May concludes more than two decades of service to Special Ops
By Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 23, 2020
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- After more than 26 years of service to the Kentucky Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force, Chief Master Sgt. Aaron F. May was retired in a ceremony here Dec. 7.
As the chief enlisted manager for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, May served as the principle advisor to the commander on all issues and concerns affecting the 125 special tactics personnel who execute and support operations in multiple theaters.
“I’m happy to be here today as we get to celebrate the career of a legendary combat controller, an admirable leader and a great man,” Said Capt. Russ LeMay, Norse Troop officer in charge for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, to a crowd of hundreds wishing to pay their respects.
“You may have seen some over-inflated performance reports or embellished accomplishments in speeches like this, but let me be clear,” LeMay continued. “Chief Aaron May was one of the most elite warriors controlling the deadliest weapons in the world’s most powerful Air Force in the most dominant military in human history. Now that’s a mouthful, but it’s no overstatement.”
May joined the Air Force in 1993 and was assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron upon completion of combat control training. During the assignment, he supported contingency operations in South America, Turkey, Bosnia and Kosovo. May was eventually selected to be an instructor at the Combat Control School at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., where he was responsible for training today’s warriors. After completing his three-year tour, May was selected for special duty at the 24th Special Tactics Squadron. After six years on active duty, May made a total of seven deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
LeMay described one of May’s missions in 2006, which involved killing or capturing the terrorist that planned the Madrid train bombing that killed nearly 200 innocent people two years prior.
“During the daytime assault, his team was ambushed and a helicopter was shot down,” LeMay said. “The 16-man team was surrounded by flat, open terrain with almost nowhere to take cover. A Blackhawk attempted to land to make repairs but was also engaged and forced to depart, leaving the small teams stranded and exposed, now completely dependent on Aaron’s ability to conduct close air support to ensure their survival. Their ammunition began to dwindle. The enemy knew they had the American forces in checkmate and were willing to die to the last man to overrun their position. But they didn’t know the good guys had Aaron May on their team.
“Aaron’s heroics over the ensuing 13-hour battle was rivaled only by the aviators he worked with to coordinate desperate air strikes, pushing enemy forces back,” LeMay continued. “Throughout the battle, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire in order to call in danger-close rockets and bombs to protect his team. He knew full well that at any point he may be hit with a fatal blow. This continued until his efforts destroyed the enemy forces, allowing the team to secure the crash site and evacuate to safety. That’s the type of man he is: One that’s willing to give you everything he’s got — even his life.”
May separated from active duty in August 2008 and joined the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron. He has deployed several times, leading a six-man special tactics team in Africa, serving as a combined joint special operations force lead joint terminal attack controller, and was later the senior enlisted leader for the 21st Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron in Afghanistan. Prior to becoming the chief enlisted manager here, May served as the 123rd STS Combat Control Flight non-commissioned officer in charge and operations superintendent.
“We all find ourselves at a crossroad where we have a choice to take that easy road and do the wrong thing, or take the hard road and do what’s right,” LeMay said. “It takes courage to do the right thing in those circumstances — sometimes the type of courage required to expose yourself to enemy fire — to protect your team in a gunfight.
“Aaron May is a man that is always going to do the right thing in those circumstances, and he’s inspired a generation of us to endeavor to follow his example.”