Foreword - Vice Admiral Michael "Smiles" Bucchi, USN (Retired)

In Black Lion One, author Donald Auten, masterfully incorporates the challenges of the era following the Vietnam War with the fighter community’s  re-evaluation and discovery of the lessons coming out of Vietnam.   From this chaos of war, a new apogee in the fighter war arts was born through deities of the air warfare tribe—warriors like Mugs McKeown, Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Dave “Frosty” Frost, Bad Fred Lewis, and many more.

VF-143 F-14A ACM engagement with VF-43 T-38 aggresor aircraft over MCAS Yuma, AZ TACTS (ACMR) range.

 Captain John Monroe “Hawk” Smith was in this congregation of savant fighter pilots and tacticians in the midst of the tempest who pushed forth Naval TACAIR forces to its rightful place of superiority.  Hawk’s vision, tenacity, and unsinkable enthusiasm was known and admired throughout the fighter community.  Successful tours at VX-4 as the F-14 Tomcat Project Officer and Commander Air Group FOURTEEN Senior Landing Signal Officer for the first ever F-14 deployment equipped him for assignment as the Executive Officer, then Commanding Officer of the famous Naval Fighter Weapons School—TOPGUN.  Hawk’s tour there, a grueling but highly successful assignment, caught the attention of decision makers in the highest tiers of Navy leadership.  He was rewarded with a second command tour as skipper of VF-213—the Black Lions.

 Black Lion One captures the true spirit of a Navy Fighter pilot’s career, especially the two defining command tours as Commanding Officer of TOPGUN and the Black Lions.  Hawk’s story is one of persistence in the face of adversity; success and achievement when confronted with stagnation; and extraordinary leadership when embroiled in havoc.  As Auten weaves the history of world events and incorporates the many real-world challenges within the fighter squadrons and community, the key and most potent ingredient of true leadership highlighted is that of taking care of your people.  In fact, this book should be required reading by every potential commanding officer, regardless of community.  The other vital element captured by Auten is the importance of support from senior leadership as demonstrated by RADM Gilchrest.

 Hawk was a warrior in the realm of great fighter pilots and a visionary leader totally dedicated to resurrecting Naval TACAIR as the finest, most lethal force in the world. 

 Black Lion One is the conclusion of the odyssey of a great Navy Fight Pilot—Captain John Monroe “Hawk” Smith.

                                                                 – Michael “Smiles” Bucchi, Vice Admiral, USN (Retired)