Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Ken's History

I grew up in a bedroom community southwest of Chicago. Most people worked somewhere in the city. Like many of you, I am sure, I had no compelling reason for applying to the Air Force Academy. No one in my family had been in the military. I was the first from my high school to ever get a service academy appointment. Mostly I liked the USAFA football uniforms!

One day during my senior year of high school a classmates said he was going to take the Civil Service Examination as a first step toward a service academy nomination. I decided I would join him. As the months went by I became more and more determined that I wanted to go to USAFA.

After making it through initial screening, I was invited to Chanute AFB to take the Air Force aptitude and physical exams. It just so happened that Terry Isaacson was in our group. I vividly remember our bus stopping several times and some Air Force person getting on board and announcing that yet another Big Ten coach wanted to talk to "Mr. Isaacson" and convince him to go to his school rather than the Academy. What an amazing athlete "Mr. Isaacson" was!

Fortunately for me, my Congressman, whom I'd never met, just nominated those 11 young men who scored best on the testing and let the Academy select the nominee. I got the nod.

We all have our memories of Basic Cadet Training. I remember wishing I hadn't gone to the beach and gotten sunburned the day before I flew out to Colorado (on my first plane flight). I actually remember my admiration for the upperclassmen in my chain of command - Lee Butler, Dick Klass and John Fer in particular. I also remember not quite being able to beat Bob Woods to the finish line on the obstacle course.

I was assigned to the notorious 18th/23rd Squadron. If I hadn't gotten on a Training Table for the swimming team and then baseball, it would have been a terrible Doolie year. I can still hear poor Ron Hulting spending hours outside R.D. Smith's door reciting unending information.

Having validated a few courses, I had academics with other groups. That was a great opportunity to meet many of our class from the "other end" of the Wing. We sure had a lot of neat people in our class.

After graduation, I was fortunate to get an AFIT assignment to Stanford University. It was a fabulous opportunity and the place I met my wonderful wife, Marilyn. Because I was pilot qualified, but went to grad school after graduation, I was not popular with the personnel system. To reward me for earning a Master's Degree, I was assigned as a basic supply officer at Tinker AFB. When I applied for pilot training (this is during the pilot shortage for Viet Nam), they refused and sent me to Viet Nam as a supply officer. My return assignment was going to be Titan II missile launch officer, but I managed to get that changed to logistics officer at Kelly AFB. Finally, at age 27 years and 5 months ( 27 years 6 months being the maximum age at that time) I entered pilot training at Randolph AFB.

During that time period the Class of '64 was already making a name for itself. We would hear about the exploits of Karl Richter, Bob Lodge, all those Thud drivers, and Stevie B. Of course the toll was high with KIA and POW designations.

The class also" took over" the Thunderbirds in the early 70's. I was an Instructor Pilot in T-38's at Craig AFB when the team came through for a show. It was really amazing to have Al McArtor, Nels Running and Jerry Bolt on the team . Much to the delight of my two oldest children, we had most of the Thunderbird team over for dinner at our tiny base house. No brass, no fanfare. Just a night off from socializing for the team and a thrill for us.

This was also the time of below-the-zone promotions, and , of course, the Class of 64 was earning many of those promotions. Every promotion list was another chance to feel the pride of being from our class.

The reputation of the Class of 1964 was much more recognized at the senior levels of the Air Force than many of us realized. I happened to be at an Air Force Ball in the late 70's when I had one of my proudest moments. I was standing next to Gen Dougherty, CINCSAC, and he was talking with Gen Dixon, TAC Commander. Gen Dougherty introduced me to Gen Dixon as "another member of the illustrious Class of 1964." WOW!

Like most of our class, I had a very rewarding Air Force career. Air Force people are really great people and the opportunities to achieve significant goals seemed to always be there during our time on active duty.

After retiring, I went to work as an executive in the flight simulation world. Most of our customers were civilian airlines, so I got to travel the world in that capacity. I then went to work managing most of the US operations for a British company with worldwide activities in the traffic (as in cars) control industry. Another great chance to work with executives from other countries and see more of the world.

I am now enjoying my third and most challenging career - owning and running a small business in California.

I've had many occasions to visit the Academy over the years and it always brings back memories, a sense of pride, and almost a haunting nostalgia. I can't quite explain that feeling, but I'm sure many of you have felt it too. Sort of that " MacArthur's- farewell-to-West-Point" feeling.

I think the reputation of the Class of '64 is best recognized in the list of USAFA Distinguished Graduates. It is absolutely amazing that so many members of one class, our class, are on that select list.

Or is it?

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