Brigadier General Joseph (Joe) Thomas Callahan III, United States Air Force (USAF), was born on August 24, 1961, at Plattsburgh Air Force Base (AFB), New York. He was the son of Colonel Joseph T. Callahan Jr, a career USAF officer, and Eileen K. Callahan. He passed away on 15 January 2024 at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico from complications associated with cancer after a long fight.
He is survived by his wife, Felicia E. Callahan, his daughter Devin K. Villa, his sister Kathleen A. Callahan-Smith, and his brother Lieutenant Colonel Daniel J. Callahan, USAF (retired).
Joe lived in various locations growing up along with his older sister and younger brother. He graduated from Highland High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Upon graduation, he moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico and attended New Mexico State University (NMSU). There he obtained a degree in political science and, during his senior year at the university, met his future wife, Miss Felicia E. Nolan of Las Cruces, New Mexico on 15 March 1982. Upon his college graduation, Joe and Felicia were married on 15 October 1983.
Completing his commission through the USAF Reserve Officer Training Program at NMSU, Joe was assigned to Fort Rucker, Alabama for pilot training. He completed training and was selected as the Honor Graduate of his class. His first operational assignment was as copilot and eventually pilot at Detachment 6, 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS) flying the UH-1N at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. Following Holloman, the Callahan’s were assigned to the 55th ARRS, soon redesignated the 55th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) at Eglin AFB, Florida under the recently created Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).
While assigned to the 55 SOS, then Captain Callahan qualified in the UH-60A and eventually served as initial cadre for the MH-60G helicopter. He participated in Operation JUST CAUSE, Panama flying combat missions in support of U.S. efforts to capture General Manuel Noriega. He also deployed to Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM where he filled the role as lead planner and flight lead for combat operations.
Upon completion of Joe’s assignment at Eglin, he was given orders to Kirtland AFB, New Mexico as an instructor and evaluator for the M/HH-60G. While at Kirtland, the Callahan’s had their only child, a daughter, Devin K. Callahan.
After two years at Kirtland, the Callahan’s moved to Langley AFB, Virginia and the newly established Headquarters (HQ) Air Combat Command (ACC) as the Rescue Requirement Program Manager. During this tour, he deployed to Saudi Arabia as the Commander, Combined Rescue Coordination Center. Upon completing his assignment at HQ ACC, then Major Callahan completed requalification in the HH-60G and was assigned as Commander Det 1, 33 Rescue Squadron (RQS), Osan Air Base (AB), Republic of Korea (ROK). His efforts as Commander were commended by the ROK for the Medevac of an injured Korean Marine from Yeonpyeong Island.
Major Callahan was selected for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel two years early and was assigned to the 33 RQS, Kadena AB, Japan as the Operations Officer. However, his tour was cut short to 18 months when he was reassigned as the Commander 66, RQS, Nellis AFB, Nevada. It was during this tour, Joe was selected to attend the National War Center, Fort McNair, Washington, District of Columbia (D.C.).
After completing his one-year course at the college, then Lieutenant Colonel Callahan was assigned to be the Branch and later Division Chief, Southeast Asia, Deputy Director Politico-Military Affairs Asia, Joint Staff Plans and Policy (J-5), the Pentagon, Washington D.C.
Following his tour on the Joint Staff, then Colonel Callahan was assigned as the Vice Commander, 347th Rescue Wing, Moody AFB, Georgia. A year later he was selected as the Commander of the 347th. During this tour, he commanded all Air Force airborne Search and Rescue operations supporting Operation KATRINA, resulting in the rescue of over 4,800 civilians from the floodwaters following the hurricane. He also oversaw the transition of the 347th under AFSOC to the 23rd Wing under ACC and coordinated the addition of the 23rd Fighter Group and the 830th Security Forces Group.
Successfully completing his wing command tour, Colonel Callahan was assigned as the Deputy Director for Air & Space Operations, HQ USAF (Air Staff), the Pentagon, Washington D.C. and was selected for promotion to Brigadier General.
Brigadier General (select) Callahan was reassigned to the Joint Staff J-5, this time as the Deputy Director for all of Asia and serving as the primary source for Asian political-military policy on the region to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. His tour was completed after two years and he was then assigned to the Air Staff as the Military Deputy for Study, Analysis and Lessons Learned. Joe pinned on the rank of Brigadier General while working at the Pentagon.
Brigadier General Callahan retired on 1 January 2012 after almost 29 years of service to his nation. The Callahan’s retired to Albuquerque, New Mexico where they resided until his passing.
Brigadier General Callahan long supported the Air Force Professional Military Education programs and attended Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff School and the National War College. He was recognized as a Distinguished Graduate in all three courses. He also completed a Harvard Senior Executive Fellowship and the Senior Manager in Government Program along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Seminar XXI.
Brigadier General Callahan was a Life Member of the Air Rescue Association and a supporter of the That Others May Live Foundation, a charitable organization supporting the families of those who have lost their lives in support of rescue operations around the globe.
“That Others May Live”