Pleasanton native Lt. Col. Adam Darrow's hometown hero status was cemented after being recently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his role in a daring CV-22B Osprey rescue abroad last year.
Service members who stand out for their "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight" are awarded the DFC, according to a military news outlet.
An Air Force career man and current commander of 58th Operations Group Detachment 1, Darrow and two of his colleagues were recognized for their part in rescuing 194 special operations forces during a January 2020 Iranian ballistic missile attack on al-Asad Air Base in Iraq.
19th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, who presented the honor to Darrow during a ceremony in November at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, said the names of Darrow and his fellow servicemen are "forever associated with courage and bravery, mission accomplishment and excellence."
Darrow told the Weekly he spent about six weeks in Iraq following the 24-hour rescue mission on that day when Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. and coalition forces, 10 of them striking the air base.
He was "about to go to a fancy restaurant" on New Year's Eve when Darrow got the notification to leave home.
Though disappointed about missing out on a good meal that evening, Darrow said he'd "liken it to something like being an athlete -- if you always train and never play, there's this attitude like, what's the point?"
Acting as the mission's Osprey aircraft commander with the 7th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron, Darrow -- who was a major at that point -- received word that a ballistic missile threat was "imminent," and that the team needed to evacuate personnel away from danger.
According to Air Force citations, Darrow launched a three-aircraft formation to rescue the special operation forces, and the team evacuated the first 132 personnel within 90 minutes of receiving the first alert.
With 16 years invested in the service, Darrow had already been deployed before including a couple of times in Iraq, and said the experience didn't really faze him.
"For me, it was like I've been there and done this. I don't want to say it was mundane, but it was nothing unanticipated," Darrow said.
Darrow's mother, Laura, told the Weekly, "We're obviously extremely proud of him," and that his family in Pleasanton didn't know exactly what he had been up to overseas until this fall.
At the time of the attack, Laura Darrow said she and her husband "got a call and said 'turn on the news.'"
"We were terrified but then he was OK, it all worked out," Laura Darrow said. "We had no idea what he was doing, we didn't know what happened until June, when we saw the writeup (from the government)."
Laura Darrow added, "We were all dumbfounded. We were all together in Seattle and got this note, the declassified information of what happened that night and, as a family, were just blown away."
A product of Pleasanton public schools, Lt. Col. Darrow said, "I've always been fascinated by airplanes and flight in general since as long as I can remember. That didn't solidify to military aviation until probably my junior year of high school."
Laura Darrow said her son "knew what he wanted to do when he was five" and would "stand in the baseball field and not look at the baseballs, but the planes in the sky."
"It's a family thing; there's a lot of aviation in the family," she said, including Adam's father who worked for United Airlines as an airplane mechanic, and both his grandfathers were pilots.
"He absolutely loved the Transformer movies, cartoons and toys when he was young," she added. "When he decided to fly Ospreys, one of his friends said it was perfect for him, because the Osprey is as close to being a Transformer as you can get. It goes from helicopter to airplane."
When the ROTC military flight aspect presented itself during high school, Darrow said he thought "this is something I'd want to do."
"I was also interested in being an engineer but life behind a cubicle didn't seem appealing," he added.
Darrow attended Lydiksen Elementary and Pleasanton Middle schools, before graduating from Foothill High in 2001. After attending UC Berkeley, where he received a mechanical engineering degree, Darrow was commissioned as an Air Force officer in 2005 and worked his way up the ranks.
"Any modicum of success has definitely been built on the foundation of my education," Darrow said. "It's funny that I'll remember something from those experiences and be able to apply it in my professional life. It was definitely the foundation in terms of educating me."
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included a photograph from an Air Force publication that misidentified Lt. Col. Adam Darrow. This is the correct photo of Darrow from the medal ceremony. The Pleasanton Weekly regrets the confusion.