission on the news and had no idea that Massey was a part of it until afterward.
“She’s my hero,” she said. “I know she is completely capable: the best pilot ever.”
From gymnastics, to dance, to piano, Porter said Massey has always been a hard worker and used her time wisely.
Porter said she was awed when she learned that Massey had joined the Marines.
“It was the biggest shock,” she said. “But she wanted to fly and that was her best shot to get the training.”
Porter said that a lot of people washed out of training but her daughter made it through.
“She was good to go,” she said.
Massey’s grandmother, Waddie Tamplin, said her granddaughter is very modest.
“I didn’t hear this from her,” she said. “She does not brag.”
Tamplin said she heard about Massey’s actions from one of the speaker’s at Massey’s graduation from test pilot training.
“He said she’s one of two people flying a rescue mission over Libya and she’d never tell you,” she said. She laughed and added, “And she didn’t.”
Massey has a reputation in Morgan County for stoicism.
Even during her first flight at the age of 13, pilot Jim Jones said Massey’s comments were mostly yes and no.
Jones shared how Massey’s parents took her to the Madison Municipal Airport to fly with him on her 13th birthday.
During that flight Jones said he constantly told Massey what he was doing, from pre-flight on.
He got Massey’s permission to demonstrate turns, climbs, and descents before telling her the plane could do loops and rolls.
“I asked her if she would like that and she said ‘I think I would like that,’” he said.
Even after experiencing loops and rolls in a 1948 Swift Airplane, Jones said Massey still was very quiet.
“When we landed and taxied in she had a smile on her face and said she really liked it,” he said.
As Jones shared, a spark was ignited.
Massey went on to study Aerospace Technology at Georgia Tech. She also participated in the Yellow Jacket Flying Club there, according to her father.
She graduated from Tech in 2002, worked as a civilian employee for the Army for one year, and then joined the Marines in 2004, he said.
She has attended flight school as well as MV-22 Osprey training. According to www.marines.com, the Osprey has “the speed and range of a turboprop, the maneuverability of a helicopter and the ability to carry 24 Marine combat troops twice as fast and five times farther than previous helicopters.”
She has been deployed to Iraq once and then to the USS Kearsarge.
During her time in the Marines she has spent time at Pensacola, Fla., Corpus Christi, Texas, Milton, Fla., and Jacksonville, N.C.
Larry reiterated his pride in his daughter.
“I’m sure it’s kind of scary: you fly in at a moment’s notice, hostile people advancing on them, bringing in some gunfire,” he said. “We’re all just proud of her. She’s done a good job. She tries to do good at everything she takes on.”
Printed in the February 7, 2013 edition.