Monday, February 25, 2008


The news arrived via an email from my former Commanding Officer, J.R Hutcinson. CDR Decoy Marksbury, a veteran of numerous carrier deployments, 9000 hrs flight time, 900 carrier landings, and countless moment of hilarity, maturity, bravery, and limitless friendships --- had passed away. Dead of a heart attach at age 63 years young, following a weekend of skiing with his family in Reno, NV.

Decoy leaves behind a wonderful family - his wonderful (and immensely patient ) wife Lora, daughter Julie, a son CAPT Joh Marksbury
USMC, currently based in Washington, DC. But more that that, he leaves behind a reputation of being one the best pilots, best officers, and best people that this Aviator had ever come to know.... Decoy was a giant in Naval Aviation.

I met Decoy ... his real name is Johnsten NAS Cecil Field in the mid 1970's. I was a nugget, just learning to fly the A-7E, an airplane in those days that was the most complex aircraft to fly, and one of the most capable -- all because it had an onboard computer, inertial nav, a HUD, and tons of other toys that the rest of the fleet wouldn't have until the F-18 cam
e along in the mid 1980s. And it had one pilot, and barely enough room for his ego.

A-7 pilots knew they were special because the plane they flew, the only one in the Navy with a single pilot and a single engine...but no limits on the danger of the missions to undertake. We were a cocky bunch, and rightly so...and Decoy was
the cockiest. He and I met several times at Wing social events. He was funny, irreverent, and yet wholesome. I admired him from the beginning.

Decoy hung around VA-72 at Cecil Field until they threw him out. He love the "Bluehawks". Still does, even they've been long gone since 1999. He went to the Naval Air Training Command. I met him there again in 1979-81. I was a flight instructor in T-2Cs, and Decoy flew the TA-4J. This was at NAS Chase Field in Beeville, TX, a sleepy place where you felt perfectly justified spending a lot of time at the local O'Club. Friendship and camaraderies came easily. And we flew ourselves senseless. Really racked up the hours and became incredibly proficient. Peak performance.

I soon left for the East Coast to join an Admiral's staff. Decoy finagled a second tour flying TA-4Js. Amazing.

In 1984 I volunteer to go to Midway/CVW-5 home based in Japan. It was long-standng desire on my part to see Japan and do something different, and although it probably jeopardized my promotion to Commanding Officer, it was worth it. Midway and CVW-5 did, without question, the best flying I ever did in my 20 years of being a part of Naval Aviation. Better missions, better aircraft, better wingmen. And low-and-behold, there was Decoy the Strike Ops officer on board Midway. He flew with VA-56, my squadron a lot. And we valued every minute of it. He had great experience, great judegement, insight, and a zeel for the work that was simply uncontrolled and totally contagious. And he could fly an airplane with the absolute best of thebest. A damn good pilot. A dependable wingman. A buddy on liberty. Rarely do civilians get to experience that kind of bonding.

VA-56 and CVW-5 went through a huge transition/decommissioning following our last curise in 1986. The plans to transition to the F-18 had fallen way behind schedule, and there was little reason not to decommission the squadrons and take other assignments. I went to Washington DC to serve in the Pentagon on the staff of the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF). I was the analyst who advised SECDEF on Navy and Marine Corps tactical aircraft programs. One program I had aegis of was the new Navy jet trainer, the T-45. The program was behind schedule for the worst of reasons, it just wasn't performing well and there were serious discussions of redesigning the entire aircraft. Then CNATRA staff nominated a young Navy CDR to help liaison the T-45 rollout--- of course, it was Decoy Marksbury. So yet again, even at the end of his career, I had the pleasure of working with him. And he made the T-45 spades.

It was the end of a long, valued, memory-field relationship when I learned Decoy had died. I will miss him. I will miss the men like him who had that unique combination of skill, bravado, courage, and strength to fly Navy excel as an Officer in the service of his country, as a father devoted to his family, and as a lifelong friend to so many of us who now are lesser because of our loss.

...Lord Guard and Guide the Men who Fly...