Joseph Personett was born on January 24, 1946, in Pasadena, California. He entered the U.S. Air Force Academy in June 1965, and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the Air Force on June 4, 1969. Lt Personett next completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was awarded his pilot wings at Randolph AFB, Texas, in September 1970, and then completed T-29 Flying Classroom training and survival training before serving as a CT-29 pilot with the 314th Operations Flight at Osan AB, South Korea, from November 1970 to March 1972. Capt Personett then completed OV-10 Bronco Combat Crew Training in May 1972, followed by service as an OV-10 forward air controller with 6498th Air Base Wing at DaNang Air Field, South Vietnam, from June to November 1972, and as an Air Operations Officer with the 1131st Special Activities Squadron in South Vietnam from November 1972 to March 1973. He then completed T-41 Mescalero Pilot Instructor Training in May 1973 before serving as a T-41 flight training instructor with the 3253rd Pilot Training Squadron at Peterson AFB, Colorado, and at the U.S. Air Force Academy from May 1973 to January 1975. Capt Personett attended Air Command & Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from January 1975 to January 1976, and then completed T-37 Tweet Pilot Instructor Training in May 1976. His final assignment was as an instructor pilot at Randolph AFB, Texas, from May 1976 until he left active duty on May 6, 1977, remaining in the Air Force Reserve until March 16, 1979.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Section 8742, Title 10, United States Code, awards the Air Force Cross to Captain Joseph A. Personett for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as a Forward Air Controller at Mo Duc, Republic of Vietnam, on 16 and 17 September 1972. On that night, Captain Personett flew two sorties in his lightly armed OV-10 reconnaissance aircraft in monsoon weather conditions to support a small allied unit undergoing heavy ground assault by a hostile force twenty times its size. Using every means available, naval and ground artillery, tactical air support, and finally his own light internal ordnance, Captain Personett, in desperation, disregarding extremely intense and accurate antiaircraft fire, made repeated devastating low level attacks which stopped the hostile advance short of the friendly perimeter. Credited with two hundred and sixty-five confirmed hostile personnel killed, and twenty mortars and guns destroyed before his heavily battle-damaged aircraft was finally shot down, Captain Personett's achievements were recognized by the Ground Commander as having personally saved his position and the lives of one hundred and twenty defenders. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Captain Personett reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.