Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Lanny's History

I arrived at the Academy on the path of least resistance. The first time I applied, I did not make the cut. I was 20 and had just completed my first year at Oregon State University. I applied a second time only because my brother's friend told me to. He said I could always make my decision next year. I was working about 30 hours a week to just pay the bills and stay in school, so a year later I was basically flunking out at OSU and either had to drop out of school for a quarter or change majors. Then the letter came saying I was accepted as a “qualified alternate.” The easiest path led to USAFA. I am sure glad they didn't check my physics grades at OSU. After a year out of school and two years at Oregon State University, I was over 21 and older than the great majority of my classmates and even most of the second and third classmen ahead of me. I was often asked by classmates and upperclassmen what college was like in the real world.

Well, the real world wasn't all that red hot. Sure it had girls, but it also had lecture halls that held hundreds of students. One course, Physics for Engineers, started the three term sequence with 900 students. Fifteen percent of us completed the three terms. Man I was in the top 15 percent - with two Ds and a C. The average grade handed out by that instructor was 1.4. I took physics again at the Academy as a 4th classman so I was taking the course with upperclassmen. I was chewed out more for my grades in physics than you can believe. I was ruining the curve! You may remember that we didn't have to take the final if our grades were good enough. I never took a final exam in physics. It definitely was not because I learned anything beyond f = ma at Oregon State. Simply put the instruction in all areas at the Academy was that much better, plus I didn't have to work those 30 hours per week or worry about dating those girls.

In my second life, after retirement from the Air Force, I went back to school and picked up another 300 quarter hours to qualify to teach and in continuing education. I had picked up a Masters Degree and several other courses while on active duty which added almost another 100 credits. Very few of those educators came even close to the top notch instructors I had at the Academy. Add all those credits and the chunk from the Academy and I have the equivalent of over 800 quarter hours. Throw in Pilot Training (I flunked out at ten months – couldn't land?) Navigator and Electronic Warfare Officer training and SOS, Air Command & Staff, plus ICAF, and you would think I should be smart. You would probably be disappointed.

During April of '64, I had reluctantly agreed to a blind date with a young lady from Colorado Women's College in Denver to see Lois Armstrong's concert at the Academy.. Because I had a Navigator familiarization mission to Los Vegas that same weekend. I had tried hard to get someone to replace me. Unknown to me, my date was also trying to find someone to get her out of this ordeal. Fortunately we both failed and that Sunday evening I met the lady who on July 3, 1965 would become my wife. For reasons I cannot understand Mahli is still putting up with me and we will be celebrating our 46th Anniversary this summer. We successful raised four sons if our success can be defined by their success in their chosen fields.

My first real AF assignment was as an Electronic Warfare Officer (May,1967 – May 1968) in EB-66s at Tahkli Royal Thai Air Force Base. I returned later for another two years in the EB-66 as the Wing Stan-Eval EWO at Shaw AFB, That assignment included six months TDY to Korat as the SEA war games were drawing toward closure. In between I served as Wing Electronic Warfare Officer in RF-4Cs at RAF Alconbury. The second stint in the EB-66 was followed by a second tour in Europe with F-4Es at Ramstein AB, Germany again as Wing EWO and a stint as the Chief of Weapons and TActics. While there I survived an inadvertent zero – zero ejection and doubled the number of people who had survived that experience. In both F-4 assignments, my primary duty was teaching fighter pilots how to spell “EW.” It is with great difficulty that I resist the temptation to comment on the difficulty of teaching anything to fighter pilots. Some of my best friends are fighter pilots.

My European vacations over I became a project manager testing Radar Homing and Warning systems and a lot of other “stuff” at the Tactical Air Warfare Center (TAWC) Eglin AFB, FL. I checked out as an Engineer in the F-4D so I could chase F-15s and F-16s during testing of the ALR-69. Most of that assignment dealt with trying to get civilian managers and contractors to listen to the maintenance troops that worked for me. Exactly why I wrote a message to TAC headquarters recommending we stop production of the F-16 is probably still classified. They didn't stop, and since the F-16 has never faced much in the way of a missile defense system, not harm was done.

My next assignment was to be to Iran in 1979 to fly back seat with Iranian pilots. I took drastic measures to keep from taking advantage of that opportunity. I set out to get the Shah overthrown, and I volunteered for a tour at the Pentagon. Darn, both efforts succeeded. So I spent the next 20 years, form 1979 to 1982, commuting between the nation's capital and Dale City Va. While at the Pentagon my major program became restoring the funding for installation of the ALR-69 in the entire F-4D fleet. Just as I took over the program, funding was lost in a “midnight raid” by politicians & generals seeking funds for another program with more glamour or a bigger explosion. Over the next three years I managed to get the priority for that program back up and funded once again. I received messages, this was long before e-mail, from the 4-Star commanders of Tactical Air Command and Logistics Command congratulating me for this feat. Two months after this grand achievement, there was a “midnight raid” on the budget and once again my major program was unfunded for a program with more pizzazz. I was probably the most successful failure at the Pentagon. Once again proving that Electronic Warfare is no d--- good unless you are getting your a-- shot off.

My greatest military achievement was that I got out of the Pentagon in three years not the stabilized four. I was selected to be the commander of the TAWC EF-111 Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) detachment at Mountain Home AFB. This was a great assignment and a check out in yet another aircraft. My good deal with my “own” aircraft and my “own” people included leading a 100 person deployment from Mountain Home to Eglin to test the AWACs aircraft. That was my last hurrah. During my annual physical I came up with a “depressed ST wave” on my EKG. That was followed by a complete teardown and rebuild at the “School of Aerospace Medicine” and a medically IN-significant but aero-medically significant heart problem. I was “relieved” of my command slot and assigned as an “extra” EWO in the F-111 Wing's 12 man weapons and tactics shop. I had headed up the weapons and tactics shop in Germany eight years before with one navigator/EWO assistant. I know it was a pilot slot, but they fired the pilot so I got the job. Twelve men fighting over the F/EF-111 weapons & tactics duties that might be expanded to fill four positions meant that I became a ROAD officer for my last year. My boss told me the first day on the job that he had no work for me. My primary duties for my last year became lesson planning for my “other” job teaching classes for Park University on base and working out at the base gym.

Looking back I can't help but feel that someone was looking out for me. I was a Navigator/Electronic Warfare Officer who served two tours in Europe and 18 months in PACAF for my “war.” I spent my career in Tactical Air Command but didn't become a Wild Weasel. I flew in more different aircraft than any Navigator I know and managed to stay out of the B-52. I was given a Command slot which few Navigators and even fewer EWOs ever see.

I retired at exactly 20 years and headed back into the real world using "What Color Is Your Parachute" to find a job in the real world. A quick flirtation with “business brokerage” and limited success owning a business led me back to school and my second career, this one in education. And my success as an instructor for drop-out students in GED classes, “re-entry” programs to get students back into high school, and finally teaching at the college level could be traced back to the way I was taught at the Academy. I led an “education clinic” for drop-out students of all ages for ten years. The main thing I had to do was prove to young women that they could overcome their fear of math as they worked through all the subjects of the GED.

Math was just one part of what I taught for Park University. With Park University at Fairchild AFB, I was full time faculty for Management programs. Because of the shortage of professors and instructors, the Fairchild Directors would send my credentials back to main campus to get me approved for different courses and subject areas. With those 800 quarter hours on my transcript, each department would approve almost anything that was requested. Probably because they got tired reading my transcripts. As a result I suspect that I hold the world record for teaching college classes in the most subject areas. In addition to management and math, I taught economics, philosophy, English, marketing, and science classes. I was also certified by the state of Washington to teach seven subjects at the secondary school level.

When the economy collapsed in 2008, Park University laid off the majority of their full-time faculty at their military sites. This occurred a week before my 70th birthday, and I choose that as a good reason to retire once more. Since then I have taken up woodworking and feeding the hungry. The majority of my wood products are donated to various churches and charities around Spokane, WA. And each week I lead the crew that sets up and cleans up for a church dinner (Mahli is the head cook.) in the poorest section of Spokane. Around 80 people come from under the bridges, the freeway, and the hidden shelters along with the church's neighbors and members to enjoy a good hot meal complete with tablecloths and people to serve the meal family style. Quite frankly I am so busy I do not know how I found the time to work before I retired.

I received so much from my country – the greatest education in the world, a great travel laced career, great retirement – the little I can do to help others seems the least I can do as some kind of payback.

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