Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Chuck's History

Before USAFA

chuck300.jpg When I was a teenager [1953] growing up in NYC [Queens], I realized that my parents [both immigrants from England in 1930] would not be able to afford college for any of their three sons [as I had an older brother & a twin brother]…and if I was going to get a college education, I better come up with a plan. Television was very new in the early 50's but I remember watching a program called “The West Point Story.” It got my attention….I'll go to West Point and it is located in New York State!!! Never gave a thought to the Naval Academy [they didn't have a TV show]….you would think with my English genes and the great history of the Royal Navy, I would have given that option some thought….nope. However, to make things right and in keeping with our family's ancient heritage, my twin brother did join the Navy during the Vietnam War. I later figured out that I had Royal Air Force genes, as my brother and I were born during the “Battle of Britain,” which was fought during the Summer and Autumn of 1940.

When I was in Junior High School, I read in the paper that the newly established Air Force Academy had accepted it first class of cadets at Lowry AFB, Denver, Colorado. That was the groundbreaking Class of 1959. Wow!!! I had to reassess my plan. I'll never forget, for I went to the Air Force Recruiting Office in Flushing, Queens and asked lots of questions. Unfortunately, the Sergeant wasn't very knowledgeable on the AFA or its application process but wanted me to think about the Aviation Cadet Program when I graduated High School. Back then, if you got accepted into the program and completed pilot training… you got commissioned as a Second Lieutenant.

Long story short, I applied for an appointment with the Class of 1963 [graduated High School in ‘59] and ended up as a qualified first alternate in my NYC congressional district. The principal appointee accepted his appointment [bad for me]….and a side note….he left during his first year. Needless to say, I was very disappointed and subsequently realized that I really didn't have a good back-up plan. Then amazingly, a few weeks later…. I receive a letter from the AFA informing me that I had been selected with 99 other guys nationwide to attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School [NAPS] at Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Perryville, Maryland. Back in 1959, there was no AFA Preparatory School. If I accepted…I had to enlist in the Air Force Reserve, then I would be placed on active duty as an Airman Basic [E-1] in the summer of 1959, then off to Lackland AFB to attend basic training [that was a real joy…it was hot] as a cadre of 100. Upon completion of basic training, we would be sent to Bainbridge NTC and be enrolled in NAPS. There was no guarantee that upon successfully completing the course of instruction at NAPS that we would receive an appointment to the Class of 1964….we all had to re-apply for our nominations once again. However, it turned out to be a good decision for those of us who completed NAPS….. I'm pretty sure that after starting out with 100 at basic training about 70 earned an appointment into the Class of 1964.


The summer of 1960 was a shock, even after dealing with basic training the summer before….but those of us who had attended NAPS did have a big advantage over the majority of our classmates who had just completed high school. That whole first year was the pits….as I was older [turned 20 in September] than most 3rd and 2nd classmen. But thanks to my classmates, most of us made it to Christmas. Back then, the upper three classes went on Christmas leave and the Doolie Class [4th classmen] remained at the Academy. But imagine, no upper classmen screaming at you for two whole weeks and we had the entire Academy to ourselves. Families were allowed to visit [mine couldn't afford it]…and many did. Those of us without our families were adopted by classmate's families….what wonderful people. It became very clear to me during that Christmas break, that my exceptional classmates had their roots in kind and caring families….as did I. During my doolie & 3rd class years, my twin brother served aboard the USS Constellation, CVA-64. I took my being in the Class of '64 and his serving on CVA-64…. as a very good omen.

Before we knew it, doolie year was behind us. But it was a long grind while we all were under the 4th Class System. The next three years were most enjoyable for me….as I relished the increased responsibility that we were given as 3rd, 2nd, and finally 1st classmen. There is nothing quite like being a 1st classmen at the Air Force Academy. However, I did experience some problems during my journey….as I was on academic probation twice. I had to forgo Summer leave one year to repeat a Mechanics class that I had failed….fortunately I wasn't alone that Summer and my “Do Over” Mechanics class had some real characters in it….it wasn't a bad experience thanks to them and our great instructor. I found I had to study much harder than a lot of my very, very bright classmates. However, I did have some success on the military training side of the equation….First Sergeant during my 2nd class year, Squadron Commander during my 1st class year, and I was elected Squadron Honor Representative. But my fondest memory is knowing that I was trained and tested with some of the most amazing guy's I have ever been fortunate enough to know.

Air Force Career

64-65: After graduation I was off to pilot training at Craig AFB, Selma, Alabama. And yes, we were there for the March to Montgomery, I remember we were restricted to the base that day. We had a great group of guys [mostly classmates] in my class. We all had great time learning how to fly the T-37 and T-33 but I had to deal with serious disappointment when I didn't finish the program.

65-66: The Air Force subsequently decided that I should become a Communications-Electronics Officer, so I reported to Keesler AFB, Biloxi, MS for school. Selma, Alabama and then Biloxi, Mississippi…. a pretty good culture shock for a guy who grew up in New York City.

66-67: My first “real Air Force” assignment was to the 2178th Communications Squadron, McCoy AFB, Orlando, FL. I was now a 1st Lt and Chief of Maintenance. The 2178th was assigned to the Eastern Communications Region, Air Force Communications Service [AFCS]. I had a great group of senior NCO's, NCO's, and airmen [all 47 of them]. We maintained all the radar, navaids, and air-to-ground communications supporting McCoy AFB [which included supporting Eastern Airlines]. McCoy had two parallel runways, the East was used as Orlando Airport and the West was used by the Air Force. My tour lasted 18 months. I got married just before arriving at my next assignment.

68-70: My next assignment was to the 1956th Communications Group, Fuchu AS, Tokyo, Japan. The 1956th was part of the Far East Communications Region [also at Fuchu], the Pacific Communications Area, and AFCS. I was a brand new Captain when I reported to the 1956th to be their new Chief of Maintenance.

This assignment turned out to be one of the most challenging of my career. I'll try to make this brief, but it makes a good story I think. First you should know that the 1956th was a very large organization. It was commanded by a full Colonel, with a Lt Colonel for a deputy. The Chief of Maintenance was responsible for over 400 officers, NCO's, and airmen.

Now this is the fun part….about 18 months before my arrival, the Commander had a problem. He had a very sharp Major as his Chief of Operations [responsible for about 250 officers, NCO's, and airmen] and a not so sharp Lt Colonel as his Chief of Maintenance. AFCS had authorized those two field grade positions based on the complexity and demand for experience. However, to solve his personnel assignment problem, the Commander got the authorizations switched. Someone in authority should have stopped him but that didn't happen. So, he now had his sharp Major as Chief of Maintenance and his not so sharp Lt Colonel running Operations.

So when the Major was getting ready to rotate the Commander was informed by the AFCS personnel system that Captain [brand new] Handley was coming to fill his Chief of Maintenance position. The officers I got to know after arriving at Fuchu told me the Commander went crazy. He tried to tell the personnel guys that the job was too big and complex for a brand new Captain. The personnel guys then told him that Vietnam was taking a lot of Comm-Electronics Officers and they had every right to assign a Captain [albeit brand new] to a Major's position!!! {Which was in actually a LtCol position}.

Now get this…..then they told the Commander not to worry, for Captain Handley was a USAFA grad!!! [There weren't too many of us back then, especially in AFCS]. My nickname before my arrival to Fuchu was “the messiah.” I could really write a book on my 3 years at the 1956th …but that is for another day. Suffice it to say, I learned more about myself, leadership, and the technical side of the Comm-Electronics career field than I would have ever imagined three short years earlier. It was in a true sense, my trial by fire. Oh, the 1956th had five [yes 5] Commanders during my three year tour. On the wonderful flip side, my son and oldest daughter were both born at Tachikawa Hospital, “Made in Japan”… so to speak!

1971.jpg 71-72: I was a volunteer for duty in Vietnam, so when I got my orders to be the Chief of Maintenance, 1972nd Communications Squadron, DaNang Air Base, it came as no surprise. My work centers were responsible for 24/7 maintenance of the mobile radar, all navaids and air-to-ground communications, base telephone system [this work center was known throughout DaNang as the “Sunshine Telephone Company,” all comm center and cryptographic systems, the undersea cable terminal at Marble Mountain, and communications support at Monkey Mountain. I also had maintenance detachments at Chu Lai, Phu Bai, and Quang Tri. It was a very demanding year but I had a super team and we accomplished a great deal in supporting the ground and air war in Military Region One.

72: After DaNang, I was selected to attend the Staff Communications – Electronics Officer's Course at Keesler AFB, MS. The course lasted six months. I met a lot of great guys in my class and it also allowed me to de-pressurize with my wife and children after Vietnam.

72-74: AFCS then assigned me to be the Commander of the 1926th Communications Squadron, Robins AFB, GA. It was a LtCol position and I was still a Captain, so I felt very good about the confidence AFCS had shown in me. Robins was home to the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center. The 1926th Commander wore three hats….[1] Commander of the 1926th CS [tenant unit] with its 250 officers, NCO's, airmen, and civilians, [2] Staff Comm-Electronics Officer to the two star Commander of the ALC, and Base Comm-Electronics Officer to the Base Commander. When I arrived in Warner Robins, I noticed almost all cars had the following sticker in their back window: EDIMGIAFAD. Give up? “Every day in middle Georgia is Air Force Appreciation Day”!!!! Pretty neat, I thought. I was finally able to really put into practice the many lessons I had learned in my previous assignments. I was lucky to be selected one year below the zone to Major while at Robins. And to cap-off a great two years, my second daughter [my Georgia Peach] was born at Warner Robins.

74-75: Due to the BTZ promotion, I was doubly fortunate to attend the Air Command & Staff College at Maxwell AFB, AL. That was a great but busy year…as I [and many others] also attended night classes to obtain our Master's degrees. I was more than pleased when I received DG designation from ACSC and very relieved when I received my MPA from Auburn. I also pinned on my oak leaves during this year.

75-78: My good fortune continued….for I was again sent overseas to join the Signal Support Group[SSG], 4th Allied Tactical Air Force [ATAF/NATO], Ramstein AB, West Germany. My new position was Chief of Maintenance. My counterpart was the Chief of Operations, a very sharp German Air Force Major. He and I became a very good team and we are good friends to this day. The 4th ATAF Commander was a German Air Force three star….Carl Heinz Greve. The 4th ATAF was comprised of American, Canadian, and German Officers and NCO's. It was a great mix….we worked hard and played hard. Believe it or not, I was responsible for the maintenance of seven remote NATO microwave sites located throughout the Black Forest. I was required to visit each site every four months. It was tough duty but someone had to do it!!! My officer's and NCO's also maintained varied old and new communications systems in support of the Air Defense Operations Center (ADOC) - Kindsbach, AKA 'Kindsbach Cave.' I was again fortunate to be selected for promotion to Lt Colonel [one year BTZ] during this assignment. On the unfortunate side of the ledger, my wife and three children returned to the states after 2 ½ years in Germany and we were subsequently divorced upon my return stateside.

chuck81.jpg 78-81: Upon returning from Germany, I was assigned to the Northern Communications Area [AFCS/AFCC], Griffiss AFB, Rome, NY. NCA was responsible for supporting 23 Communications Squadrons/Groups at 23 locations in the northern half of the US, Alaska, and the Azores. I arrived as a Major and was assigned as the Chief, Maintenance Services Division. After I pinned on my silver oak leaves, I became the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics. Then in early 1979, I became the DCS/Logistics. I had great success in this position because all my previous experience gave me the tools to effectively lead a large group of C-E maintenance and supply professionals and really focus on what was important to the NCA/AFCC maintenance and supply missions. I also had the good fortune to be one of the few Academy grads in NCA during two changes of command [both Brig Generals]. Yes, you guessed it…I was selected to be the Commander of Troops for not one but two Change of Command ceremonies [parades, bands, etc.]. During this entire assignment, my three amazing children were in Satellite Beach, FL [just South of Patrick AFB] with their Mother and I missed them each and every day….so to cope and stay mentally strong, I worked long hours and most Saturdays…it helped.

81-83: My next assignment was Deputy Commander, 2179th Communications Group, Patrick AFB, FL. It was a tremendous reunion for my children [ages 12, 11, & 8] and me. They still lived with their Mother but I could see them whenever I wanted and they could see me whenever they wanted. My ex-wife and I worked hard at never saying or doing anything that would harm the children. The marriage may not have lasted but we each had three wonderful children to raise and nurture.

In June of 1982, I was again fortunate to be selected in the primary zone for promotion to Colonel. When the 2179th Commander got assigned to Brussels, I assumed Command. The 2179th had a very interesting and challenging mission supporting the Eastern Space and Missile Center, the flying mission at Patrick AFB, Cape Canaveral AFS, the Eastern Test Range, and believe it or not….we also maintained a Solar Observatory at Ramey, Puerto Rico. Then in early 1983, I was informed by the Colonel's Group that my next assignment would be to the Air War College, followed by a tour of duty at USAF Headquarters, at the Pentagon.

Ever since I had arrived at Patrick, I knew this day would come. How do I tell my son and daughters that we have to be separated again? Now I had to make a decision…go to the AWC in Alabama or turn down the promotion and retire and stay in Satellite Beach and be a part of my children's daily life. It really wasn't a difficult decision… for it did not take me long to realize that the Air Force had lots of Colonels but my three children only had one Father. And after four years of living apart [Germany – Florida / Upstate New York – Florida], I knew I could not tolerate any more. Therefore, I retired effective 1 November 1983….which happened to be the same day when my line number finally arrived for promotion to Colonel.

Over the many years since 1983, my children and their spouses and my six grandchildren have reinforced in me the knowledge that I made the right decision. No regrets…..curiosity maybe….but no regrets.

Post Air Force Life

Stock Broker for A.G. Edwards & Sons, Melbourne, FL

Manager Maintenance Operations, Airways Engineering, Presidency of Civil Aviation, Bendix Field Engineering Corp., Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Contractor supporting various NASA/KSC Safety & Mission Assurance Office contracts [Space Shuttle & Constellation Programs]

My last day at KSC was January 6, 2011.


Jill, Chip, Dad, and Susan

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