Electronic Combat crew member Alex Underwood has several achievements during his Air Force career, including being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. We talk with Alex as part of our educational partnership with the Distinguished Flying Cross Society. The mission of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society is to honor, preserve and teach the legacy of heroism or extraordinary achievement in aerial flight for which the DFC is awarded.Electronic Combat

Alex’s father was a bugler who served in France during WWI and his high school history teacher was a naval aviator that served in the Pacific during WWII. He honed his love of flying by joining the Civil Air Patrol. The next obvious choice was to join the Air Force right out of high school.

His path from a maintenance crew chief on a B-66 to an electronic combat crewman was somewhat of a fluke. Alex was posted in France during one of the coldest winters on record. The aircraft engines had to be run on a regular basis but the pilots didn’t want to come out in the cold. Alex took it upon himself to how to run engines on the B-66. When his crew chief learned this fact he was soon assigned to the 42nd Electronic combat squadron.

Alex was pretty excited when he was told to pack his bags for temporary duty in a “tropical location”. After a series of secret flights west he finally learned that the assignment was to fly in the Vietnam War. He says he doesn’t remember all the missions he flew but certainly his first mission, a mission where he was called “up front” to fix equipment on the fly, and the first attack mission on Haiphong Harbor. (The is the mission for which he was awarded the DFC.)

He would become the only African-American enlisted man to complete 100 missions over Vietnam.  He also took his oath of enlistment in flight during a 1966 mission over Vietnam – the only person to ever do so.