Anna Puderbaugh | Staff Writer
Center Grove is hosting its annual Veteran’s Day program that will feature distinguished speaker Vice Admiral Mike Bucchi. He has selflessly served our country for over 33 years.
Bucchi grew up in Wicksburg, Alabama. As the second of three children, he attended Wicksburg High School from first through twelfth grade. “I played football, basketball, and baseball, plus ran track,” Bucchi said. Along with his athletic contributions to the school, he was talented academically. “I graduated as the Valedictorian of a class of about 40 students – at the time the largest graduating class in the school’s history,” he said.
After graduating high school, Bucchi attended Harding College. In January of 1969, he finished his undergraduate studies at Harding College. The following year, in February of 1970, he entered active duty in the United States Navy at the age of 23. His last active duty tour concluded on May 28, 2003.
Filled with many accomplishments, Vice Admiral Bucchi’s military service is highlighted by some of the following distinctions:
- Thirty-fourth Commanding Officer of Fighter Squadron Thirty-three
- First east coast pilot to fire a Phoenix missile
- Instructor at Top Gun (Navy Fighter Weapons School)
- Operations Officer of Fighter Squadron Thirty-one
- Commander, Fighter Wing One
- Special Intelligence Officer to the Commander-in-Chief
- U.S. Atlantic Fleet Strategic Support Team
- Readiness Officer for the Commander, Tactical Wings Atlantic
- Executive Officer of Fighter Squadron Thirty-three
- F-14 Fighter Readiness and Adversary Officer at Commander, Naval Air Forces, Atlantic
- Deputy Commander, Carrier Air Wing Eight
- Thirty combat missions and more than one hundred combat flight hours in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Provide Comfort
- Commanded Carrier Air Wing Three
- Over 6,000 total flight hours and over 1,000 carriers arrested landings in many Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf cruises
- Deputy U.S. Military Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Military Committee (Brussels, Belgium)
- Commander, Carrier Group Six
- Deputy Commander, Joint Task Force Southwest Asia
- Chief of Naval Air Training
- Commander, U.S. Third Fleet
- Director of the Navy’s Sea-Based Battle Lab
As one might expect, the military has a profound impact on those who have served. This is no different for Bucchi, who truly enjoyed his time of duty when he served his country. “I loved what I did in the Navy, both as a Fighter Pilot and in my senior officer command tours. I can say I truly dreaded the day I would no longer wear my uniform,” he said.
Despite this, Bucchi knew that there were other things in store for him that would still allow him to serve his country. “I did realize that one career was ending and looked forward to the future and was anxious to get on with my second career. Prior to retiring from active duty, I was hired by a Department of Defense Contractor as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. I continued working as a Defense contractor until January 2016,” Bucchi said.
He and his wife now reside in Bloomington, Indiana.
Bucchi has many memories to accompany his respectable military career. “I have many terrific memories of my time in the United States Navy,” he said. “I can recall and tell of many of the exciting flights during my career, both training experiences and combat flights.”
While these thrilling flights may be plentiful, his best memories are with the selfless men and women that served alongside him. “The greatest memories are of the many brave men and women which I served with during those 33 plus years,” Bucchi said.
Vice Admiral Bucchi’s Awards
Throughout his tenure as an American serviceman, Vice Admiral Bucchi has received numerous awards for his exemplary service. These awards are the following:
- The Distinguished Service Medal
- Defense Superior Service Medal
- Legion of Merit
- Bronze Star with Combat “V”
- The Defense Meritorious Service Medal
- Three Meritorious Service Medals
- Three Strike/Flight awards with Combat “V”
- The Joint Service Commendation Medal
- Five Navy Commendation Medals with Combat “V”
- The Humanitarian Service Medal
- Various campaign and unit awards
Bucchi made sure to note that serving his country so selflessly was his honor. “I can truly say that my time in the Navy to serve my nation was a great honor and pleasure. I loved what I did; I was passionate about being a Fighter Pilot,” he said.
He said that he would do everything all over again in a heartbeat. “I thank my nation for allowing me to serve.”
The acts of Bucchi and all of the selfless service men and women will certainly never be forgotten.
Look for Vice Admiral Bucchi as he speaks at the Veteran’s Day Program today.