Clipped From The Kokomo Tribune

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 - I Kokomo's Spradlin rescues pilot Gets a medal...
I Kokomo's Spradlin rescues pilot Gets a medal for his heroism By JEFF PARROTT Tribune staff writer Ihe pilot groped in the ness belc T h , „ r-- darkness below for the landing strip's wavering beacon lights, clutching the controls of his F-14 Tomcat as he braced for the landing. As the ocean's waves rocked the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk, Petty Officer Larry Spradlin's eyes widened in horror as he took his position on deck with the rest of the landing crew. The approaching fighter tried to correct itself at the last minute, but couldn't. A routine exercise had instantly turned disastrous. The plane's underbelly smacked into the edge of the ship's deck, exploding on impact but somehow managing to skip up on to the runway, Spradlin recounted. The ship's arresting cable snatched the plane's tail hook, as it always does to stop it. But the plane, weakened so by the impact of the landing, split in half as the cable tightened on the hook. The plane's front end, carrying the pilot and co-pilot, skidded wildly toward the runway's opposite edge — the surf beckoning below. At the last second, both men ejected, the co-pilot parachuting safely to a spot on the ship's bow —shaken but unharmed. The pilot, however, shot about 40 feet into the air and began to drift backward as a gust of wind caught his chute. He landed in the flaming wreckage of the plane's rear section, which was still attached to the arresting cable. Spradlin, a 28-year-old Kokomo native who began his Navy career shortly after graduating from Ha worth High School in 1984, wasted little time in responding. "I just started fighting my way to the pilot, in the middle of all the flames," Spradlin said. He grabbed a hose and showered flame-smothering foam on the pilot, a human torch, frantically rolling around on the'ground. Both men survived after ejecting from this F-14 Tomcat fighter after it crashed during routine exercises off the coast of Japan (Photo provided) Spradlin, who'd taught firefighting in the Navy for three years, had extinguished flames on the man and his plane within minutes. His heroics during the July 11 incident off the coast of Japan haven't gone unnoticed, Spradlin said in a recent interview while home on holiday leave. He and three others were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal of Heroism, an honor granted by the president and presented personally by U.S. Navy Secretary John Dalton. "By his courageous and prompt actions in the face of great personal risk, Petty Officer Spradlin prevented possible loss of life; thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service," the award reads. Spradlin was asked if he feels like a hero. "No," he said with a laugh, "I was just in the fight place at the right time." As flight deck assistant leading petty officer, Spradlin said it's his job to direct where planes are taken once they land on the aircraft carrier. He'd practiced firefighting hundreds of times in case ofan emergency. "I've tried to always expect it would happen, but I hoped I'd "I just started fighting my way to the pilot in the middle of all the flames." Larry Spradlin petty officer never have to use it," he said of his firefighting specialty. "Luckily no one was killed..." The award could turn the frightful incident into a positive for Spradlin. His superiors will likely take.his conduct into serious consideration when acting on his application to become a commissioned officer, he said. He'll know if he makes it in February. For now, Spradlin said it's just good to be home in Kokomo for the holidays. Before returning to his station in San Diego, Calif., on Wednesday, he'll spend time.with • „, 0 ... . .... his parents, Larry and Dianna, Larrv Spradlin, who received a heroism medal in Yokusuka, Japan, for rescuing a pilot, 11 ' • « .« . — . - . — Hoor*r!Kao HrMA/ thi£* finl-itm- !/-** Kl* +kn-* s\rl**r\ nf ^« n :*.~.' n £i An ~~:^~ and his two children, Britinie, 7 and Ryan, 5. describes how the fighter jet hit the edge of an aircraft carrier (Tribune photo by Tim Bath)

Clipped from
  1. The Kokomo Tribune,
  2. 25 Dec 1994, Sun,
  3. Page 19

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