Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

February 5, 2016 at 7:42am

A rare guest

Brig. Gen. Steve Ritchie. Photo credit: jusoonpatrol.org

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Attendees at the Washington Air National Guard Awards Banquet held Jan. 30 were treated to a rare guest - the U.S. Air Force's only ace pilot from the Vietnam War, Brig. Gen. Steve Ritchie, retired.

The banquet, held at American Lake Conference Center, was the perfect opportunity to invite the hero, according to Brig. Gen. John Tuohy, assistant adjutant general of the Washington Air National Guard.

"Having Brig. Gen. Ritchie join us was a treat. His experiences with combating communism in Vietnam combined with those of his wife's as a Romanian under communism brought a rich historical perspective to the evening," said Tuohy.

Ritchie volunteered for a second tour in Southeast Asia in 1972, and was assigned to the 555th "Triple Nickel" Tactical Fighter Squadron at Udorn Air Base, Thailand. On May 10, 1972 Ritchie was flying with his weapon system officer, Capt. Chuck DeBellevue, when they destroyed their first MiG-21 with a radar-guided Sparrow missile. All told, Ritchie would down five MiG-21s and after returning from Southeast Asia, he received the MacKay Trophy for the Most Meritorious Flight of 1972.

Ritchie accumulated 800 hours of combat time during 339 missions and was awarded the Air Force Cross, four Silver Stars, 10 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 25 Air Medals. He continued military service with the Colorado Air National Guard. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1994 becoming mobilization assistant to the commander, Air Force Recruiting Service. In this capacity, his inspiring words to more than 2,500 audiences bolstered recruiting efforts.

Ritchie retired from the Air Force Reserves in 1999. He is currently president of Steve Ritchie Associates, Inc., Motivational Speaking.

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