Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Nick's History

nick.png Given with what it had to work, the USAF Academy did a superb job preparing me for an Air Force career and for adult life.

In 1960 when I received my appointment to the USAF Academy, after attending the Naval Academy Preparatory School as an Airman, my father was interviewed by the Gazette Telegraph (the Colorado Springs' newspaper then). My father stated that I had a terrific “opportunity.” At the time, I did not fully understand my father's wisdom. Fifty-some years later, I have no doubt.

There was not an Academy academic and military course that I took, and I took only the basic courses, that I did not use at some time during my Air Force career and adult life. Even the hated Poli Sci courses came in handy on numerous occasions.

During my cadet years, I was never near the head of any academic class, except for the short Navigation course. As a matter of fact, I made the upper 95% of several courses possible. However, my military standing was strong, as I was on the Commandant's List seven or eight semesters. –but probably undeserving on several—

I grew-up in Fountain, Colorado about twenty miles south of the Academy and was a fairly successful high school basketball player. Coach Bob Spear, USAFA Basketball Coach, was looking for some local talent. Coach Spear was instrumental in bringing me to the Academy. Despite playing behind Johnny Judd, an absolutely superb basketball player, I played intercollegiate basketball four years at the Academy.

During our Third-Class Year, classmates Frank Packer, Jack Hudson and I purchased a light aircraft, (Taylorcraft, BC-12D) from the Colorado University Aero Club. We flew from a gravel strip just north of Fountain. (Houses and a shopping center in Security currently are located on the former air strip.) Jack had about 35 flying hours and his private license, while Frank and I had no flying time. We arranged for a civilian flight instructor and started our own flying training program. By graduation in 1964, we acquired two other aircraft, a WACO UPF-7 bi-plane and a second Taylorcraft, after our first Taylorcraft, while parked at USAF Academy Pine Valley, was ripped apart by a ferocious windstorm off the Rampart Range. (We had been ordered to bring our aircraft to Pine Valley.) We rebuilt the WACO in the former cadet woodworking shop on the ground level at the east end of Vandenberg Hall. By the time I arrived at Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) in August 1964, I had 175 flying hours. Frank and Jack had more. (Our flying training program and our continual fight with a few Air Officers Commanding is a terrific story which I intend to write soon.)

My light-plane flying hours logged while at the Academy were extremely helpful to me at UPT at Moody AFB, Georgia. I graduated as an Outstanding Graduate, received the UPT Officer Training Award and was assigned the F-105 after graduation. My UPT instructor asked me why I chose the F-105, “Pilots are getting killed in that aircraft!” I responded, that was “where the action was” and that I wanted to be on the “first team.” Little did I know, at the time, what I really meant.

After Combat Crew Training at Nellis AFB and during the following F-105 tour in Southeast Asia in 1966 during the Vietnam War, I found the action and was on the “first team.” (See my accompanying story regarding 1964 classmates and the F-105.) After 100 missions over North Vietnam, I was assigned to Williams AFB as a T-38 instructor.

Admittedly, I really loved flying, particularly fighters. It was one of those very rare situations in one's life when the passion for what you do, exceeds almost everything else in life. I would have paid the Air Force to let me fly, but instead, the Air Force paid me. What a great deal! I later returned to fighters, flying the A-7 at Davis Monthan AFB and in Southeast Asia, during a second tour at the end of the War in 1974-75.

Despite my passion for flying, I also had a desire to progress in rank and lead. Several opportunities came my way. I succeeded classmate Al Rogers as Aide to the Commander of Air Force Recruiting Service. (A note to young Air Force officers reading this, never pass-up an opportunity to be an Aide.) This one-year assignment was an excellent exposure to higher level management and leadership of our Air Force. Before returning to fighters (F-4E) and flying, I walked the halls of the Pentagon coordinating unit-and-base program activities. Though much of my Air Staff activities involved flying units, I did have the unique opportunity to negotiate with foreign governments, the building of a solar observation system around the earth to monitor the sun 24/7.

Never would I have anticipated being selected to attend the Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) in London as my senior service school in 1983. It was an outstanding one-year course with about 40% of the course membership from outside the United Kingdom. The College was run in typical British style, with ample opportunity to get to know the other members. What a great opportunity for me to sit-down with the Major General from the Egyptian Army and discuss his involvement in the invasion of Israel in 1973. Or talk with the German Colonel about stopping the Soviets in Europe. Later, he became the senior German military officer. --also, to talk with a British officer regarding the deep-seated, yet subdued, tensions between the British and French-- It was a terrific year!

After RCDS, I was blessed to work for Sam Westbrook, a Rhodes Scholar and USAFA Class of 1963. I was assigned as Commander, 48th Combat Support Group, while later-to-be Maj/Gen Westbrook was Commander, 48th Tactical Fighter Wing, RAF Lakenheath (F-111 wing). General Westbrook was one of the finest leaders for whom I had the pleasure to work.

During this period at RAF Lakenheath, there were many British citizens protesting against the deployment to Europe of the Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) system, many who demonstrated at RAF Lakenheath and attempted to penetrate our fence line. We initiated, probably, the first Security Police use of a long-range infrared surveillance system, using the F-111 bombing system to monitor our fence lines at night and to direct dog teams to intercept the intruders. We mounted the infrared bombing pod on the top of an eighteen-wheeler truck bed, with monitoring screens on the inside. The operator directed dog teams to the fence line as intruders approached. Organic long-range infrared systems were procured later by the Air Force Security Police using the RAF Lakenheath experience as a model.

In 1985, I left RAF Lakenheath for Headquarters, USAF Europe, where I was Director of Inspection, taking the IG teams on inspections around Europe. Unexpectedly, I received a call from Personnel asking me to consider moving back to the United Kingdom and becoming the Defense and Air Attaché at our Embassy in London. (The incumbent was being assigned as Wing Commander, RAF Molesworth, a GLCM base.) After considerable deliberations, I accepted the Attaché job.

The assignment made a lot of sense, because many of my RCDS colleagues held senior staff positions in the Ministry of Defence or were British/NATO field commanders. Little did I realize while at the Academy in the early 1960s that I would be using extensively, the principles of the dreaded Poli Sci courses.

The Embassy assignment was quite interesting and challenging. I was involved in many international issues of the time. I had excellent relations with my British counterparts. I hosted many visiting senior US military officers, and escorted the Chief of the Defence Staff to the US on visits at the invitation of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. I even wore the AF formal uniform with white tie. The occasion was my escorting the US Ambassador, along with other department heads, to present his credentials to the Queen. My office was involved extensively with Presidential visits and the Embassy's emergency response to the Pan Am 103/Lockerbie terrorist attack.

After six and half years in the European Theater, I returned in 1989 to Washington, D.C. to Defense Intelligence Agency Headquarters. --it was just in time to get my three teenagers driver's licenses, all at the same time-- The Cold War was coming to an end as the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain were being dismantled.

I retired from the Air Force in 1990 and stayed in the Washington, D.C. area for the next three years working with US intelligence agencies. I had an extraordinarily unique opportunity to have “a front row seat to the demise of the Soviet Union.” This three-year experience was a terrific “capstone” to my Air Force career during the Cold War. To discuss Cold War events face-to-face with the former enemy gave me unusual insight into the tremendous risks that we faced and confirmed that the Soviet Union was truly an “evil empire.”

So far, I have written only about me. But one of the best things that happened in my lifetime was my meeting, dating and marrying Patricia, my wife of 45 years. Most of the things that I was able to do were because of her steady support, her superb care of our family and her steadfast love. Patricia grew-up on a farm in South Georgia. She was Salutatorian of her high school class and received her Georgia teacher's certificate in 3 ½ years from Valdosta State College. She was a high school science teacher when we met while I was at pilot training.

We are extraordinarily proud of the education accomplishments of our three children. Gary, our oldest, is a world class artist. Brian, our middle son, is an MBA graduate from the University of Virginia, Darden School of Business. Alyson, our daughter, has a master's degree in nuclear engineering. Notwithstanding, our grandchildren are our greatest pride.

In late 1993, Patricia and I moved back to South Georgia to our 145-acre farm that we purchased in 1977. From 1994 to 2006, I worked the farm and worked for local government in emergency communications and emergency management. Since 2006, I spend my time on the farm and volunteering with several local non-profit organizations and our church.

Total Active Military Duty (not including the USAF Academy): 26 years, 10 months, and 18 days.

Important Medals: Silver Star, Defense Superior Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with 2 devices, Air Medal with 11 devices and others.

--1964: BS: Military Science: USAF Academy
--1971: Squadron Officers School (correspondence)
--1974: Air Command and Staff
--1974: MBA: Auburn University at Montgomery
--1975: Air War College (correspondence)
--1983: Royal College of Defence Studies, London, United Kingdom

Words of Wisdom:

Life is a wonderful challenge requiring a balance among many demands. My lifetime goals hopefully reflect a balance:

1. Contribute to the American Society (through my military career and other public service);

2. Raise a well-educated and happy family and provide Patricia an environment in which to continue to grow as a person;

3. Maintain my mental and physical health;

4. Prepare for life hereafter; and

5. Continue to develop as a person.

Note: It is worth mentioning that in the USAF Academy Cadet Library, the members of 10th Squadron, Class of 1964 placed paper copies of their Annual Christmas Newsletters which provide annual updates of most members' lives since 1966. (Several Newsletters from the years in the early 2000 are not available due to our unsuccessful attempt to use the Internet as the communication medium for the Newsletter. Also, Year 1975 is missing.)

written March 2011
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