Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

The Pathway to Fighters!

Lee Downer

lee.png While I didn't know exactly how I would get to my ambition of flying the Air Force's finest fighters, USAFA was the start. Little did I know how many challenges were in store, but as the adage says, "just take the first step." Mechnics,Calculus,Chem and Aero were hazards in the road. Somehow,misguided as I was, I thought the theorums, formulae and Laws would come in handy one day. I should have been memorizing "Bold Face" procedures and learning how to calculate the site setting for 30 degree dive bombing. Oh well, I got through, without providing much of a threat to the academic standouts of the class.

Without airplanes to fly, skiing became the passion du jour. Starting as a black knight on 7 foot wooden skis at A Basin, I learned some lifetime lessons, with minimal breakage..a rib and thumb. I did my duty to the ski club reattaching errant edges, and repairing broken bindings on the relics of WWII. The baskets on the ski poles were the size of a regulation frisbee. The revolution in ski equipment finally reached USAFA, freeing us to focus on the more important aspects of skiing. The Red Ram in Georgtown, Tulagi's in Boulder or even the Golden Bee.

I will not be remembered for my GPA, OM or leadership position, but being President of the ski club may have been my public high water mark. But my stealthy achievements were another thing, as a charter member of Alex Harwick's (62) Mid-Night Skulkers. We managed to move the X4 out of the Arnold Hall complex to a much nicer place in front of Mitchell Hall. It took waterboarding to get us to finally cough up the name of the planner. In exchange for amnesty of sorts, Harwick instructed the perplexed base engineers how to reverse the effort instead of dismantling the aircraft, or Arnold Hall. On another sortie, we placed a pink painted fruit basket on top of the Planetarium. The effect was the world's largest breast, before silicon. I'm sure the Superintendent appreciated the view from his Fairchild Hall office. Other, minor harassment drills, involved the OIC's trousers, an AOC's car and the reflecting pools or flag pole. We did not paint the F100.

Yes Mick Jagger, sometimes you do get what you want. 33 years of flying the AF's finest fighters, culminating a week before my retirement. My last flight, leading 4 F16s from Hill to Langley, including a tactical mission on the UTTR, was met by my boss and his deputy. Dick Hawley and Bret Dula. They let me have my moment and then sprayed my down with the reality of cold water. We had a nice 64 thing going at ACC.

Since then I have been working with Defense industry to provide better tools to help the AF "Command the Air". I still haven't used my Calculus, Aero, Mechanics or Chem, but when I do see something that I like, I know it. As a digital immigrant, it has been a tough road to learn the ways of the web and cloud, but I go back to the beginning by taking that "first step" once again.
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