Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

John's History


john.jpg Attending the Air Force Academy was a dream and goal of mine from the first time I saw one of the earliest catalogs in the school library during my sophomore year in high school. When I applied to the Academy during my senior year not many people in my neck of the woods knew about the Air Force Academy. I received a competitive nomination from my congressman and took the Civil Service exam for Senator Kefauver. I took the SAT's (I had never heard of the SAT's before.) at Litton HS north of Nashville and the PAT and AFOQT at Sewart AFB, TN. I finished as a first alternate to Steve Meadows (Class of 63) and was offered the opportunity to enlist in the reserves for 6 years, go to USNAPS and get a second crack at an appointment. After focusing on USAFA, wanting to become the world's greatest fighter pilot and not having considered any other options, I jumped at the chance.

After a month of basic training at Lackland, AFB we were flown to Bainbridge NTC, MD. At NAPS we spent most of our time in academics with enough time for football, basketball, 3.2 beer at Fiddler's Green and for me an introduction to fencing. Some notables in our class included a Rhodes Scholar, a four star and a three star and a few other pretty successful classmates. We were released from active duty in March, 1960 to await word on our appointments.

I arrived in C-Springs early on the 27th of June after a 36 hour bus ride from Tennessee and caught one of the first buses to USAFA. I thought being early was a good thing and besides, I really had nothing better to do. USAFA was where I wanted to be. After dropping my bag at the base of the ramp I proceeded as directed to one of the day rooms to process in. Then I was directed to go out one door where I was directed to double time to a white line. After an exchange of pleasantries and more pushups than I had done in a while, I was escorted through a day of collecting uniforms and getting a haircut, double time all the way, eventually arriving at my room on the lower level of the AB complex with a great view of the base of the ramp. The details of the rest of the day are somewhat hazy. Basic Cadet Training was a lot tougher than Basic at Lackland, AFB and seemed like an eternity. There were some funny times and some not so funny. Notes to classmates, directing them to report to the Flight Commander (C. F. Stebbins of all people.) at 0-dark thirty in various uniforms, in hindsight, was one of the funny times. I remember a quote from one of our classmates “Sir, this is mental torture.” You had to be there.

We all experienced the bus rides in “Bus Stop” type buses to the games in Denver, Christmas at USAFA, JFK inauguration, the breakout and the aftermath, Recognition, the 3rd class field trip, the overseas field trip, Operation 3rd Lieutenant, BCT detail for Class of 1967, football season of 1963, and finally graduation. My personal highlights of USAFA were Recognition after surviving air raid drills in the mud, the run to Cathedral Rock and up the power line, Mach 1.5 in a 101B and a week on a WWII Submarine, the European trip, 3 weeks at KI Sawyer AFB, MI, making the fencing team, Element Leader and obstacle committee for BCT Detail, the all night drive to the Nebraska game (we won), Flight Commander during 1st Class Year and Graduation.The low point was disqualification from pilot training (after being the last guy to get Williams) because of a concussion from playing intramural football. I thought about Intelligence as a career but was alerted to the Civil Engineering career by the officer rep for the fencing team. So, after graduation it was off to CE school and Homestead AFB, FL.

The Real Air Force

After CE school at WPAFB, I reported to Homestead in September of 64 as a construction inspector. SAC was not receptive to my attempts to be retested for UPT so graduate school at AFIT (66-68) was next. I met my wife of 43 years Emma in Fairborn,OH where she was teaching school. We were married in April, 1967. Emma presented me with our first son in July, 1968, a week before I left for Vietnam and the 820th CES, RED HORSE. As the Operations Officer at Da Nang AB I managed the construction program that included aircraft shelters (98 were planned) and various other support facilities. The shelters saved one F-4, that I know of, paying for the entire program. The almost weekly rocket attacks kept us busy with repairs. I was sent to Nha Trang in November of 68 to command a small deployed unit assigned to build an ammo storage area north of the city. We lived in downtown Nha Trang in our own hotel with our own dining hall on the top floor and commuted to and from the job site every day. After 4 months the project was canceled so I was off to Tuy Hoa to work on facilities there.

Vietnam was followed by AFSC HQ for almost 4 years monitoring construction for the test ranges and various centers. I had a good result at SOS and, as a result, was selected to be the exec for the AFSC Civil Engineer. A two year exchange tour with the Army COE in Colorado Springs (73-75) was followed by 4 great years at Rhein Main AB, Germany. Those years were marked by significant improvements in the base infrastructure and quality of life, the arrival of my third son, the bombing of the o'club, traveling through Europe, wine probes on the Rhine, coaching the base football team, and working with some great people especially the German civilians, many of whom were WWII vets. An assignment to the Pentagon (actually Bolling, AFB) was next, monitoring the overseas construction programs. After promotion to L/C I requested assignment to JCS-J4 as an engineering action officer. It was a great job working with the services, the Joint Staff, DOD and the Congress to improve the infrastructure in SWA in support of CENTCOM. Our efforts were to prove quite helpful in the Gulf War. I intended to serve out the 3 year assignment and possibly go to AWC; but, that plan was interrupted by an offer I couldn't refuse: command of the 820th CES, my old Vietnam unit, at Nellis, AFB. The 3 year tour as the Red Horse Commander was the highlight of my AF Career. Reporting directly to 12th AF, I was responsible for all aspects of training, performance and discipline of a 400 man construction and heavy repair squadron. I was fortunate to have two great commanders and work with some outstanding junior officers during my three years with the 820th.

I spent the next 2 years on the staff at AFSC as the Assistant DCS/ DCS of Engineering and Services and then Assistant DCS Test and Resources. I had come full circle working in the same office and with some of the same civilians that I had as a Captain. I was then selected to be the Base Commander at Edwards, AFB, first as a group commander and shortly thereafter, as wing commander. Edwards was another great and rewarding experience. I was privileged once again to work with a superb group of officers and enlisted personnel who were thoroughly engaged in the mission and were doing what was best for the base and the people. I retired from active duty at Edwards on the 31st of July, 1990, exactly 31 years to the day from the day I reported for active duty and basic training at Lackland, AFB. I still miss the Air Force, the higher calling of the Air Force Mission and it's influence in all that we did and all the great people with whom I had the privilege of serving.

Life after the USAF

After retirement I went to work for Ralph M. Parsons Inc as a senior project manager slated for managing major projects then in the proposal stage. None materialized and after working on various aspects of projects for Disney, the LA Metro and a proposal for the reconstruction of Kuwait I wound up in Kingston, NY working the IBM program for the Boston subsidiary, C.T. Main. Inc.. I then moved to Westford, MA and for the next nine years worked as a Principal Project manager in San Jose (IBM); Boston (Polaroid); UK, US, Germany, Netherlands for Imperial Chemical as Director of Global Purchasing for Utilities, and finally for TSA on security checkpoints for airports in the northeast.

I retired in September 2003 and, after some mountain climbing in New Hampshire and Tanzania, took a stab at substitute teaching (which I enjoyed) but decided I liked traveling, golf, working around the house and working on town committees more. That's what I've been doing now for the last 7 years. Westford is a great little town with friendly neighbors. I've been involved in volunteer work for the town and enjoying it a lot. My experiences in the AF are helping as we struggle with budgets and getting control of projects and purchasing. Emma and I will probably stay in MA until winters like this last one and old age signal that it's time to move to a warmer climate. Meanwhile, Emma and I will continue to enjoy our children and grandchildren, the great weather for most of the year, the convenience of traveling throughout New England and anywhere in the world and our friends and neighbors whom we have enjoyed for the past 16 years. Staying in one place (16 years and counting) has kind of grown on us.
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