Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

The Unlikely FAC

By Roy E. Moore


After graduation from the USAF Academy, June 1964 I proceeded home for a month of leave and reported to Laughlin AFB, Texas as an eager member of Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 66B. After T-37 primary training, the class trained in brand new T-38 Talon aircraft. I ranked in the middle of the class and probably could have scored a back seat F-4 assignment straight to South East Asia. However, I bid for and was selected for the C-130 Hercules, my realistic first choice. Following C-130 training at Sewart AFB, Tennessee I remained there in the 61st Tactical Airlift Squadron. I progressed through special qualifications and advanced to a fully qualified aircraft commander while still a 1st Lieutenant. I flew missions in Europe and the Pacific, including Viet Nam. In 1967 the Viet Nam conflict was heating up quickly. Many were being selected for service there. I was no exception, but selection would not be like any one else's South East Asia assignment

Forward Air Control (FAC) Story

A complete parachute qualified Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) was picked from stateside airmen and was sent to Hurlburt Field, Florida for qualification in the O-1 Bird Dog and Air Ground Operations School, in that order. I was to be a brigade Tactical Airlift Liaison (TALO). The plan was to complete our training and go to Ft Campbell, Kentucky where the team would work with the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, US Army, in view of deploying with them to the war zone.

Exigencies of the service proved otherwise. By the time the team got to Ft. Campbell the 3rd Brigade was already packing for immediate deployment to Viet Nam. Therefore, we drew jungle equipment and the team was immediately ordered to the 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron at Bien Hoa AB. Upon arrival in country there was no way the 19th was going to assign unseasoned airmen with an Army unit also new to the combat zone. Therefore, since I was qualified in the Bird Dog they sent me to Tan An on the edge of the Me Cong Delta in southwestern III Corps to work with the 25th ARVN (Army of Viet Nam) Division. After in-country orientation I began flying visual reconnaissance, close air support and artillery adjustment missions in the Tan An Province.

Note: Pilots not previously qualified in air-to-ground ordnance delivery could not control air strikes in support of US forces per a doctrinal agreement between the Air Force and Army.

In January 1968, I was reassigned to the ARVN Airborne Division to replace their TALO. As fate would have it, I was quartered with ARVN Airborne TACP in the Cholon (Chinese) district of Saigon on the morning the famous Tet Offensive commenced. I was in a jeep with the Army advisor to the ARVN Airborne with only his 45 caliber pistol between us for our defense as we proceeded in the pre-dawn past the Presidential Palace to the Tan Son Nhut Air Base in order to coordinate the air movement of one of their battalions destined for Da Nang , I Corps. That battalion was instead used for the immediate defense of the air base. The TACP non-commissioned officer-in-charge and I were the only Air Force persons in the office for three days. The rest of the TACP watched the Tet offensive from their Saigon rooftops.

After fetching the remainder of the TACP on the third morning of the offensive and since I was qualified to fly FAC in country, I began flying FAC missions four days later. The evening of February 18 I was the FAC on alert when our unit radios came alive with troops in contact with the enemy just outside the base perimeter. I scurried to launch in the dark with the base under mortar attack. Because the tower was evacuating I took off from the parallel taxiway. After I made contact with the American advisors, I controlled US Army UH-1 gunship helicopters sent to support the troops for the remainder of the night. Razorback 41 and Razorback 6 flights saved the friendly troops while I flew two sorties to near fuel exhaustion. From then until the March 30 I flew “Umbrella” FAC missions in the Tan Son Nhut vicinity as part of the Tet Offensive clean up. Later, I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for that FAC mission. In April I was assigned as TALO to the US 173rd Airborne Brigade in II Corps to finish my twelve month tour in Viet Nam.


Ironically, the Air Force needed experienced FAC's to instruct FAC pilots in the pipeline to SE Asia. I was ordered back to Hurlburt to upgrade to the O-2A aircraft as instructor pilot for the next few years. Nevertheless, the Air Force could not and would not award me a fully qualified Air Force Specialty Code as a FAC because I had never been qualified to deliver air-to-ground ordnance.

After several staff assignments I eventually re-qualified in the Tactical Airlift Mission, C-130 All Weather Aerial Delivery, and served in an active flying billet the last 10 years of my fulfilling Air Force career
[ Home ] [ Table Of Contents ]