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Eagle Claw veteran retires after 42 years of service

John Townsend, deputy division chief of special operations forces mobility with Air Force Special Operations Command, retired at the King Auditorium on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jan. 22, 2016. Townsend spent 42 years as both a civilian and an officer in AFSOC. He was one of the navigators that participated in Operation Eagle Claw in 1980.

John Townsend, deputy division chief of special operations forces mobility with Air Force Special Operations Command, retired at the King Auditorium on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jan. 22, 2016. Townsend spent 42 years as both a civilian and an officer in AFSOC. He was one of the navigators that participated in Operation Eagle Claw in 1980. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

John Townsend, deputy division chief of special operations forces mobility with Air Force Special Operations Command, retired at the King Auditorium on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jan. 22, 2016. Townsend spent 42 years as both a civilian and an officer in AFSOC. He was one of the navigators that participated in Operation Eagle Claw in 1980.

John Townsend, deputy division chief of special operations forces mobility with Air Force Special Operations Command, retired at the King Auditorium on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jan. 22, 2016. Townsend spent 42 years as both a civilian and an officer in AFSOC. He was one of the navigators that participated in Operation Eagle Claw in 1980. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

John Townsend, center, deputy division chief of special operations forces mobility with Air Force Special Operations Command, retired at the King Auditorium on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jan. 22, 2016.Brig. Gen. Kirk Smith, director of strategic plans, programs and requirements at AFSOC, presided over the retirement ceremony.

John Townsend, center, deputy division chief of special operations forces mobility with Air Force Special Operations Command, retired at the King Auditorium on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Jan. 22, 2016.Brig. Gen. Kirk Smith, director of strategic plans, programs and requirements at AFSOC, presided over the retirement ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kai White)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- John Townsend, the deputy division chief of special operations forces mobility requirements for Air Force Special Operations Command, retired after 42 years of service in and around AFSOC.

Brig. Gen. Kirk Smith, director of strategic plans, programs and requirements at AFSOC, presided over the ceremony at King Auditorium here, Jan. 22, 2016. Smith highlighted Townsend’s role as a leader, mentor and an important piece of heritage within AFSOC.

“His civilian performance reports all read ‘outstanding performer, leading, setting the example, mentoring and subject matter expert,’” said Smith. “He was the person everybody went to because of his background and expertise.”

Townsend’s role in AFSOC has been an ongoing legacy beginning with his commission in 1973.

“John has been able to represent all three of the key pieces that support headquarters AFSOC,” said Smith.

Smith added that Townsend continued to provide his expertise after retiring from active duty, as a contractor and later as a civilian helping to provide for the military force.

More than a leader and mentor, Townsend is a part of AFSOC history.

“John represents so much of what AFSOC heritage is about,” said Smith.

In April, 1980, US military personnel launched Operation Eagle Claw, an attempt to rescue American hostages that the Iranians had captured.

“John was the Navigator on Dragon 3…and was part and parcel as a crew member on that event,” said Smith.

In addition, Smith said that Eagle Claw was a testament to the fortitude of those service members who were willing to stand up and take on the mission. The fortitude, level of expertise and skill that was demanded of them is what makes Townsend and those crew members part of AFSOC heritage.

For his years of contribution to AFSOC, Townsend was presented with the outstanding career service award. The award is the highest a civilian can earn.

According to the award citation, [Townsend] represented the warfighter in the acquisition process and guided modernization and recapitalization programs worth over 20 billion dollars. Throughout his outstanding career, Mr. Townsend demonstrated superior performance, outstanding leadership, dedicated personal involvement, and commitment to the men and women of special operations.

Mr. Townsend’s contributions to special operations mission will benefit command well into this century.