Retired chief shares life’s journey as PJ

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman S.I. Fielder
  • 347th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
I am wounded, but I am not slain. I shall lay me down and bleed a while, then I shall rise and fight again.

This Scottish proverb motivated Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Fisk to continue his Air Force involvement after his retirement, as he did when he visited Moody recently and spoke at the Annual Award Ceremony.

His 27-year Air Force journey as a pararescueman began in 1966. His first stop was the Marine Corps recruiter’s office, but no one was there.

“I wanted to go into the Marines,” said Chief Fisk, “but if I came in the Air Force through Civil Air Patrol, then I already had one stripe.”

The journey of serving his country, however, began at an early age for Chief Fisk. During one sunny day when he was 5 years old, his father took him on a hike into the mountains.

“It’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but I’m sure we covered 200 miles in the four hours walking,” he said.

The day was ingrained in Chief Fisk’s memory because of his father’s words after they reached the lookout at the top of the mountain.

“He told me I would pay my dues for living under freedom in America,” said the Waldport, Ore. native. “Those words ring clearly in my mind today.

“It made perfect sense then, even as a young child; and it made even more sense as I grew older in life and joined the military,” he said. “I just prayed at times I would be good enough to be accepted by the military. It was something that just simply had to be done.”
With this philosophy in mind, Chief Fisk began the first of three tours in Southeast Asia. He said it was exactly where he wanted to be and why he joined the Air Force.

“At the 12th month, we were mandated to go home,” said Chief Fisk. “I didn’t want to leave because Southeast Asia was my home and where my team was.”

During his second tour in Southeast Asia, he was involved in the Son Tay Prisoner of War camp raid. Chief Fisk said they were trying to shut down one of the camps and rescue the POWs there.

“We were trying to alleviate their very horrendous conditions,” he said. “They were being starved and beaten to death. It was extreme deprivation.

“It was a perfectly executed mission, but obviously we didn’t bring back a single POW,” he said. “It wasn’t because the enemy knew we were coming. The camp had already been evacuated for other reasons.”

It was during his third tour in Southeast Asia Chief Fisk felt the full effects of the Vietnam War. He said it was there he felt the “heartache” of a region falling to communism.

“It was heartache in the sense that so many lives (and) efforts had been put into the preservation of Southeast Asia, but the ‘communist machine’ was just too relentless,” said Chief Fisk. “If we go someplace and America is going to commit its resources - the fine men and women - we have got to win.”

During his last tour in Southeast Asia, he was part of the last combat mission of the war. The USS Mayaguez was hijacked by Communist forces in 1975 and Chief Fisk was a member of a team that successfully recovered the ship and crew members.

“My little ‘footnote’ in history is I was on the (helicopter) that made the last pick up of the entrapped Marines off the island,” he said. “I was the last one to leave the island and engage Communist forces.

“The key point is it was Air Force staying to the very end and being the last to leave. It’s rare, I think, in the history of warfare when one is able to say this is the last battle, last engagement and the last bullet being fired.”

During his journey, Chief Fisk had many mentors who shaped, molded and enlightened him to his strengths and weaknesses.

“If I had to say there was just one person, then it would probably have to be Lt. Col. Gary Nelson,” said Chief Fisk. “He was my detachment commander of the ‘Jolly Greens’ at Clarke Air Base, (Philippines).”

In the Philippines, between 1977 and 1978, Chief Fisk performed medical assistance to the Negritos, who are aboriginal inhabitants of the Philippines. They were discriminated against and had no social or medical services available, he said.

“I felt that was a great injustice,” said Chief Fisk. “It was also strictly against the base rules to go back into that area without an escort.”

Colonel Nelson briefed the wing commander about Chief Fisk’s humanitarian efforts leading to the approval of his continued medical assistance.

“The Air Force gave me all the training and opportunities; I just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” he said. “It was Colonel Nelson who allowed me to do this type of things.”

Another opportunity Chief Fisk took advantage of was the chance to be a Professional Military Education instructor. After being medically disqualified as a PJ, he finished his Air Force career at the Senior Non-commissioned Officer School at Gunter Air Force Base, Ala.

“I knew when I was medically disqualified as a PJ, it was a life-changing event,” he said. “I realized there’s life after pararescue. We just have to adapt to adversity and make the very best out of it. One cannot succumb until one’s last ounce of courage and strength is genuinely tapped.”

Chief Fisk’s dedication throughout his journey came from his father’s words, what others saw in him and the in-lying trust in what America stands for.

“I cannot emphasize enough to the people in uniform - the fabric of our nation - they have not misplaced their trust in the defense of America and what we stand for,” said Chief Fisk. “There will be no retirement for me from this blue uniform until my heart retires.”