Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

My History

C R Krieger, Class of 1964, and Proud of It

I was born in Johnstown, PA, a mill city (in the day), and with the war on and my Father getting a job as a Safety Inspector at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, went to Miami with my Mother and then, when my Father found a place, displaced to Wenonah, NJ. Then, in 1955, my parents bought a home in Leavittown, PA, but a chance for a job as the Safety Engineer at Long Beach Naval Shipyard led us to California. One nice thing about being there was that I got to solo an Aeronca Champ 7AC and racked up 35 hours before I graduated from high school. Being a below average student up through 12th grade I was happy to get into the Air Force Academy in the summer of 1960. After a lackluster career at the Academy, with the exception of the Richard I Bong Award for Outstanding Student in Military History, I graduated and was off to pilot training. Cliff1.jpg

I did do well enough to get an A Class slot to Craig Field, outside Selma, Alabama, where I met up again with my old roommate, Charlie Reynolds and his wife and daughter. From there it was an F-4 back seat and training at Davis Monthan AFB. Almost at the end we were called in by the DO, Colonel Chappy James, and told we were being pulled out to go as student back seaters at the first RTU since Korea. Off to MacDill and the 46th Tactical Fighter Squadron, where the front seaters became IPs, the back seaters (almost all former F-89 or F-101 Navigators) became student front seaters and we became, again, the student back seaters. The one good thing out of the MacDill assignment was finding my wife, Martha.

But, by July 1966, I was off to Snake School and then the 390th TFS, at DaNang. I actually thought I was assigned to the 480th, but on the second day, walking from the Officers Club to the squadron area I got a ride in a staff car, driven by the 390th Squadron Commander, who introduced himself and then I introduced myself and then he asked me where the heck I had been. I was, basically, a squadron whore, being passed from user to user, but by not taking R&R, I pretty quickly racked up 100 missions North and was ready to go home. The goal was to get home before Christmas, but CBPO wasn't providing us with any flights, so a buddy (1st Lt Wayne Bechler) and I hopped a ride on a C-141, riding on some cargo nets. We kept a low profile and made it to Oakland Commercial (Travis was fogged out).

From there I went to Bitburg and the Big 22, last of the Red Hot Fighter Squadrons, where I ran into some classmates, including Tom Morris and Bill Sakahara (who was running the Training Shop). Two and a half more years in the pit. In those days, at least in that squadron, you had to have a thousand hours in the back seat to be allowed to complain. My big adventure was to be at Wheelus Air Base, outside Tripoli, for gunnery camp, when Colonel Gaddafi overthrew King Idris. None of the locals showed up for work that day, but we got the jets out of there that morning. My tour in the Big 22 ended on a sad note.

I did have one adventure during my local front seat checkout. We were doing patterns at altitude and I put the landing gear down, being sure to push the landing gear handle in and then I felt something funny. The landing gear went down, came part way up and went down and locked. All the indications were good. We immediately returned to the field and when we rolled out everything looked good, so I taxied to the parking spot. The squadron chief of maintenance ducked under the wing and came back out and informed me that I had blown the gear down. I denied it. He told me that if I just admitted it it would be an easy fix. I denied it again—going for Peter's record. A week later I found him in the O-Club and asked him what they found. It was mis-rigged and any movement or jarring might have caused the gear to blow down. They had to re-rig it. You would have thought he could have come by and told me.

On my last ride as a real back seater (as opposed to an IP) my front seater was getting a check ride and it was a low level into France. As usual, the weather was not so good and we were on top, looking to talk to French Military Radar and to let down through a hole. We found one and dove down, but the StanEval pilot who tried to follow us got in trouble. It was his back seater's first ride in Europe after a tour in SEA, so he wasn't worried. The front seater called Eject and the back seater went, and made it by half a second. The front seater missed it by half a second. We ended up reflying that mission, with the head of StanEval doing the chasing.

Then down the taxiway to the 525, as a front seater, via George AFB and a quick checkout. There were more classmates, well at least one, Tony Covais. Tony is right in his own narrative about me having a big checklist bag. I was using one of those crew chief small tool bags. It slid forward and activated the auto pilot and so when I pitched out the airplane resisted and I thought I might have flight control problems. Turned out not. But, I was new in the front seat and had a lot to learn and a Cat IV checkout wasn't what I had hoped for. I also scraped the stabilator on a too nose high landing and that cost me a case of beer for the crew chiefs that had to replace the skids I ground down.

While there the Rated Assignments chap from USAFE Hq (still in Weisbaden) came by and told us we were all going to non-flying jobs. So, I volunteered for AFIT EWI. Then he called me and told me I had the EWI assignment, but should turn it down since I needed more time in the front seat. I stiffed him and took the assignment, to Honeywell Corporation, back in the Tampa area and we moved to Clearwater, Florida.

From there it was a short hop to Eglin AFB, where I did contracts on Weapons R&D. I loved the Weapons R&D part but I soon figured out that the contracts person was the one who would be left holding the bag. I talked my two younger brothers into the contracting dodge as civilians at Los Angeles Air Force Station and volunteered for a second tour in SEA, which I figured out not be as dangerous as being the contracts fall-guy. There were choices, but I figured to stick with what I knew, the F-4. So, a short checkout at Nellis (they shut down the Fighter Weapons School to get a bunch of us Cat IV checkouts). At Eglin I did learn to land an aircraft, from about 100 hours in the T-29. Very educational. The other thing I learned was that speed control was important. Single engine go around speed was 121 knots flaps up. Plus or minus 2 knots meant zero rate of climb.

After my checkout at Nellis it was off to Korat, where I figured to fly wing for a while and learn from the masters. Unfortunately, things were moving fast. When a couple of majors picked me up at the terminal they took me directly out to just short of the parallel taxiway, where I could see an F-4 in the wire on the runway and an F-105G smoking in from Takhli, low on fuel and landing on the parallel taxiway. They pointed out that they needed folks to be SOF up in the tower. It was very late 1972 and soon the war in the North was over and we were focused on Cambodia, which is interesting in that today I live in Lowell, MA, which is about 20% Cambodian, because we didn't do a good enough job supporting the Cambodian government and it became Year Zero and a lot of folks fled. In a couple of months I was a flight lead and a flight commander and a Maintenance Check Pilot then at six months an IP and SEFE. My most exciting experience was doing a test hop for an engine change. It was a clean aircraft and I requested quick climb. As luck would have it, the airspeed needle stuck on the bug before rotation speed and I had to knock it loose and then rotate. As I broke ground I heard “On take-off level off”, which I promptly did. Just then four Thuds thundered overhead on a Sawadee pass. From there I continued the mission. The engine was fine but the airspeed indicator needed to be replaced. She slipped through the Mach so smoothly I didn't even notice as my airspeed showed I was hung up at Mach .98.

I did miss my opportunity for fame while at Korat. I was the Wing Commander's IP. Colonel Bob Crouch was a prince of a person and I enjoyed flying in his back seat. But, as our pull-out from supporting Cambodia approached I decided I should take leave and return to the States, rather than say something stupid to some reporter. So, I was in my Florida Room at home when, on TV, I saw Lt Col Paul Schwimm getting out of Colonel Crouch's back seat on the last official mission into Cambodia. It turned out that one of the guys in my flight flew the last actual, albeit unofficial, mission, but he was someone who was always in trouble. I met Colonel Crouch in a later assignment when he was the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations at Allied Air Forces Southern Europe, in Naples, Italy.

Because I came out of Korat in December there was a question of where to send me for staff course and I lucked out and went to the RAF Staff College, in Bracknell, UK. I remember a comment on a paper about this maybe being acceptable in America, but being just plain ugly to the Directing Staff Member. The other interesting thing was that when our syndicate had to do the UK Defence Budget the Directing Staff Member put me in charge. My classmates got to the computer first and picked “Megadeath” as our name, in honor of my supposed American approach to defence issues.

Staff College led to three and a half years in Naples, Italy, as a tactical operations staff officer at Allied Air Forces Southern Europe. It was great fun and “summer hours” were very nice—and necessary, as there was no air conditioning. From Naples, I went to Eielson AFB (outside Fairbanks, Alaska), flying the O-2. It was two years of great flying and only going to one DO Staff Meeting, which isn't bad for a Squadron Commander. We managed to get ORI'd off of a draft OpPlan that we had been writing and updating every month that we had our own practice deployment. The aircrews and the ROMADs performed like champs and I had nothing to do (well, I did mess up one thing—I said, no, we don't have to make all the aircraft OR). Still, we passed with flying colors, since I only had one opportunity to make a bad call.

Alaska was great, but then I had to leave and it was off to Clark AB, RP, where I was the Assistant DO in an F-4E Wing (with an F-5 Aggressor Squadron commanded by classmate Nels Running). A year there and a year as the ADO at 13th Air Force (had to buy a white uniform) and then I was off to Army War College. Some of my classmates there included 64 Classmate Joe Redden, who ended up with our cat when it turned out Martha was allergic to cats.

I spent 15 months on the Air Staff at the Doctrine Shop (XOXID in the day). From there it was off to Ramstein AB and the USAFE Staff as the Assistant DCS Plans. A year there and I was down to the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing as the Commander for a conversion from the F-4E to the F-16C (Block 25) to the F-16C (Block 30). Interesting in part because the Block 30, with a new GE engine, was first fielded overseas. Interesting in part because we had an Air National Guard detachment pulling Air Defense Alert during the conversion. Interesting in part just for the flying, which was great, since it was Europe. Up until the last day of our time getting checked out at Zaragoza AB I had the best average for nuclear deliveries, but then a bright young captain beat me out, just as it should be.

Then it was back to the Pentagon as the Chief of the Strategy Division on the Joint Staff for three years and then off to the National War College as the “Chairman's Chair.” I stayed at National War College for three and a half years and then realized I was not going to be allowed to stay forever in a Blue Suit. So, I took a job in Andover, Massachusetts, working for Dynamics Research Corporation, helping to create the Universal Joint Task List for the Joint Staff. I eventually became a manager and then, when I was finally on social security, decided I needed to give it up or my likely replacement, a former Dutch F-16 pilot, might go looking for other work. Having helped arrange a joint spouse assignment between this chap and his wife, a US Air Force bio-engineer, I thought I should give him the shot. A good decision. I am now an “intermittent worker” and in the last 14 months have spent about three of them down in King of Prussia, PA, helping on a proposal—a proposal that Lockheed Martin, the prime, pulled out of at the last minute.

So, I am happily retired and going to night school with my wife. My goal is to finally get a degree that actually has a major. My wife's goal is much simpler. She just wants to get a better grade than I do. I think my USAFA grade point average was about 2.86, so it shouldn't be hard.

I have also helped Dr Janet Breslin write a history of the National War College, which should emerge this summer. Most of the work is hers, but I get my name on the cover so it should be great for Christmas presents.

In my now free time I serve on our city's Homelessness Committee and once in a while show up for the Local Cable Access City Life morning show. I write a blog, “Right Side of Lowell,” and am the chairman of the Ward 1 Republican Committee, which is a typical Massachusetts “no show” job, but without any pay. And, I twice ran for the position of State Rep, but the incumbent has more friends and relatives than there are registered voters, and besides, he is a Democrat in a Democratic Party State. But I did my civic duty and offered the voters a choice. If I run again I will be looking for contributions...

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