Op-Ed: USAF pilot Col. 'Mad dog' Madison looks back on illustrious days Special

Posted Mar 18, 2016 by Jonathan Farrell
Today is a very happy day for Colonel Mike Madison as he marries Carin Peacock. It is a new phase of his life. Looking back upon a military career that spans 25 years.
Seen here from his glory days is Col. Michael Madison meeting then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton...
Seen here from his glory days is Col. Michael Madison meeting then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.
Courtesy of Col. Michael "Mad Dog" Madison
Madison, still wants to "get back in the game," he said, despite retirement and recent setbacks. He envisions forming a foundation to reach out to younger veterans in need of help that the Veterans Administration is not able to provide.
He spoke to this reporter from his home in Colorado Springs about literal 'highs and lows' of a military career. A native of Northern California, Madison grew up in the Napa Valley. When he was growing up the valley was still an agricultural town, just on the cusp of its prestige as a major wine tour destination. A graduate of Justin-Siena, Madison went off to college at Sacramento State University. Little did he think that his unexpected love of flying would lead him to an exciting and high-profile career meeting world leaders, diplomats and dignitaries and carrying out dangerous but exciting missions across the globe.
Admitted more than once to Air Force One   Mad Dog has gotten past the blue carpet area several time...
Admitted more than once to Air Force One, "Mad Dog has gotten past the blue carpet area several times and met with the President," said co-pilot and long time friend, Staff Sargent William Lentz.
Courtesy of Col. Michael "Mad Dog" Madison
Seen here off to the far right is Col. Madison. Part of the assignments Col. Madison took charge of ...
Seen here off to the far right is Col. Madison. Part of the assignments Col. Madison took charge of was making sure dignitaries and diplomats got to and from the world-leader meetings quickly and safely.
Courtesy of Col. Michael "Mad Dog" Madison
While at Sacramento State he happened to accept the invitation of a friend who had a pilot's license. That brief flight up in the sky change the course of his life. "Right then in there," said Madison, "I was hooked. I wanted to find out what was the best way I could learn how to fly a plane."
Thanks to the ROTC on campus at Sac State, he soon found himself enlisted in the United States Air Force. And, from there, Madison embarked on a career that even he admits is incredible. "I was able to be among the Presidential detail aboard Air Force One, said Madison; more than once."
Madison flew what is often referred to as supersonic jets, the type that are shown off during Fleet Week. And from there he went on to fly helicopters. "Helicopter flight opens up a new way of flying," said fellow pilot USAF Staff Sargent William Lentz.
 I have had the opportunity to meet leaders and diplomats from all over the world   said Col. Michae...
"I have had the opportunity to meet leaders and diplomats from all over the world," said Col. Michael "Mad Dog" Madison. Seen here is him with former President Jimmy Carter.
Courtesy of Col. Michael "Mad Dog" Madison
For example, when a rescue mission by helicopter must hover as close as possible to a mountainside to save a stranded hiker. "The sheer cliff of the face of a mountain can be extremely stressful to maneuver to," said Lentz, who spent many years as a flight engineer. "Procedures are in place, But helicopter missions are unique in that you don't know what is going to exactly happen until you are there."
Referring to Col. Madison as "mad dog," Lentz also talked about the high times they had when stationed together in Japan.
"We flew many a diplomat and a dignitary ('dips and digs') to the airport from downtown Tokyo," Lentz said. "For some special flights that there could be as many as 14 different strata and stars of military leaders; Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, Secretary Bill Cohen, and General Shalikashvili - the list gets long." Lentz mentioned their names with an enthusiasm as if it all was only just yesterday. He verified Madison's admittance aboard Air Force One. "Yep, 'Mad Dog' got way past the blue carpet area, more than once. And, the time he parachuted out of the helicopter to surprise Newt Gingrich, then the Speaker of The House, he was daring. That was all back in the 1990s and they were some high times," Lentz said.
Yet, he also mentioned that "Mad dog and I have been to Hell and back a few times over, all in service to a rescue mission." The obstacle that Madison deals with now is excoriating neck and back pain. Lentz said that over the years, he too has more physical pain issues. "The pain I feel is from my time as a B-52 Tail Gunner flying high and low altitude bombing mission. (over Iraq and Afghanistan). He is thankful for the long-standing friendship the two have had over the past 25 years. He hopes that doctors whether at the VA or a practitioner/specialist can help Madison with the severe pain.
Behind the aviation marvels and the glories of flight in rescue missions, few people know the health risks of flying sonic jets and helicopters."My lower back and neck are in constant pain," said Madison.
"Neck and back pain in pilots is a complicated clinical entity," said Dr. Christopher DeMartini, DC, DACNB of California Neurohealth in Redwood City. He specializes in neurological issues that impact everyday people. DeMartini took a few minutes to talk about what Madison has been enduring for the past seven years.
In full uniform  Col. Michael  Mad Dog  Madison.
In full uniform, Col. Michael "Mad Dog" Madison.
Courtesy of Col. Michael "Mad Dog" Madison
DeMartini pointed to something which can easily be overlooked. "The fastest eye movements that we are able to muster, called saccades, have an influence on neck muscles," DeMartini noted. About the time Madison was at the zenith of his career, in 1996, Medical researchers at US Military medical centers were conducting studies detailing the risks involved in piloting, especially sonic flight.
Other studies were done by other countries such as Sweden like the one conducted in 2007. The report mentions the power aspects of "G-forces" during supersonic flight and the effect they have on the human body.
For Madison's situation, DeMartini commented. "We reflexively will turn our head towards a target of visual interest and how accurately we are able to direct our eyes in a saccade influences how accurately we will move our neck and vice versa. Pilots, said DeMartini, also use another type of eye movement called a pursuit which is how we track objects smoothly."
Col. Madison mentioned that the injury to his neck that happened over seven years ago occurred when he instinctively turned his head quickly upon the alert of a sound. "I just turned my head towards what I heard and I knew instantly something was wrong," said Madison.
Demartini pointed out that for someone like Madison, "there are tremendous visual demands put upon pilots. They are such that military pilots are required to be able to use their eyes in ways that the human body was not built to do such as flying at supersonic speeds." The overlap of all of these types of eye movements has a consequence on the coordination of neck muscles."
"The ejection seat can do damages," said Lentz. A veteran of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lentz noted that Madison switched to helicopter flying because the supersonic jet planes were damaging to his health. Still that did not stop Madison from taking on assignments. With each assignment or new level of job and skill, the military sent Madison back to school. "I have three Master's Degrees," he said.
From flying on special missions, Col. Madison was trained as an intelligence operative. He traveled to places like Peru and other parts of Central and South America. When asked if he lived like James Bond, he laughed as he said, "I mostly collected information. I didn't kill anyone. I simply collected information and sent it on along the chain of command."
Madison is most proud of the accomplishments of being Squadron Commander, Senior US Embassy Diplomat, Intelligence Officer, High level Pentagon staff officer, rescue pilot, supersonic multi-ship fight leader and of course a dedicated family man. "While my kids at times may have protested being moved around, he said. They certainly got opportunities that few people ever do. They have been to all 50 states including Alaska and Hawaii and they got to meet lots of important and interesting people."
When asked if any of his kids are following in his military footsteps, "No, but I have one daughter who wants to go into diplomatic service."
From starting several businesses on his own, to obtaining a real estate license and going into property management/investments, Madison has not given up in his eagerness to remain active amid his set backs. "I know what it is like to have to deal with lots of bureaucracy and delays. But at least with my position as Colonial, they do listen to me. I have a lot of empathy for the young veterans coming home from combat. For them as enlisted soldiers often being deployed more than once, the difficulties they face can be discouraging."
Seen here next to the Presidential plane  Col. Mike Mad Dog Madison has been part of the cockpit cre...
Seen here next to the Presidential plane, Col. Mike Mad Dog Madison has been part of the cockpit crew on Air Force One several times.
Courtesy of Col. Michael "Mad Dog" Madison
Madison hopes the charitable foundation he wishes to establish will help. As the number of veterans returning from combat in the Middle East continues to grow, Madison sees his work at establishing a foundation as vital. According to the US Dept of Veteran Affairs, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the longest combat operations since Vietnam.
Despite the constant physical pain, he endures. Madison is determined to find the best way to manage it and alleviate it. Not one to give up easily, Madison is confident he will find a way. And, now with second wife Carin at his side, "I know I can still do more with the rest of my life," he said. Col. Madison believes strongly in the core values he has lived while in military service as an USAF pilot, "integrity, service before self and excellence, always!"