During the initial days of Operation DESERT STORM, Paul "PJ" Johnson heroically lead a bold search and rescue mission deep into enemy territory to locate a downed Navy crew. Born in 1958 in Gadsden, Alabama, Johnson spent his childhood in Tennessee.
After receiving a commission from Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB), Texas, he successfully completed Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin AFB and was assigned to fly the A-10 Warthog. While serving in his first operational unit, the 353rd Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) at Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina, Johnson demonstrated exceptional aviation skills and was selected to attend Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nevada. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, his squadron deployed to King Fahd Royal Airport, Saudi Arabia. Five days after the beginning of the Iraqi air war, Johnson and his wingman launched on a mission to locate the crew of a downed Grumman F-14 Tomcat. Operating deeper inside enemy airspace than any A-10 before, Johnson successfully led the search and rescue effort that located the downed pilot. A few weeks later, he demonstrated his exceptional aviation skills when his aircraft was hit by enemy fire. Overcoming multiple system failures, Johnson managed to recover the badly damaged Warthog back to base.
After the war, he applied his DESERT STORM experience as an instructor at the Fighter Weapons School. Johnson served in staff positions at United States European Command and Headquarters United States Air Force. He also influenced professional leaders as Air War College professor in the Department of Strategy and International Security. Johnson flew missions in support of Operations DESERT STORM, NORTHERN WATCH, and ENDURING FREEDOM. He is a command pilot with more than 3,000 hours in the A-10 attack aircraft, and served as commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron, Pope AFB, North Carolina; the 354th Operations Group, Eielson AFB, Alaska; the 355th Fighter Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; and 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
Following command, Johnson served as Deputy, United States Military Representative to NATO in Brussels, Belgium. Culminating his active duty career in 2016 and retiring as a major general, he served as the Director of Operational Capability Requirements with the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements at Headquarters United States Air Force in the Pentagon. Among several other merits, the Air Force awarded Johnson with the Air Force Cross and the Defense Superior Service Medal.
Five days after the beginning of the Iraqi air war during DESERT STORM, then-Captain Johnson and his wingman launched on a mission to locate the crew of a downed Grumman F-14 Tomcat. Despite poor radio signals, difficult terrain, and operating deeper inside enemy airspace than any A-10 before, Johnson successfully led the search and rescue effort that located the downed pilot. During this mission, he identified an enemy truck rapidly moving in the direction of the downed pilot. Just moments before the truck reached the pilot, Johnson successfully engaged the target, destroying the vehicle and securing the rescue.