Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Terry's History


Early Days

From my early teens I wanted to attend one of the United State's military academies and wrote numerous letters seeking Congressional sponsorship. But falling short on some academics, the Air Force designated me a 'qualified alternate' for the USAF Academy and offered me the opportunity to attend Basic Training followed by one year at the U.S Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS) prior to the next season of qualifying exams. Knowing I had no money for college and no other opportunity to attend college, I accepted the Air Force offer. There was only one catch (my first lesson in how the military does business); enlist in the AF Reserve for six years -- if accepted into the Academy, my enlistment would be suspended until graduation; but if I were to not graduate or fail out of the Academy, my enlistment would be reinstated for five years. My choices were to enter the Academy and undergo basic training a second time or endure five years in enlisted service. I chose four grinding years at the Academy and accepted my commission as an Air Force 2nd Lieutenant in June, 1964.

Learning to Fly

Pilot training at Moody AFB, Ga. in was followed by four years in B-52's as a co-pilot with upgrade to aircraft commander and numerous Chrome Dome missions, 24 hour flights with orbits over Alaska or Greenland, in a GO-NO- GO; nuclear airborne alert mode. It was the height of the Cold War, marked by active wars between Israel and Egypt, the Cuban missile crisis, and the tensions of nuclear stalemate between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Political reconciliation between the two superpowers was ‘edgy' at best. From the Cold War with the Russia, I found myself in a hot war in Vietnam in 1969 as an OV-10 Forward Air Controller (FAC) with the Army's 1st Infantry Division at Dau Tieng and Lai Khe, South Vietnam. After 390 combat missions, to include the Cambodian invasion, I returned to a young wife who had experienced more absence than presence in our marriage and a nine-month-old son I had seen only once.

Following my experiences in Vietnam, I vowed never again to fire a gun or fly an aircraft carrying weapons. While watching the televised reports of the return of US Prisoners of War, I was very dismayed, brought to tears, and angered that the US government had never initiated any repatriation action for our POW's except negotiation talks in Paris and a bungled raid on the empty camp at Son Tay. We were sent into a war zone and left to fend for ourselves…fight or die or both I'm surprised that so many of us survived; but sadly many didn't. The Vietnam Wall Memorial testifies to the names of 58.000 young men who did not return. Casualty rates in 1969-1970 were averaging 500 killed/week. In my unit alone, the 1st Infantry Division, the casualty rate for wounded or killed was 90% for a one-year tour

The Peacetime Air Force

Next was a five-year hiatus from flying to attend Texas A&M University for 2 yrs to attain a Master's degree in Mathematics and a 3 year tour at the US Air Force Academy as an instructor in the Mathematics Department where I taught Calculus, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, and Probability. While there, I was also an instructor pilot in the cadet aviation program and qualified 14 cadets through ‘solo' requirements in preparation for full pilot training. My tour was further enhanced by the birth of my second son. Concluding the Academy tour, I attended Air Command & Staff College in Montgomery, Alabama.

Non -Combat Years

On return to flying duty, I was offered a choice between B-52 bombers or air-refueling tankers. I easily accepted KC-135 tankers and directed the 32nd Air Refueling Squadron as operations officer without a squadron commander for three years. The 32nd squadron was temporarily disbanded following the base closure in 1978. Next followed a staff position at Strategic Air Command Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska where I migrated into a series of air refueling studies that ultimately resulted in the modification of all (approx. 350) KC-135's with new engines and the purchase of 60 new KC-10 air refueling tankers. That study and series of briefings, from the Air Staff to the JCS to the White House, was the only progress in over 20 yrs to advance the USAF's effort to improve the military's air refueling capability. Ironically, the new squadron for the KC-10's was renamed the 32nd Air Refueling Squadron … the one I closed in 1978.

Those studies resulted in my nomination as the first non-instructor pilot to be selected as a refueling squadron commander , and I was subsequently assigned as commander of the 42nd Air Refueling Squadron, Loring AFB, Maine, a leper colony absent of discipline or military courtesy, an evaluation section grown beyond their purpose, and the absolute ugliest squadron patch in the entire Air Force. All of that found it's end!

Uniforms got cleaner, a more egalitarian squadron patch was designed, crew show-times were enforced, dereliction eliminated, crew pride and cohesion improved, and squadron unity and identity emerged to be rated as “Excellent” by the Office of the AF Inspector General. It was the best experience in my Air Force career.

Former B-52 Pilot Goes to Russia

Next came a two-year early promotion to Colonel and selection to attend the National War College at Ft. McNair, Washington, DC, where I was among the first group of U.S. military officers permitted to visit the USSR/Russia since the early 1950's. As a former B-52 pilot, the sense of standing at Lenin's tomb in the center of Red Square in Moscow, a former Designated-Ground-Zero (DGZ), was an incredible experience. The Cold War, at least my war, was truly over.

My Final Tour

Following National War College, I was assigned to the Pentagon's Air Staff, Studies and Analysis Directorate, as Division Chief of the Strategic Analysis Division. While traditionally this Division sponsored weapons-improvement programs, I shifted emphasis from weapons development to nuclear arms disarmament. I concentrated on the Strategic Arms Limitations Treaties (SALT I and SALT II) and worked with the Air Staff, Joint-Chiefs-of-Staff, the Arms Control Disarmament Agency (ACDA), the US State Department, and the White House on alternate proposals for negotiation. I also presented one-on-one weekly updates to the AF Chief of Staff. The end result was international agreement between the U.S. and Russia to ratify both Treaties. Hence, the original role of the B-52 as a nuclear deterrent, or respondent, was negated and nullified. There was no need for nuclear war, no need for the nuclear-capable planes, and no need for the nuclear mission. Other roles and missions for the B-52 force would emerge, but the nuclear-era was over! My work was done; my duty fulfilled . I retired in December, 1986, having kept my post-Vietnam vow to never again fire a weapon or fly an aircraft carrying weapons.

Post Retirement

The years after retirement have been spent as a free-lance consultant and writer in nuclear arms negotiation and as an aviation analyst with the Boeing Company (who had no interest in diminishing their sale of war products); owner & operator of a UPS/Fedex shipping franchise in Virginia, separation from aviation and my previous wife, landscape construction foreman in Colorado, and most recently as a paint specialist for Sherwin-Williams paint company. I am now remarried to a wonderful woman from England and fully retired in the woods of Maine.

Epilogue

I thoroughly enjoyed my years and experiences in the Air Force. It was my dream-come-true. The challenges for the future military leadership are to make it possible for the future dreams of young men and women come true. The easiest way for that to evaporate is to continue the practice of consecutive tours in a combat zone --- two, three, four consecutive tours, with each tour accompanied with a consecutive Purple Heart.


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