Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Bob's History

Bob.png I would like to be able to say that I had wanted to be a pilot from earliest age – but that would not be true. I frankly do not remember what I wanted to be and so it was through most of my school years.

My parents lived in Texas but moved to Gallup, New Mexico, for a few months where I was born, then returned to Texas, thereby preventing me from ever claiming to be a native born Texan. I attended school in Greater Floydada, Texas (Population around 4,000) where I was pretty good at everything – grades, sports, trumpet, scouts, etc. – but not great at anything. I graduated around fourth in a class of about 60 but with poor (read non-existent) study habits as I would soon discover.

I had some scholarship help from my National Merit Scholarship scores and some from music (trumpet) but cost was still the determining factor regarding college. My mother had ruled out West Point and Annapolis as being too far away but suddenly there was the US Air Force Academy in Colorado. Great looking uniform! That was close enough so I applied. My main motivation, interestingly enough, turned out to be a local judge who declined to recommend me, saying, “No kid from this school will get into that place.”

My family put me on a bus in Lubbock, Texas, on the evening of June 26, 1960, and I rode all night, arriving at the Colorado Springs bus station around 5:30-6:00 a.m. I did not yet realize that I meant 1130-1200 Zulu. I was not alone as several others were awaiting the shuttle bus. My plan was to get a room with a good view. I was wearing the new “good-quality walking shoes” that we were told to bring. I never wore them again, my mother's only complaint regarding USAFA.

I do not think I was the first to check in, but I was close. From the base of the ramp I recall the stairs and glass doors/rooms where we were processed. I seem to recall the last stop as some sweet ladies, perhaps Red Cross?, who offered me a doughnut. I declined saying I wanted to get settled soon. I recall their inexplicable laughter as they said, “ok, just go through those doors.” I'm glad someone thought it was funny.

Basic cadet summer in the 42nd Squadron was a delight and is a blur. The first classmate I remember is Brett Dula, and I remember a shower formation where the upperclassmen were ridiculing any prior college experience we had. Bob Lodge held out his arm when the question was asked, and they descended upon him with the sneering question, “Well, Squat, what pitiful school did you attend?” Bob said “Sir I spent three years at MIT.” The response was the upperclassman's way of ending an unsatisfactory conversation. “To.” And we moved on to other fun games. We also learned to follow even the most mundane orders when, after failing to pick up our first laundry delivery from the Denver Destroyers, we picked it up, under arms, at Cathedral Rock. Ah, memories.

As to the four years of academics and other endeavors, I learned a lot but not significantly more than required to depart intact and on time. My high school offered nothing beyond geometry so I was pleasantly (initially) surprised to be placed in accelerated calculus. Bad idea. Another sterling moment was in Captain Shoderbek's econ class, the first day, at 1300, right after lunch, when I went to sleep while he was warning us about going to sleep in his class. Another bad idea – but survivable.

I was on the gymnastics squad and the golf team but I did not contribute much in either. My Squadron, the 9th, did win the wing intramural football championship, and I did contribute there - I have the knee scars to prove it.

After graduation I was off to pilot training at Webb AFB. While there I was married and, upon getting my wings, went to Shaw AFB for training in the RF-4C. It was there that one of several fortuitous events of my career occurred. The first RF-4C Squadron to be deployed to SEA was being formed and half of my Squadron, the 9thTRS, was selected to go. Several circumstances deferred one's selection, in my case it was an expectant wife. In those days the wing commander chose to have one of the young aviators waiting around serve as his wing executive officer. I was selected and served in that capacity, flying as much as possible, accumulating hours to qualify for upgrade. My request to upgrade to the front seat was approved, and I was off to Vietnam as an aircraft commander.

In theater I upgraded to IP and flew 201 missions of which 55 were over Laos or North Vietnam. I was hit a total of four times but none made me walk home. I received the generally expected medals, DFC and Air Medal, and had the privilege of flying with Trusten McArtor on his dollar ride. I also became the father of two as a daughter joined the family.

Next stop was Germany, still flying the RF-4, enjoying great flying both in Germany and in Spain, and from Turkey to Norway. NATO Royal Flush competitions were stressful but fun. I then followed Dick Slye on the USAFE IG team, flying all models of the F-4.

Departing Europe I was to go to Intermediate Service School, but the release of our POWs blocked all open school slots, another fortuitous event, and sent me to the Pentagon, Europe NATO Plans and Policy, as a captain on the major's list. After four interesting years we departed, now with two daughters and a son - as a lieutenant colonel - for Air War College.

Two important things occurred, one a fortuitous event, around the end of school which changed everything. I was made an offer I couldn't refuse - to go to SAC- and I was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse. The two events combined to affect my future significantly because moving to the B-52 allowed me to continue flying under a waiver whereas I would have been grounded had I remained in the fighter/recce world. G forces and heart valve problems are not compatible.

At Loring AFB I flew the B-52, pulled a few alert tours and became the 69th Bomb Squadron commander. Next stop was Barksdale AFB where I served as 2nd Bomb Wing ADO and then DO. Next came Castle AFB as 93rd Bomb Wing Vice Commander and then Wing Commander.

I know many say that squadron commander is the best job in the Air Force but being the ranking officer on a base of 15,000 people, where you are responsible for everything was equally rewarding for me. After two years as commander at Castle AFB I got another year as wing commander at Dyess AFB, home of the first operational B-1 wing, following Al Rogers and Lee Butler before him. When I took command there were about three B-1's on base but they began arriving more frequently. We put the first one on nuclear alert 1 September, 1986, and had almost 30 on base when I departed in mid 1987.

Next was SAC headquarters where I was an assistant XP for computer integration with a corresponding position in the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff. I then moved to SAC/XO, plans and operations, dual-hatted as JSTPS/JP, the planner, where I was responsible for the nuclear war plan. Next followed assignments as Vice Commander 8 Air Force, Commander 3rd Air Division and Chief of Staff, HQ MAC, soon to be HQ AMC.

Around this time my heart issues caught up with me, and I was both grounded and medically retired, July 4, 1993. It had been a most enjoyable career for me because of the great people whom I knew and served with.

After retirement we moved to Chicago where, following doctor's orders to avoid stress, I successfully managed a golf club restaurant complex for three years. Wanting a bit more challenge, I went downtown into financial analysis with my son-in-law. After writing market analyses at all hours of the day and night and building a website, my heart spoke again. Wilford Hall Cardiology confirmed that it was to time to act so, on August 24, 2000, I underwent successful mitral valve repair surgery at the Cleveland Clinic.

After the surgery I made the difficult decision to move back to Texas, in part because I was no longer competitive for leadership/management positions and was unable to get my FAA medical clearance reinstated. Since moving I have been involved with various boards and committees, Rotary International and have become a deacon in the First Baptist Church.

Also back in Texas I met a lady, also from Floydada, and we married July 4, 2004. Combined we have six children and twelve grandchildren scattered all across the country, making birthdays, ball games, graduations, etc., frequent occurrences.. We enjoy it. We also enjoy traveling and hiding out at our cabin near Angel Fire, New Mexico.

Wish the best for each of you and look forward to many reunions.

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