Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Bob's History


Born To Fly

Preface: To those of you who might be tempted to launch into this exhaustive description of my addiction to flying, be advised it runs 12 pages, single-spaced. If you were one of my close friends at the Zoo or in our various squadrons, you might be interested in reading it. If not, read at your own risk. This was originally written as a Family History Project, and for the interest of my children and grandchildren. As I have read your contributions to the USAFA '64 History Project, I have felt a sense of guilt for not being more active in the AOG events (other than the 10-, 20-, and 40-year reunions, so far) and for not including my own contribution to the project, so I decided to adapt this to that purpose in hopes of getting something in for Al Larson to include at the last possible minute, just the way Paul Belmont learned to write papers. If you get tired of reading, my feelings will not be hurt.


I was born in a small town in a rural county in southeastern Washington State. These were the years of World War II, and my father, an engineer officer in the United States Army Reserve, had been called to active duty for extensive training prior to being shipped overseas to England in preparation for the Normandy invasion. At the time of my birth, we were living with my maternal grandparents in Colfax, Washington, the county seat of Whitman County. I mention this as a preface to a history that will focus upon my adult life because I gained two things from my parents in my very earliest years, which have had a great impact upon the whole of my life. First, from as early as I can remember, service to country has been a guiding principle, following the example of my dad, who ultimately retired from the Army Reserve after 30 years of service, as an O-6. Second, the love of learning, closely associated with the importance of a good education, was deeply ingrained in me by the example of both of my parents.

I acquired an interest in aviation at an early age. I grew up in Spokane, where our house was under the downwind leg of the instrument traffic pattern flown by the B-36 bombers at Fairchild AFB. Beginning at about age 8, I was mailing letters to every aircraft manufacturer for which I could find an address, requesting pictures and information about their aircraft. My bedroom walls were papered with their responses, and dozens of model airplanes hung from the ceiling. We, my dad, my older brother and I, attended every air show at Fairchild and Geiger AFBs, and I remember sitting in the cockpit of an Air Force P-51D Mustang one summer day in the late 40s, knowing down deep inside that I was going to do whatever it took to fly one of those airplanes one day.

My dad's company bought a Piper Tri-Pacer in the early 50s to facilitate their extensive business travel throughout the inland northwest, and my dad, who had been doing a large part of that travel, began flying lessons, culminating in a private pilot's license. My first ever flight in an airplane was with my dad's flight instructor in his V-tail Beech Bonanza, and I have been in love with flying ever since. I never missed an opportunity to fly with my dad, and my biggest thrill in those days was learning to hold that airplane in perfect straight-and-level cruise flight.

Knowing that a financial scholarship was going to be important in pursuing a good college education at a respected institution, I worked hard all through high school to get good grades, and managed to graduate fairly high in my class. I played baseball and football in high school, so I guess I was somewhat of a jock, but I also was something of a nerd, because I loved mathematics and the sciences. My high school physics teacher was a Radar Intercept Officer in the Air National Guard, and he was a great inspiration to me with tales of flying in the back seat of the F-89 Scorpion. Every Thursday night was his Guard duty period, and Friday's class was always filled with flying stories as an application of the scientific principles that we were studying in class. It was a great thrill for me years later to show him my F-16 on static display at Fairchild, and he was pleased to know that he had had such an influence upon me.

I considered trying to get an appointment to West Point or Annapolis, but didn't think that my family had any political pull. Then, during the summer before my senior year in high school, we were visited by several members of a family with whom my parents had been acquainted during World War II. The husband and father was an Air Force Reserve officer, who was also serving as an Air Force Academy Liaison Officer. The first Academy class had graduated that summer, and I had been fascinated with an article in The National Geographic magazine about this brand new military academy in the Rocky Mountains. From these friends, I learned that politics was not an issue in obtaining an appointment, and that appointments were mostly competitive, and I decided that this was the opportunity I had been seeking for both scholarship and learning to fly, and, once again, I was back in the letter writing routine.


The primary appointment from Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson for the 1960 entering class was won by Jim Shively, USAFA ‘64, but I had scored well on the entrance exams and was able to receive one of the “best qualified alternate” appointments. Most of the readers of this history are intimately familiar with the triumphs and tragedies that made up the four years that we spent together there, so I will not dwell upon those four years other than to say that I wouldn't do it again for a million dollars, and I wouldn't sell what I obtained there for a million dollars, either. I believe that the Academy is the best laboratory for the understanding and development of teamwork and leadership that exists anywhere in the world. The comrades that I gained there, and those that I shared experiences with in both war and peace over the next twenty years of my life and beyond, are the closest friends that I will have had at any time in my entire life. Most of them were my classmates in the Class of '64. Suffice it to say that at the end of the four years, I graduated and was commission with the rank of Second Lieutenant, USAF.

Air Force

After graduation, I was off to pilot training at Williams AFB, with my new bride, Kathleen, and our new car, and I thought that it couldn't get any better than this. My love of flying really blossomed there. Early on, we were saddened by the first loss in an aircraft accident of the many that would follow, when Rupert Fisk, USAFA '64, rode his T-37 into the ground following a low altitude stall and spin on one of his early solos, and we laughed ourselves silly when our German Air Force classmate, Arthur Hanawitsch, was awarded 5,000 boner points for his successful night flameout landing after getting lost navigating back to the base in the failing light and running out of fuel. “Negative,” he said over the radio to the D.O., “is not time for bailout; is time for SFO.” I personally received the most valuable morsel of flying training that I have ever had, when I ejected from a T-38 following a double engine fire on takeoff and subsequent loss of hydraulic power to the stabilator. The training aid was expensive, but I never, ever, doubted the capability of the ejection systems in the aircraft I flew from that point on.

Pilot training ended with an assignment to USAFE as a back-seater in the F-4C Phantom II, with radar school and F-4 transition just down the road at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson. We flew the T-33 for proficiency while we completed our radar training. Also, while in radar school, I received my promotion to First Lieutenant. Then off to England to the 78th Tac Fighter Squadron of the 81st Tac Fighter Wing, at RAF Station Woodbridge. The wing was transitioning from the F-101C, which was the single-seat tactical fighter version of the Voodoo, to the F-4C. In the year I spent as a back-seater in England, I learned far more about flying than I had in the year of pilot training, and I had thought I had learned everything there was to learn back at Willie. I was fortunate to be crewed with my flight commander, who was a very senior captain and a squadron instructor pilot. His philosophy was that I could do everything in the back seat that he could do up front, except raise the landing gear and, perhaps, drop bombs, and he made me do it all. Every other flight was my flight, and if he was the flight leader of a four ship flight, then I was the leader of the flight if it was my turn to fly. I learned very quickly that there was a lot more to tactical flying than the stick-and-rudder skills that I had learned in pilot training, things that only come from experience. He made a much better pilot of me during that year, and I am confident that those skills learned then and there saved my life and the lives of my back-seater and my wingmen on many occasions when I went into combat.

We had a Wing Commander who was wise enough to know that he would have a morale problem on his hands if this eager batch of new back-seaters didn't have an opportunity to get up front from time to time. So, as soon as the wing was certified combat ready in the new airplane, we started a transition program for back-seaters to allow them to fly in the front seat on a limited number of missions. I was fortunate to be selected in the first group, and when I completed transition, I (figuratively) began beating down the door at the Military Personnel Center (MPC), volunteering for service in Viet Nam in any fighter that had only one seat. Finally, in order to shut me up, they responded that they had spent a lot of money training me in the F-4, and would I accept an assignment back through the Replacement Training Unit (RTU) to transition to the front seat on my way to Viet Nam as an F-4 Aircraft Commander? I jumped at the chance, along with about 10 others who had been similarly harassing the assignments folks. Our timing was perfect, for the availability of these upgrades lasted through about three classes and then was reduced to a trickle, with the majority of upgrade slots going to F-4 back seaters returning from Viet Nam.

Back to Davis-Monthan for RTU for the six month upgrade course. Now I had a back-seater of my own, and I learned just how difficult it was to let somebody who was only a little less experienced than I was learn from making his own mistakes. I only hope that I was able to teach him a few of the things that I had learned myself during the year in England. During this training period, our first child, a son named David, was born. Just before leaving the RTU, I received my promotion to Captain.

At the completion of training, I ferried a brand new F-4D to DaNang AB, RVN, to start my tour in the 480th TFS of the 366th TFW, the “Gunfighters.” To this point, I had been practicing with the team for three-and-a-half years, and now I was being given a chance to play in the game. I arrived just four days prior to the start of the Chinese New Year and the beginning of the infamous Tet offensive. I thought, “Gee, guys, you really don't have to throw this party for me.” Four days after my arrival, I experienced the first of 25 rocket attacks on the base that occurred during my tour. DaNang was still the best place to be, for we had the best of both worlds. We flew the missions over North Viet Nam which were the toughest, of course. The North Vietnamese air defense system was heavily concentrated around most of the high value targets, and USAFA '64 paid dearly in the KIA/MIA and POW statistics. The interdiction missions flown against the truck and bicycle transport system in North Viet Nam and against the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos were infrequently rewarded with secondary explosions proving to ourselves that we had accomplished something significant. The rest of the time we put our bombs into the jungle where the intel folks and the Fast FACs thought there was a chance of interdicting the flow of materiel to the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces operating in South Vietnam, but usually there was no way of knowing whether we were successful or not.

On the other hand, out of DaNang we flew all types of missions in South Viet Nam, from supporting troops in contact to providing ground fire suppression to protect the defoliation spray birds to laying down smokescreens along the final approach to protect the C-130s and C-123s going into Khe Sanh during the siege to night napalm and strafing attacks along the fence lines of the special forces camps under attack by enemy forces. According to the rules of engagement, the fighter wings based in Thailand were not allowed to engage in combat missions in South Viet Nam. As a side note, doesn't it seem to be a tradition that we tie our hands with the Rules of Engagement to fight our wars under the rules of the Marquis of Queensbury? These missions in the South were the ones that paid huge dividends, for we almost always received our Bomb Damage Assessment from the ground commanders and the forward air controllers before we had left the area to return to base. Sometimes we would be back three or four times during the same night helping alleviate the beating to which the grunts were being subjected. Those were the missions that really counted.

We had a mix of F-4Cs and F-4Ds in the 480th, and we had a mix of pilots and navigators in the back seat, as the Air Force was gradually phasing out the back seat pilots. I was checked out as a flight leader early in my tour and frequently found myself leading flights containing more senior pilots, but who had less experience in fighters than my few hundred hours, because the Air Force was cycling bomber, tanker and transport pilots through the RTUs and sending them to combat tours in the F-4. Despite the enormous change of pace that a large aircraft pilot experienced in moving to the F-4, these guys did a fantastic job. I think that most of them rather enjoyed being fighter pilots and regretted going back to their former aircraft when their combat tours ended.

My regular back seater at DaNang was a man I really came to love and respect. Mike Stevens is a six foot four Texas Aggie who doesn't speak a single word of English, only Texan, and most of his words have but four letters in them. We grew very close as a team, to the point where we could almost read each others' minds, and we watched each others' backs continually. I know that Mike saved our bacon on many occasions by watching for the ground fire while I was concentrating on the target. Although it seemed impossible at the time, we never had so much as a single bullet or shrapnel hole in our airplane, and we never had a wingman take a single hit on an airplane, either. There is no doubt in my mind that, for reasons I have yet to learn, we were being watched over by Someone greater than ourselves.

While in Viet Nam, I completed the Squadron Officers School correspondence course, which I had begun back in England.

My combat tour ended after nine and one-half months, when Mike and I simultaneously flew our one hundredth over North Viet Nam. I racked up a total of 177 combat missions, along with three Distinguished Flying Crosses, thirteen Air Medals and the usual assortment of attendance ribbons. Duke Moreland, USAFA '64, was my roommate at DaNang and I had the distinct pleasure to fly many missions with Steve Ritchie, USAFA '64, who was also in the 480th during his first Viet Nam tour. Those were very rewarding days for us in many ways, but they were sad days, too, as we lost several good friends and squadron mates to combat losses during the time I was there. That sorrow was later deepened as we sold our Vietnamese friends and allies down the river on the sacred altar of politics, especially when with stronger leadership at the top, we could have wrapped that war up in six months with a solid win at any time. MacArthur was right when he said, “There is no substitute for victory.” But mine was to do or die and not to question the motives of our leaders, who were the ones with the “big picture.”

I returned from Viet Nam to Seymour-Johnson AFB to the 334th Tac Ftr Squadron, 4th Tac Ftr Wing, where I spent the next three years, at least on paper. I was fortunate to be selected to attend the Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB during that first year at Seymour. The 4th Fighter Wing was TAC's number one traveling team in those days, and so one of the years I was TDY for 280 days, with 179 of them at Kunsan AB, Korea, as part of the follow-on to the Pueblo crisis. Along the way we transitioned from the F-4D to the F-4E. While at Seymour, our second child, a daughter named Andrea, was born. Part way through this tour, I had applied to the Air Force Institute of Technology to attend graduate school in the Astronautical Engineering program. I was accepted to enter the residence program at Wright-Patterson AFB as my tour at Seymour was winding to a close, so we packed up once again and moved to Ohio.

While I was in Viet Nam, Kathleen and I had discussed the possibility of adopting a Vietnamese-American child. There were plenty of children born to American fathers there, and the status of mixed race children as human beings was on the bottom of the pile in Viet Nam. I spent one day when I wasn't flying with a good friend, Captain Tom Pocock, who was a U.S. Navy chaplain serving with a Marine Corps unit near DaNang. We traveled around in Tom's jeep to several orphanages in the surrounding area, and to say the least, it was heart-rending to see the condition of the masses of infants lying in wall-to-wall cribs in each place we visited. It seemed like 75 to 100 children were being cared for by two Vietnamese nuns, who had so many to care for that the children got their diapers changed once a day, and got held only briefly when they were being fed. The infant mortality rate in the country was near 25 per cent. The nuns would plead with us at each stop to pick out a child and take it with us, which, of course, we couldn't do. I began a long correspondence with an international adoption agency in Saigon, only to find out after two years of effort on the part of the agency and ourselves that the Vietnamese government was not letting any children out of the country, unless the adoptive parent was in Viet Nam at the time to take possession of the child, which I wasn't, by that time. They wanted those children to stay as a resource to help rebuild their country after the war ended.

Finally, the agency, who worked in several countries in eastern Asia, asked us if we would be willing to consider a Korean or Taiwanese child, and so we began working to bring another child into our family from Korea. Our daughter Amy finally arrived at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago after a flight from Seoul, South Korea, and we picked her up there and brought her back to Ohio, nearly four years after we started the effort to adopt. She was about three years old when we got her, and she fit exactly in between our other two children. Our two daughters instantly hit it off, and they learned to speak English together. What a great blessing this has been to our family!

While I was at the Academy, I had been quite excited by President Kennedy's announcement that we would put a man on the moon during that decade. I began to dream and to plot a career path that would take me through pilot training, a couple of operational assignments, the Air Force Institute of Technology for a Masters Degree in Astro Engineering, to the Air Force Test Pilot School and into the Astronaut program. I watched avidly on TV the progress of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Russian was my language at the Academy, so, while at AFIT, I took some leave and interviewed with General Thomas Stafford, who was the director of the Apollo-Soyuz joint space program, to see if there might be a job for me there. That didn't work out, as Apollo-Soyuz was winding down by the time I graduated from AFIT.

At AFIT, the two year program went by quickly. The Astro degree program was an amalgam of Aeronautical Engineering and space flight issues, with such additional courses thrown in as Astrodynamics, Chemical Rocket Propulsion, Re-entry Aerodynamics and Spacecraft Control Systems. Very interesting, and great fun for a nerd like me. My personal favorites were two: first, the Aero design class, a semester-long project to design a light weight fighter; and, second, my thesis project, which resulted in my teaching the CDC-6600 mainframe computer to fly air combat tactics. In the first, we were given a choice of engine performance parameters roughly corresponding to the F-100 and F-101 engines, which were to power the YF-16 and YF-17 aircraft that were on the drawing boards at that time. I designed a single seat, single engine, canard configured aircraft with twin vertical fins, which on paper at least, was a superior performer. I got an A in the course.

For my thesis, entitled A Responsive Target for the Dynamic Environment Simulator, I was sponsored by the Aeromedical Research Laboratory at Wright-Patt to design, write and test a software program for a simulated target aircraft to be used in their man-rated centrifuge. They were working on the design of high acceleration cockpits. Prior to my work, what they had was a simple target projected on the screen in front of the subject in the cockpit, and he was supposed to control the speed and hence the acceleration of the centrifuge cockpit by putting the gunsight pipper on the target and keeping it there. The problem was that the target was programmed for only one maneuver, which was to turn increasingly harder. The subjects found it fairly easy to learn to track the target through its single maneuver, and the scientists running the program decided that they needed a target that would respond more realistically in order to evaluate the cockpit design factors they were considering. So I wrote and tested a FORTRAN computer program to evaluate the control inputs being put in by the subject, then to determine the maneuver that an opposing pilot would see the subject's imaginary aircraft doing resulting from those control inputs, and then to maneuver to defeat the subject's efforts. It was an interesting project, and the Aero Med Lab people were ecstatic with the results. I got an A on my thesis.

While at Wright-Patt, I was negotiating with MPC for a follow-on assignment, which had to be a directed-duty assignment that would justify the time and money spent sending me to graduate school. I was able to secure a job at Edwards AFB, in the Performance and Flying Qualities Branch, as a Flight Test Engineer. This was the time of the operational flight tests on the YF-16, YF-17, F-15, A-10, B-1, E-3 and the Space Shuttle, as well as a number of pure research projects, like the lifting body test flights, so it was a great place for an engineer to be, but for the family, it was a rough three year tour. Edwards is in the middle of nowhere, it's hot in the winter, hotter in the spring and fall, and unbearable in the summer, and the wind never stops blowing. I was assigned to several flight test projects, first as a junior engineer, later as the lead engineer, and, finally, as a program manager.

The best part of being at Edwards, though, was the flying. I was in a directed duty assignment, and, hence, in the rated supplement, which meant that I could only fly if the base had aircraft and needs to justify my flying, and then only 100 hours a year to maintain proficiency. At the time I arrived, Edwards had just completed turning over all of their primary test support aircraft, which had been the F-104, to the Puerto Rico ANG, and had received a fleet of RF-4C aircraft, stripped of their camera and radar equipment, for use in that role. I arrived on the base with more F-4 time than anyone else on the base, so they wanted to make me an instructor pilot to get the rest of the pilots checked out in the airplane. I said, “No way am I going to spend all my time in the back seat, if I can only fly 100 hours a year.” So I spent the first two years of my tour, in addition to my engineering duties, flying photo and safety chase missions on all of the above mentioned test programs, and I was able to fly a couple of times a week. I have lots of stories to tell about that flying. By the third year of my tour, there were three or four of us who were supporting the test missions in this fashion. Then someone up above in the chain of command found out that we had rated supplement pilots flying test support missions, and they shut it off as being way beyond the intent of rated supplement flying, so I became a ground pounder for the next year. Go figure!

Perhaps the greatest disappointment that I experienced in my Air Force career happened when I was at Edwards. I had an application to the Test Pilot School (TPS) in process, and I flew several safety chase missions with the TPS commander riding along in my back seat, which I later learned were my evaluation flights to determine if I was qualified to enter the TPS. I was on the TPS list for two years as the number two and then number one candidate that the school wanted for the next class. Both times I was eliminated from the selection list, and after that I had passed the upper age limit for beginning the program. I was very disappointed, because that virtually dashed the hopes that I had been planning for some time for my career progression. I found out later that I had been eliminated by a non-flying personnel weenie at MPC, because he didn't think that being a student at the TPS was a valid application for my Masters Degree, and therefore couldn't be considered for completing my directed duty assignment.

Midway through the second year of my tour, I came out on the promotion list for a below-the-zone promotion to major, and a year later, I pinned on the gold leaves, and was selected to attend the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. My final year at Edwards coincided with the Air Force wide change in the Officer Effectiveness Report system to the infamous “quota” system, in which each reporting unit assigned only so many ratings of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, with a 4 or 5 being, effectively, the first step in the process of eliminating the recipient from the service. The largest segment of ratings was a “3.” My rating official was a civilian engineer, and my military boss, the branch commander, called me in and said to me, “We don't know what the effect of the new rating system will be, but you are a fast burner, and it can't possibly hurt you, so we are going to give you a 3, even though your work has been superior. We have other officers who need the 1s and 2s for their upcoming promotions.” Well, we were both just too dumb to recognize that this argument was a disastrous one, but the effect of it didn't come until two years later.

Meanwhile, when I went to Fort Leavenworth, I was very eligible for another remote tour, which I was sure that I would receive coming out of this Intermediate Service School assignment. I was just one month short of meeting my second flying gate, so I figured that if I volunteered for a remote back to Korea, I could go as a pilot rather than as a staff officer at a joint headquarters, so I put in my volunteer statement. At the same time, the rumor mill told us that the first operational deployment of the F-16 fighter would be to the 388th Tac Ftr Wing at Hill AFB, Utah, so I also began a long period of bugging MPC about coming back from Korea to Hill.. Our three kids were all in school by this time, and my wife was anxious to get a graduate degree in Psychology, so we took a chance. We moved the family to Utah, where Kathleen began to take graduate level courses in Psychology at the University of Utah, anticipating acceptance to enter a PhD program the following year. We rented a home while locating a spot to build a house, and I went off to Leavenworth, where I lived in the BOQ and flew to Utah every second or third weekend for a year.

Command and General Staff College was an interesting assignment. Of the 1000 or so officers in my class, about 80 were Air Force, Navy and Marine officers, and another 80 were officers from the armies of allied nations. The remainder were U.S. Army officers from every conceivable branch. The subject matter dealt with broad topics, such as leadership, management, logistics, command structure and coordination between all of the services and our allies in time of war. This was at the height of the Cold War, and lots of time was spent considering the defense in depth of Western Europe. Viet Nam was just ending, and more time was spent considering the implications of guerilla warfare and even terrorism. I revealed my skill as an armored division commander defending the Fulda Gap against a Soviet breakthrough on the sand table and at the map board. Intramural and individual sports were a big item, and I found myself running four or five miles early every morning to keep in shape and playing on several section intramural teams.

One of the graduation requirements was that each student had to complete a major project of his/her choosing, with approval from his/her academic advisor. The army had a system called CAMMS, for the Computer Assisted Map Maneuver System, which was used worldwide to train division, brigade and battalion commanders and their staffs to manage a highly coordinated attack using the army's command and control systems. The close air support module in CAMMS was based upon very unrealistic assumptions, such as close air support was always instantly available upon request, it always carried the exact ordnance the ground commander wanted, it could stay on station indefinitely, and it did not even consider variables like kill probabilities of the various types of ordnance. My project was to implement a much more realistic set of assumptions and to write a FORTRAN computer program to replace the entire close air support module in CAMMS. I was one of a handful to be asked to defend my major project before the Army two-star commanding Fort Leavenworth and the Tactical Warfare Center, and I understood that the Army went ahead and implemented my solution.

My volunteer request came through, so I had orders following completion of C&GS to the 388th Tac Ftr Wing, back at Kunsan. I graduated in the top quintile (the only ranking that C&GS gives), and I was happy to retire from the Army and get back in the Air Force again, and back into the cockpit. I went through a six-week quickie F-4 requalification course at George AFB, and was off to Korea, where I served as Squadron Weapons Officer in the 80th Tac Ftr Squadron, and then as Wing Weapons Officer. While in that capacity, I discovered some irregularities in the go-to-war plans that would have prevented our wing from accomplishing our missions in the way that they were planned, and I later found out that the same irregularities existed for all of the Tac Ftr Wings in Korea who were part of the 314th Air Division. With the support of the Wing Commander, I wrote a draft to modify the plan to make it compatible with our capabilities, and which would facilitate completion of our assigned missions if the plan were implemented. I took the draft to 314th Air Div headquarters, and briefed the commander and staff there, and the changes that I recommended were adopted. In the meantime, after being told by MPC every week for the year that I was in Korea that I would never be assigned to the first F-16 wing if I didn't have at least a 3-star sponsor pulling for me, at the last minute, I was assigned to go to Hill to be the Wing Weapons Officer. It seems that they had run out of Fighter Weapons School Graduates eligible to be reassigned, and so it would have to be me. Too bad!

I got a great OER out of my Kunsan tour. Unfortunately, the timing was bad, and it didn't get filed in time to meet my first O-5 promotion board. I met that board with my last OER from Edwards, with its kiss-of-death 3, and a training report from C&GS on top. Needless to say, I was passed over for O-5 on that board, and with that passover in the record, the next four passovers followed in order. With each passover, my Wing Commander took my personnel file to TAC headquarters and raised hell, but there is no appeal for the promotion board. In the meantime, I served as the Wing Weapons Officer, an O-5 slot, for two years as a major, helping to take the wing through the transition from the F-4 to become the first operational F-16 wing in the Air Force, getting firewall 1s on all of my OERs along the way.

At the end of two years in that position, an O-5 arrived in the wing with his FWS patch and no squadron to command, so I moved over to maintenance to set up and run the maintenance Functional Check Flight program for our new F-16s. Shortly after that, I was also added as the OIC of the wing's maintenance quality control branch. I flew a lot of the FCFs, and I trained and supervised the small number of the squadron pilots assigned to FCF flying duties as they flew the ones I didn't fly. As the Ogden Air Logistics Center (OALC), also located on Hill AFB, began to put F-16s through their depot maintenance programs, I was asked to come over and fly the FCFs on those airplanes, which I was happy to do.

When my three years in the 388th wound down, the OALC was beginning to cycle enough F-16s through the depot to justify having their own full-time flight test pilot. The OALC commander requested me by name to open up that program, so I joined the five F-4 crews in the OALC Flight Test Branch as the F-16 flight test director, and we added additional F-16 pilots as the workload grew. In addition to the F-16s coming out of depot maintenance, we received one and later two dedicated test aircraft, in which we accomplished our assigned responsibility for doing all of the IOT&E flight test on the proposed modifications to the USAF F-16 fleet worldwide. We worked closely with General Dynamics, the F-16 manufacturer, and wrote large parts of the Flight Manuals for the aircraft, and we participated in numerous Air Force and NATO conferences on the aircraft over the three years I spent in that capacity. I was personally gratified by the fact that, although I never graduated from the Test Pilot School, I was awarded the same test pilot AFSC while in this position.

Two more promotion boards saw fit to pass me over, and I was coming up on the 20 year point in my career and considering what options I might want to pursue after retirement. The colonel commanding the Maintenance Depot was determined to get me promoted, but I told him not to waste any of his green stamps in the process, because I was probably going to retire shortly after I reached twenty years, while I was still young enough to start a second career. But he was determined. So, the OALC commander, a two-star general, put the first endorsement on my OER, and he took it to the Air Logistics Command Commander, a four-star general, who wrote the three word second endorsement, “Promote this officer!” in big hand-written letters, and I was on the O-5 list with a line number of 1.

I was to have orders cut sending me to the Pentagon. After a few agonizing weeks of contemplation, I decided to decline the promotion. It was a bittersweet satisfaction to know, however, that I had been vigorously supported by all of the people that I worked for, and I probably had much more interesting jobs than I would have, had I been promoted the first time around. At this time in our lives, Kathleen and I were trying to salvage a marriage which was coming unglued, and I didn't want to pull my three children out of their high schools to move across the country. Further, I didn't think that my Air Force career would go much further if I stayed in, so I flew my last test mission in the F-16 and then retired after 20 years and three months of service. I have to say that those 20 years were mostly the best but also some of the most disappointing of my life, and I can honestly say that they remain so after four additional careers, especially the best ones.

Post Air Force

About a year after retirement, my wife of 21 years and I were divorced. A while after that, I remarried and my second wife and I were together for the next 18 years.

My first endeavor in civilian life was to join four other individuals to start up a company in the computer hardware and software business. The company was called Dayna Communications, and we developed and marketed products to enhance the connectivity and compatibility between the IBM PC and the just released Apple Macintosh personal computers. Like most start-ups, we struggled for the first couple of years and then, unlike most start-ups, we began to grow. We subcontracted with Novell, the inventors of computer networking, to write the software for the Macintosh version of Novell's Netware Operating System. After that, Dayna continued to grow, and after several more years was bought out by Intel Corporation. But after four years during which I mostly developed and grew our sales channels, I began to realize that this was not what I wanted to do when I grew up. I felt that I had to get back into some aspect of aviation. The sky was calling.

Novell had just bought their first airplane, a Cessna Citation II business jet, so I put my resume together and wrote a proposal for how to manage that airplane. I was hired to set up and manage the corporate flight department, and was given the additional duty of managing the business travel department. I took the written test and got myself an FAA Airline Transport Pilot rating, got my FAA First Class Medical, and got type rated to fly the Citation II, and then I was able to be back flying a couple of times a week. I spent the next five years doing those management tasks, including adding a Gulfstream II business jet, and expanding our travel activity from using a small mom-and-pop travel agency to having 26 dedicated American Express travel agents on staff in four different corporate locations. During that time, our annual revenues grew from $250 million to over $2 billion, and our travel budget expanded to about $50 million. When Ray Noorda, the CEO who hired me, retired, the first action of the new CEO was to outsource everything that wasn't part of the core business of the company. Since I had already outsourced the Travel Department to American Express, and had hired a highly experienced Travel Supervisor to oversee the day-to-day travel operation, and I had hired an Aviation Charter company to hangar, maintain and operate our two jets for us, with me flying with one of their pilots in the right seat when my other duties allowed it, the new CEO decided that my position could be eliminated. So they paid me a handsome separation package and cast me adrift. This was not unusual in corporate life, where everything is based upon the bottom line, so I found myself on the street again, looking for something new to do in aviation.

I wanted to stay in Utah, so I spent several months looking for the right opportunity, and was finally hired by the Utah State Department of Transportation to be the Director of the Aeronautics division, a position that was simultaneously held by Bob Woods, USAFA '64, in Tennessee. This position was interesting and had lots of challenging responsibilities, including trying desperately to do everything we were supposed to do with too little money, but I also managed to keep on flying a couple of times a week in one of our King Air turbo-prop aircraft, or in our turbo Cessna 206, flying the governor or other state employees, or going out on airport inspections with our pavement engineer. I had responsibility for managing all of the federal and state funding for capital improvement and maintenance projects for our 50 public use airports, for developing the rolling five year plans for airport capital improvement and maintenance projects, and re-allocating aviation fuel tax revenues back to the airports for their approved projects. I had a maintenance department which maintained our airplanes and those belonging to two other state agencies, four other pilots who flew full time, and an administrative staff to keep track of all of the paperwork. Whenever the legislature was in session, I was on Capitol Hill on my knees begging for enough money to meet the needs of the airports. Over my six years in this position, I improved our funding situation by about 50%, but it was never really enough. Working with politicians and political appointees proved to be the most frustrating thing I have ever done. Everyone has their own agenda.

I became very frustrated in this position, and began to see if I couldn't find my ideal pre-retirement job, which I envisioned to be like being a lieutenant again, where all I had to do was show up on time and fly my jet. When the opportunity arose to interview with Netjets Aviation, I jumped at it. Netjets Aviation, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary company of Berkshire-Hathaway, owned by Warren Buffet. We sell fractional shares in business jet aircraft to corporations and individuals who need this kind of business tool, but don't need it enough to justify owning their own airplane. They get all of the business benefits of having their own airplane, such as quick access to their markets, confidential travel for executives, depreciation and tax writeoffs, all at a fraction of the cost of owning their own airplane, and we manage, maintain and fly the aircraft for them while they save money toward their bottom lines. For me, I have found my ideal pre-retirement job. I was hired into the Hawker 1000 as a First Officer, upgraded to Captain in a few short months, flew the Hawker 1000 for almost seven years, transitioned into the Gulfstream G200 Galaxy (the little Galaxy, for you MAC guys). At age 68, I am still flying close to 500 hours a year and loving every minute of it. It isn't an F-16, but, to paraphrase Will Rogers, I never met the airplane I didn't love to fly. People keep asking me when I am really going to retire, but I haven't figured out yet what I am going to fly after I retire.

I am happy to say that my divorce from my first wife, Kathleen, didn't work out. A couple of years after I became single again, I moved back up to the Northwest, to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, not far from where Kathleen was living at the time. It was where our children, and now our grandchildren tended to congregate when they had time in their busy lives, and it provided an opportunity for me to see them, and for them to see both grandparents without having to travel in separate directions. Also, I had the enjoyable opportunity to assist Kathleen from time to time as she was caring for her aging father, whom I had always been quite close to, and who was one of my greatest fans for most of my adult life. We found ourselves hanging out together as old friends do, and the old spark ignited once again. We were remarried in 2007, and we are determined not to make the same mistakes we made the first time around. All of our children's families now live in Washington state, so we are able to spend a lot of time with them and with our grandchildren.

I look forward to the 50-year Reunion of USAFA '64. Who knows, maybe by that time I will have figured out what I am going to fly and will have retired. In the meantime, all of you ground pounders out there, eat your hearts out! I'm still livin' your dream!

Bob (Robert P.) Barrett Major, USAF, Retired

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