Randy Jones has contributed mightily to Army aviation during a stellar 30-year career. He has served with honor and valor in combat to include Vietnam, Panama, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia where his heroism earned him the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Purple Heart. As an Army aviator, he is admired within the Special Operations community for his ability to turn theory and experience into trusted tactics. Born on 7 July 1949, in West Point, Mississippi, Randy Jones entered active duty in the Army exactly twenty years later on 7 July 1969 and flew AH-1 helicopters in Vietnam. After returning to the United States, he continued flying in the Army, and in 1981, became a charter member of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). During his 18 years assigned to Task Force 160, Jones participated in numerous operations, including Operations Urgent Fury, Prime Chance, Just Cause, Desert Storm, Gothic Serpent (Somalia), and Uphold Democracy. A true pioneer in night vision goggle (NVG) flying, he flew the first single pilot NVG mission, the first over water NVG combat operation during Operation Prime Chance, and also the first night combat mission to an urban area under NVGs during Operation Just Cause. He was promoted to CW5 below the zone by the Army's first CW5 promotion board. In the fall of 1993, Jones was part of the task force deployed to Somalia to capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. On 3 October, American soldiers fought their bloodiest battle in decades when US Army Rangers, Special Forces, and Navy SEALs launched a mission to capture key leaders of an armed insurgent force. As the flight lead in an AH-6 Little Bird gunship, Jones flew 17 ½ hours providing close air support fire for the pinned down ground element. By the end of the night, the flight of four gunships, commanded by Jones, had fired 170,000 rounds of mini-gun ammunition and 77 rockets. He weathered intense enemy fire, often firing within 15 meters of friendly troops to halt a determined enemy from overrunning their positions. During the mission, two Black Hawk helicopters crashed and 18 US Army Special Operations Command soldiers were killed. After returning from Somalia, Jones continued to be an important leader in the regiment. In 1993, he was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame for his extensive career in Army aviation. At the time of his retirement in 1998, he was the most experienced Army pilot on active duty. A joint mission planner, senior flight lead, instrument flight examiner, and standardization instructor pilot, CW5 Jones has 9,120 hours of accident free military flight time, to include 1,100 combat hours and over 3,000 hours using NVGs.
On 3 October 1993, Randy Jones was flying support for an assault mission in Somalia when over the radio net he heard "Super Six-One is going down" and watched as the helicopter fell from the sky. One of the MH-60s had been shot down. Over the next 18 hours, CW5 Jones would lead his four AH-6s on numerous gun runs firing thousands of mini gun rounds and rockets. His flight would continue pressing the mobs of rebels until the Rangers were exfiltrated back to the Mogadishu soccer stadium.