MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Former Navy Lt. William Driscoll, an aviation spokesman, converted his cockpit to a classroom for the officers of Marine Aircraft Group 31 at the Officers’ Club here Feb 24.
Driscoll was chosen to address the Group because he is the only Navy and Marine Corps Air Combat Expert from the Vietnam War, according to Maj. Clay A. Berardi, the Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization officer.
Driscoll, a 58-year-old native of Massachusetts, is known as a legend in aviation for his actions in Vietnam, May 10, 1972. He was a member of the Navy’s first and only team of jet-missile ACEs that shot down five enemy fighters in combat. He then managed to maneuver his burning jet for about 35 miles where he ejected Navy Lt. Randy Cunningham, his pilot who was suffering from a deadly hit, and himself at the coastline.
Before joining the military, Driscoll graduated from college in 1968 with a degree in economics and joined the Navy at age 21. He heard that aviation was a challenge and it appealed to him.
In Pensacola, Fla., Driscoll attended aviation school and went to Texas for jet training, and then to Georgia for advanced weapons training where he also received his flight wings as a radar intercept officer.
“I flew my combat (years) in Navy Fighter Squadron 96, was a Top Gun instructor for 4 years, then went to VF-124, transferred to VF-2 and returned to VF-124 to instruct,” Driscoll said.
Driscoll has received the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, the Purple Heart, eight Air Medals and a nomination for the Medal of Honor.
“I see myself as average, I am humble to be known as a legend but I was just in the right place at the right time,” said Driscoll.
Driscoll said that one of the important things to him is having a balanced lifestyle.
“I think really for me, the biggest accomplishment for me is being married to the same great lady for 27 years,” said Driscoll. “She’s a great lady. I’m very lucky.”
Driscoll is a part of a speakers’ bureau and attends conferences to share his experiences and knowledge in aviation, he has logged more than 800 presentations so far.
“(The lecture) was fantastic,” said Berardi. “Driscoll is great and a living sensation.”
Driscoll discussed hints for survival and knowledge of being a Top Gun. He added diagrams, electronic visual displays and other props to enhance his presentation.
“With deployments coming in and out all the time, the information was relevant and helpful,” Berardi said.
Throughout his career, Driscoll has achieved staggering aviation milestones. He flew in 170 combat missions, logged 3,300 hours of RIO time including more than 5,000 jet dogfights and 500 aircraft carrier landings.
“I think it was important to give them an assessment of our mistakes and lessons learned,” said Driscoll. “My whole goal is - if I can - help someone not make the same mistakes we made.”
Driscoll still finds time to fly F/A-18 Hornets as a RIO at Top Gun. Driscoll has enjoyed stepping out of the cockpit and in front of eager aircrews to speak about his experiences.