Class Of 1964 USAF AcademyI was born in Chicago, the oldest of six children and the son of a Chicago Police officer and a great (and very busy) stay-at-home mom. I attended Catholic elementary school in Chicago, and Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Illinois. Fenwick was a very discipline-oriented, college prep high school, and I have always believed that those features were critical to my being appointed to the Air Force Academy, and being able to (barely) survive the first year there. I had several uncles who served in World War II; but other than that, my family had little background in military life, and none at all with the concept of “going to college.” Nonetheless, June 27, 1960 found me on a bus from Denver to the Academy, and life changed in dramatic ways. The first change was my middle name—I had always used “John” (my dad's name) but discovered during the application process that legally it was “Oscar” (my grandfather's name). I had hoped to fix the issue legally, but before long in that summer of '60 I had so many records in my legal name that I just learned to live with my middle name—still used as my nickname by many squadron mates.

I was assigned to 13th Squadron for our entire stay, and as a group we worked hard, played hard, and enjoyed some degree of success as cadets both collectively and individually. As was true of most new cadets, I had hopes of going to pilot training; but lousy eyes—beyond what could be waived—ended that possibility. I enjoyed, and did well in, Aero and Astro, and turned my attention to getting into graduate school as a first assignment.

We graduated on June 3, 1960; and, like most of us, I was happy to "frame" the Academy in my rear-view mirror. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college, and I had been fortunate to be selected to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology, along with squadron-mate Paul Kaminski, and classmate Ferg Henderson. Our focus at the time was Astronautics, and many of our faculty members were also instrumental in the Gemini and Apollo programs with NASA; as well as missile and satellite programs with DoD. Nonetheless, when graduation arrived, I received my first choice of base of assignment, Wright-Patterson in Dayton OH, to the then Research and Technology Division, in June 1966; and a few months later to the then Aeronautical Systems Division. That began a many-year career in the Air Force Acquisition business.

I spent almost seven years at Wright-Patterson on my first tour there, in the Deputy of Engineering, supporting an array of programs, including B-70, F-15, many C-130 and K/RC-135 mod efforts, and the RPV program office. Probably the most interesting jobs while assigned at ASD were two six-month TDY assignments to 7th AF at Tan Son Nhut AB Vietnam from Dec '69 to Dec ‘70; where we worked with the 7AF Requirements shop and the operational Wings in SEA to identify combat deficiencies that could be mitigated through quick fixes followed by longer-term, permanent capability improvements. Shortly after my Vietnam assignments, I became the program manager of an advanced development program to improve he avionics in a low altitude reconnaissance drone (Buffalo Hunter-type platform). Upon completion of Squadron Officer School in spring 1971, I returned to WPAFB and met a 1/Lt Air Force dietitian, Lynn, who shortly thereafter was assigned to Patrick AFB. We settled into a long-distance romance, and were married in January 1973.

Lynn and I then received "joint" assignments to Andrews AFB, where—after a brief stint in the Air Force Systems Command IG—I was selected as the aide to the AFSC Vice Commander, LtGen John Hudson, a World War II P-47 pilot and one of the original officers in the ICBM program. That assignment was a true learning opportunity; and was followed by Defense Systems Management College in 1975 and Armed Forces Staff College in early 1976. We then returned to Wright-Patterson in summer 1976, with assignments in the Tanker and Cargo program office—mostly the KC-X (which became the KC-10); and later in the F-16 program office.

While working the F-16 program, I became acquainted with the Comptroller at Electronic Systems Division at Hanscom AFB. This led to something of an unplanned and abrupt turn in my career. After many years in generally aircraft programs and technical/management positions, I found myself in the financial business; I was reassigned in mid-1979 as the Director of Budget (and later, Director of Cost Analysis) at Electronic Systems Division.

We spent three years at Hanscom, then moved to Virginia while I attended ICAF in 1982-83. From ICAF, I was assigned to HQ AFSC at Andrews, as Director of Cost and Management Analysis, and later as Director of Programs/Budget. My final assignment was as the AFSC Major Command Programmer, responsible for building the AFSC piece of the (then) Five Year Defense Plan. It was in this final AF position that I deduced several “precepts” that are tough to accept—but are still relevant today: every dollar in a budget has a proponent and a benefactor; every dollar has a heart-rending story for why that dollar is critical to National Security, and how—with just one more dollar—the two dollars could do so much better; there is not one dollar in the budget that anyone believes is “unworthy” and no one likes to prioritize requirements; and the aggregate of dollar “requirements” will always exceed the supply.

I retired from the Air Force in summer 1988, having enjoyed almost every day of my 24+ years of commissioned service. My kids (more later) were getting close to high school age, and I didn't really want to move one more time to end my AF career. I accepted an offer from the Institute for Defense Analyses, a Federally-Funded Research and Development Center (not-for-profit) in Alexandria VA, which performs studies and analyses for the OSD, JCS and the CoComs. We remained in Virginia, and I was a full-time member of the research staff at IDA until 2005, when Lynn and I moved to Denton Texas and I became a part-time adjunct research staff member at IDA. The work at IDA is very diverse, and I have participated in efforts on the Future Combat System, test range infrastructure operations, organizational realignments and base closure, DoD public information organizations and outreach programs to the Ministries of Defense of former Warsaw Pact countries, former Yugoslav Republics, and former Soviet Republics. I am still at IDA, working about half-time, and still—in general—enjoying it.

Lynn and I have three children. Mike was born at the Andrews AFB hospital in 1975, is an environmental engineer and project manager, working on military range cleanup (among other things); lives in Keller, TX; is married to a Amanda, a mechanical engineer and math teacher; and they have two children. Patrick was born at Wright-Patterson AFB hospital in 1976; is a civil engineer; lives in Cincinnati with his wife Laura and their son. Kristin was born in West Concord (next to Hanscom) in 1979; has degrees in teaching and bio-mechanics; lives in Austin TX; and works for a start-up spinal imaging company.

"Our Air Force" was a different place than it is now. We had 600 thousand members. The acquisition business in which I served had many of us "blue-suiters" who essentially spent our entire careers trying to build the best systems we could for those of you who had to go and fight with those systems. We also had numerous "rated-supp" folks who had completed their flying gates, and joined us the acquisition business (as well as other parts of the AF)--and when you "rated supps" became directors of requirements or ops or commanders of major commands; we had prior relationships that facilitated the discussion of issues among us. I think a lot of the things "we had" have been lost as the Air Force shrunk to its current 300+ thousand size, and military careers have understandably become more focused on operations. It is understandable, but I think the AF has also lost something in the process.
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