Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Gaylord's History

gaylord_marcia.jpg Born June 26, 1941 in Gillette, Wyoming.
Entered USAFA June 26, 1960

Applying to the Air Force Academy was named first alternate and was selected to go to the Air Force Academy / Naval Academy Preparatory School, Bainbridge, Maryland in 1959. I entered the Air Force Academy, 1960, on my birthday. My sister and mother dropped me off at the Academy that first day. My sister gave me a big kiss leaving lipstick as I went up the ramp for the initial bracing. The only thing worse than having lipstick at that point was that it was from my sister.

My major at the Air Force Academy was Engineering Science which required many additional classes over the basic major. I took every advanced course in Astronautics and Aeronautics that the Air Force Academy offered. Computers were really basic in those days, so most of the work was done by slide rule with more engineering calculation capability than our Academy computer. Maintaining an ability for pranks at a serious institution as USAFA was important. Once for a joke, my roommate, John Murray, and I created a phony radio program. Our target was the Squadron Commander next door who had a serious girlfriend at Colorado University 90 miles away. With the cooperation of our target's room mate, we ran a cable from our tape recorder into his radio. The program was a news report of his girlfriend who had been picked up and arrested as the leader of a call girl operation. The timing worked perfectly with the broadcast ending right after an inspection on a snowy day. He immediately ran to a phone and called his girlfriend. His first words were “Have you been listening to the radio?” She said she just looked at the phone. The couple eventually got married.

After receiving a B.S. in Engineering Science from the U. S. Air Force Academy in 1964, I went on to Stanford University to receive a M.S. in Aeronautics & Astronautics in 1965.

My first Air Force assignment out of Stanford was the Douglas Aircraft Co. in Santa Monica CA where I worked on the Thor\Delta Space Booster. At this assignment, I was involved in many launches and a few failures which became valuable background in my later career with GPS and Gravity Probe B, a test of Einstein. One of my coordination responsibilities was an operational anti-satellite system at Johnson Island in the Pacific. To visit the site always required a day or two in Honolulu. At the site, there was a picture of the last woman on Johnson Island four years prior.

During this Douglas Aircraft 4 year assignment, the family spent three months in Montgomery, Alabama for Squadron Officers School (about 14 months after their first daughter Kimberly was born - July 20, 1966). They also spent six months in Grand Forks, North Dakota (less than 1 month after their second daughter Julisa was born - June 24, 1968). This assignment was delayed for Julie to be born. It was quite a trip from Los Angeles to Grand Forks ND with a one month child. Montana weather was cold in the winter, but I had never seen anything like Grand Forks. One morning in November it warmed up to 22 degrees F and it was raining. My Pontiac had a great and powerful defrost system, but could just barely open a hole in the center of the windshield ice. As I drove out to the Air Force Base that morning, every rear engined VW Beatle was stopped with the owner scraping off the ice accumulation on the front windshield.

The next assignment was Norton Air Force Base between 1969-73 designing and testing Advanced Ballistic Re-entry Systems - Maneuvering Re-entry Vehicles and Guidance and Control Systems. The object was to fly an object at mach 20 and 200 g's and hit a target 6000 miles away with great precision. My guidance system that was developed and tested as part of the program eventually became the Cruise Missile Guidance system. We bought our first house in Redlands CA which is a cultural oasis in the desert. We watched Neil Armstrong step on the moon during daughter Kimberly's (Class of 88) third birthday party at our Redland's house. She did not understand why no one was interested in her birthday party on 20 July 1969, but she always knows the date man first stepped on the moon.

The next move was to Los Angeles in 1972 to create a program called Navstar Global Positioning (GPS) System. This is a satellite navigation system which allows positioning anywhere in the world to a few feet. The program was always a hard sell when people would ask what does it do? When the response was it tells you where you are, you would always hear “I know where I am, why do I need a Billion dollar satellite system to tell me where I am?” I developed the GPS satellite orbits and tracking requirements in our living room as the Aerospace computers still required an awkward turn around time for analysis. It was here that Kim signed up her dad to give classes to young students. She accomplished this by using her spelling word America in a sentence. She wrote “My daddy builds satellites for America.” So when GPS was a figment of the imagination, I was signed up to talk to my daughter's third grade class. Now I can talk to engineers, but to do a good job for the 3rd grade of my daughter made this talk one of the most difficult for which I ever prepared.

My next move was March 77 and resulted in a commute back to Norton AFB for the assignment. First, I was in charge of an advanced Missile Guidance and Control System, then the M-X Security Systems, Command Control and Communications, and ended as Minuteman Program Manager (a strategic missile system). During a very dynamic time in 1981 under President Regan, I had representatives from the White House who attended my key meetings occurring weekly during one summer month. The key was for me to take good notes of all the discussions and send out the tasks to my team so they could work while I met and gave presentations. This effort became the precursor to the Star Wars program or Strategic Defense Initiative, a major contributor to the ending of the Cold War.

Out of his personal experiences and out of his professional experiences, Gaylord developed a philosophy about life. It was so intriguing to people that he was invited on multiple occasions to teach college classes on the subject. The home work problem given the students to work before the class was as follows: “You are given $1 billion in gold and the knowledge you have today and no more. Your mission, and you have chosen to accept it, is to be placed 100 years back in time to change history. You may choose anything that you want to do to make a difference. You can have anybody assist you who is alive at that point in time. What would you do and how would you go about it?” Notice in the question, all management excuses are eliminated – people, money and knowledge.

After a year at ICAF, we next moved to Torrance CA in 1984, where I was placed in charge for one year of all future plans for space activities for the Air Force. As the Chief of all space planning activities I once received a flying saucer report from a woman who was very serious and had talked to many people along the way. She insisted on talking to a person of the highest authority. After becoming convinced that she was convinced, I did not know what to do with the report. As I had a meeting with the General every morning at 0700 and the Intel commander always set next to me, I was determined to pass the report along to him. His mouth dropped when I told him as he had received six similar reports the prior day. I told him it was an Intel problem and he told me it looked like a technology issue which was my responsibility. We decided to meet in the afternoon and as it was Friday, decide what to do for the weekend. At the meeting we did not know what to do so we decided to wait until Monday and hope nothing serious would happen over the weekend. That Friday night, the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Los Angeles, a flying saucer with a single secret rehearsal kicked off the Olympics ceremony. I can verify that the Air Force does not know what to do with flying saucer reports.

The following year, I was assigned to command the GPS (Global Positioning System) Program Office from 1985 to 1988. There were only six GPS satellites at the time and when the Shuttle exploded we were grounded until we developed an alternative launch vehicle to deploy the system. We did a rapid procurement to buy the Delta II booster which was my work on my first assignment. The job was very demanding, but also rewarding. One of the job's side benefits required making several trips to Europe to participate and coordinate NATO activities. Virginia came along for three consecutive years where she saw most of Western Europe. I always took leave associated with these trips so we could play tourist. Julie came to live with us at this time, graduating from Torrance High School. Julie being in high school and with Virginia and I in Europe, there might have been a party or two in the house. The house was always clean when we returned. But when we moved for retirement and removed all furniture, I gave up in trying to reclaim our security deposit after I saw what the furniture had covered.

While I was the Commander of the GPS program office, I was also elected as the President of the Institute of Navigation which had a strong civilian GPS presence. So basically as a practitioner of how to change the world, I had my opportunity. I had all the money from a program that could not launch satellites. I was in charge of the military as well as the civilian communities so I had extensive community support. I knew exactly what had to be done to secure GPS as the predominant navigation system of the world. It was enjoyable making the design changes and watching the necessary organizations form in both the civil and military communities to secure the GPS success. Later in life, a Captain who worked for me on GPS and later became a Lt. General (3 Star) described me as the “King of GPS”.

I retired from the Air Force on 1 November 1988 with a first class retirement celebration. My father attended and worried what was I going to do next as I was too young to retire (47). Stanford University had been actively recruiting me to manage the most sophisticated spacecraft ever to be put into space. It looked like a lot of fun and incorporated all the technology on which I had worked in my Air Force career. Stanford had been working on the payload for 30 years and was now ready to wrap the satellite around the experiment. (Yes they were working on Gravity Probe B when I attended graduate school at the very start of my Air force career.) The project used the world's most precise gyroscope to measure (as Einstein predicted) the curvature and rotation of space near the vicinity of the earth. Basically our GP-B team tested Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

More details are provided in the following PDF file.

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