• Published
  • By Maj. Shelley Ecklebe
  • 442d Fighter Wing

An Air Force Reserve pilot assigned to the 442d Fighter Wing made history in 2023 as he reached a historic 5000-hour mark in the A-10C Thunderbolt II; one of only seven A-10 pilots to achieve such an accomplishment.

Lt. Col. Tony “Crack” Roe reached this milestone Jan. 31, 2023 at Whiteman AFB, Mo. Roe is also known for receiving the Air Force’s fourth-highest medal for heroism in combat – the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor during a ceremony at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri on Nov. 2 2019 for his role during a mission out of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan on June 5, 2008 supporting an Army resupply convoy southwest of base.  This was his third Distinguished Flying Cross awarded over his career.

We sat down with Roe to discuss his accomplishments:

Q: What does it mean to you to follow in the footsteps of other A-10 pilots that have reached this milestone?

A: It is a great milestone for guys to reach. It says a lot about the resiliency of the A-10 and that it is still doing its job to this very day. I think “unofficially” I am the seventh guy to hit 5000 hours and so when you look at it that way, it is cool to be able to be a part of the A-10 and its story in the Air Force.

Q: Did you think you’d be flying the A-10 this long?

A: I never really thought about the amount of hours I had until recently when it actually looked like I could hit 5000 hours. I am lucky and blessed to have been a Fighter Pilot in the Air Force and to be able to have had a long career path that kept me flying the A-10.

Q: What has been your most memorable mission in the A-10?

A: My most memorable and meaningful mission was my mission with Brig. Gen. (Ret) James “Jimmy Mac” Mackey. It has nothing to do with the medal (ref: DFC article above). It has to do with the fact that you train each and every day as a Hog Pilot to assist our Brothers-In-Arms on the ground and in harm’s way. After that mission, on the way back to Bagram Air Base, Jimmy Mac and I spoke on the radio and I told him “if for some reason I never fly the A-10 again, my career is complete.” I always tell our newer pilots this. You train every day for a mission to hopefully help another person survive and get home to their families, but you have to remember one very important thing.  The best Close Air Support mission you ever fly in your career is

more than likely the worst day imaginable for that person on the ground and they will be affected by it for the rest of their lives.  I have met and am good friends with the guys that we supported that day and there are mental health issues for them to this day. That fact cannot go unnoticed.

Q. What would you say to the next generation of pilot hopefuls?

A. If you want to do this job then remember this. "It's better to be lucky than good....All you need is a piece of dirt or a beat up runway to land on, maintenance folks on night vision goggles to give you fuel, bombs and bullets and you will be able to hunt down the enemy where he sleeps and kill him with violence of action.  Anything else is rubbish!"   

“Only two A-10 pilots with over 5000 hours are still flying today – Lt Col John “Karl” Marks and Crack…both members of the 442d Operations Group and current or prior members of the 303rd Fighter Squadron” said Col. Mark Orek, 442d Operations Group Commander. “Their legacy as officers and fighter pilots will forever be cemented in the history books. Crack is an incredible leader, instructor and friend.  Whether you are a young pilot in the squadron or one that has been around for a while, his legacy precedes him.  We are lucky to have fighter pilots with the experience these two have had over the years.”

Roe will be retiring from the military in June 2023. He will continue to fly for a major airline in his civilian capacity.