Class Of 1964 USAF Academy




I was born in Rockville Center, Long Island, NY in March 1942 to parents Ernest and Helen and grew up in Brockport, Rochester and Valley Stream, NY, under modest financial conditions. I have a younger brother Scott and remain close to him to this day. I was active in school, sports, scouts and church. My interest in the Academy began late in my junior year, when my Dad brought home some information on a new service academy in Colorado. I hadn't really thought about a military school until that night, but realized that if I was going to go to a good school after graduation, I should apply and sought a congressional appointment. Of the 10 of us that were considered, somehow my record was good enough to be placed in the first alternate position behind a really smart guy by the name of Bob Lodge. Bob had a minor medical issue, so I rose to primary. We swapped positions, back and forth, until he finally was medically okay. We both were given appointments and became good friends. I am honored to have known him and the Air Force lost a great warrior in North Vietnam.

Once the appointment was complete, I received a call from Bob Connelly, a Red Tag who was home on leave and in the area, to meet and discuss what things would be like at USAFA, especially the first year. Nice guy, good info, but I knew it couldn't be that tough. Wrong! I graduated from Valley Stream HS, Class of 1960, and enjoyed a whole three days of summer before flying to Denver to meet the USAFA bus, full of great guys, full of anticipation for a great summer. Wrong again!


I thought I knew what hazing was like from pledging for a high school fraternity, but the upperclassmen took it to a whole new level! My, what a loud voice and big teeth you have, SIR! Well, as we all remember, and all I remembered was the constant butt chewing, head shaving and double timing everywhere (which was to last the better part of a year). One particular event that day was the issue of three duffle bags full of initial issue to be slung over our shoulders as we double timed wherever. As I turned a corner the bags slipped off my shoulder, flying out to the horizontal and smacked into an upperclassman, knocking him to the ground. By now I knew that I needed to run as fast as I could and try to find another corner to escape! Still wrong again! For some strange reason, none of my classmates were nearby to camouflage my progress. All I heard was “You man, HALT”. When he caught up with me, his next comment was “You think you're pretty brave, don't you smack”. As he wished, I was then introduced to some of the physical fitness exercises and commentary on my performance and heritage that we would come to love in the days to follow. So began BCT!

We quickly learned the meaning of “cooperate and graduate” and “know and never trust the enemy” which served us well through BCT in spite of the trickery, like running at high port after second helpings of blueberry cobbler toward the end of that summer, instead of the promised evening social and dance at Colorado College! Just one example of many, but through it all we came together as a Class and have maintained that camaraderie every since, never to be forgotten! During those four years I served in Evil 8th Squadron, designed the squadron patch and had the good fortune to room at various times with Earl Moreland, John Denko and Neal Hawkins.


In early May of our first class year, I found out that my pilot training slot to Willy was converted to a Fulbright Scholarship to Mexico. OK, get an MA in International Relations and Latin American Affairs and then go to pilot training, Willy 67E. I married Angela Fierro and then off to Mexico City for studies at the University of the Americas. Graduated with good marks, then the “Real Air Force.”

UPT at Williams was not easy, but I finally got the hang of it and was fortunate to receive an F-4 slot. My daughter Jennifer was born while I was overhead in the traffic pattern in a Tweet and received the good news upon landing.

F-4 to Davis-Monthan's GIB college to MacDill enroute to Clark as a 523 TFS GIB. Additional duty as the T-33 scheduler so all of the pitmen could fly alone! Great program. Much flying, TDYs,four minute alert at Tainan AB in Taiwan. USS Pueblo and air defense alert. Started AC upgrade before PCS.

AT-33 TDY to Myrtle Beach enroute to F-4 to Davis-Monthan RTU enroute to Ubon as a 433 TFS AC/IP. 230 interesting combat missions-such as Paveway everywhere, Spectre escort, Snake and nape at Tchepone, dumb bombs/CBU at Won Son ferry, NVN, in support of the Son Tay prison raid, led 4-ship Paveway to Steel Tiger, then diverted to Barrel Roll, expended remaining LGBs, then chased a curious Mig-21 back to NVN through the Fish's Mouth (a 1.3 mission converted to 4.6). Sound familiar? Son David joined the family in Tucson and family relocated to NY while I was in Thailand.

F-4 to Eglin from Ubon was converted by Gen. George Simler to a flight commander's job at Lackland's Officer Training School along with about 20 other fighter pilots, to add a combat flavor to the school. I immediately checked and to my dismay, Lackland had no runway! At my Sawadee going away party, in addition to my 433 TFS mug and plaque, the gifts also included khaki shorts and a pith helmet! Thanks, guys! Turned out to be an interesting assignment and as a bonus I flew the T-33 again at Kelly, in the rated supplement. But the highlight of that tour was participating in Operation Homecoming, when I was humbled to be selected as the escort officer for Ron Bliss and his wife Charlene, who came to San Antonio to be reunited with Ron after his return from Hanoi and Clark. What a hero! What a lady! Thanks for sharing him with me for a short while, Charlie. Near the end of the tour, Gen. Simler's promises of special handling for us after the OTS assignment disappeared with the General's sad loss in a T-38 crash. With every man to himself, I was indeed fortunate to return to fighters in only two years. Son Sean was born in San Antonio before we left.

F-4 to MacDill with a TDY to formal RTU IP school at Luke and return to the 4501 TFRS/13 TFS. Good assignment with great guys in the squadron. Highlight was being Robbie Risner's IP during his fighter requal after his POW repatriation. What an aviator and hero! Classmate Stu McCurdy and I were flight commanders together and became great friends as well. Unfortunately, my marriage to Angela fell apart early in this assignment-a casualty of the war, numerous TDYs, etc. Near the end of this assignment I was selected for intermediate service school with the Royal Air Force.

RAF Bracknell, near London, England. I married Beverly Benson just prior to departure to the UK. We had an exciting time with the Brits and other foreign students. I learned a great deal about the country, the British military staff writing and NATO, during the height of the Cold War. After graduation I returned to flying again.

F-4 to RAF Bentwaters as an assistant ops officer in the 92 TFS and the 81st TFW Chief of Stan Eval. Great flying. Great Wing. Later the Wing converted to A-10s and those who chose to stay were sent TDY to Davis-Monthan for a few months of conversion training. Rather than returning to Bentwaters, I was selected as the ops officer of the first 81 TFW A-10 Forward Operating Location in Germany at Sembach AB. Bob Riggs and I built the FOL from scratch and hosted CONUS units as well as our own from Bentwaters. NATO fighters and the US Army got a good look at the Warthog! So did the French at Suippes range, but that's another story! It was here that my third son Matthew was born at Landstuhl Army Hospital. After a short time, less than two years, I was very surprised to be selected as the commander of a brand new A-10 squadron in the 81st, the 509 TFS. Doug Catchings became my ops officer and we built the unit again from scratch with cadre from other 81 TFW squadrons and from Myrtle Beach. Most of us had the opportunity to pick up new jets from the Fairchild Republic factory at Hagerstown, MD enroute to Bentwaters to flesh out the squadron. Great times in a true stick and rudder aircraft where fly by wire meant steel cables! We deployed to Scotland, Norway, Germany, Italy and Greece. My fourth son Christopher was born at RAF Lakenheath. David came to live with us and became a wonderful older brother to Matt and Chris.

It was then non-flying staff time and I was assigned to MacDill to the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force/US Central Command as the Combat Capabilities Analysis Group-fighter analyst. Very interesting ops/intell Blue on Red studies which took us to the DIA, CIA, Pentagon and such exotic places like Riyad, Saudi Arabia, Mogidishu, Somalia and Amman, Jordan. Another great surprise occurred when I was blessed with my name on the Colonel's List, and without a tour in the Pentagon! And an F-16 checkout!

This time it was a staff and flying job as the ADO of the 314 Air Division in Seoul, ROK under Gen. Pat Smotherman and then as the DO of 7 Air Force under Gen. Jack Gregory at Osan AB. Those two years in joint/combined service were as hot as a cold war could be, truly the “tip of the spear”. Working with my ROKAF counterparts was professionally rewarding, with live fire demos, joint USAF/ROKAF combat training, exercises such as Team Spirit and Ulchi Focus Lens, ChiCom fighter defectors, and intercepting USSR Bears and Bisons. On top of all that I was able to fly the Viper at Kunsan for a few days a month. Truly a 600 knot video game! While at Osan, I flew a few times with the 51 TFW F-4 and OV-10 guys. By the way, Gen. Dick Hawley was my next door neighbor.

Then on to Hickam as the 15 Air Base Wing Vice Commander/IG. Another demanding assignment under the watchful eyes of CINC PACAF at Hickam and CINC PACOM at Pearl Harbor. Lots of meets and greets in the middle of the night such as VP and Mrs. Dan Quail, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, Prime Minister and Mrs. Bob Hawke of Australia, and Prime Minister and Mrs. Takesita of Japan. Heavy duty protocol and new ground for a fighter pilot and wife. However, T-33s were still in the Wing and their mission to provide Dissimilar ACT for the Hawaii ANG F-15s, MCAS Kanehoe F-4s and Barbers Point NAS A-6s was a superb relief and whenever free I led 2,3 4-ships in the fight. Couldn't go fast, but could turn the Lockheed Racer on a dime! Unfortunately, halfway through that tour PACAF decided to finally retire the T-Birds and after a 4-ship ACT mission with Gen. Gregory as Blue 3, we made a final pass or two over the tower and down the base ops ramp to be greeted by wives, Wing folks and PACAF straphangers all wishing us well at the end of an era. Nice echelon formation to park, canopies open in unison. Nels Running would have been proud! Well, the only aircraft left to fly were the 9 ACCS EC-135s so I swallowed my pride and checked out under great supervision by excellent and patient aviators. We managed to do touch and go landings at every suitable airport in the Hawaiian Islands! What a blast!

Tour was about over and the Colonels Group must have looked at my previous assignment at Centcom and the next thing I knew, I was off to Defense Security Assistance Agency for Foreign Military Sales school enroute to Bahrain as the Office of Military Cooperation Chief. It was very interesting work with the Bahraini Defence Force beddown of their newly acquired F-16s at a brand new airbase as well as military support of the Ambassador and the care and maintenance of CINCCENT. What a balancing act! I was cleared to fly the Bahraini F-16s and had one checkout flight in their F-5 (nice back seat landing), but flying was short lived. The challenges continued when Saddam Hussain crossed into Kuwait and we evacuated all dependants from Bahrain. I accompanied the 9th Air Force commander, Gen. Chuck Horner, to the new Bahraini airbase to begin the planning for USAF F-16 basing for Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Soon after I was reassigned to Centcom and served as a battle staff director for the entire war effort. After that fray, I briefly served as the J-3 Exercise Director and retired in 1991. During that time in Hawaii, my son David entered the Academy in the Class of 1992. After tours in C-5s and T-37s, he went on to fly with Southwest and is now a Captain in Orlando, married to Lori and has a daughter Kristen, 16, who is also interested in attending USAFA.

Mine was a great ride and I served with an exceptional group of professionals throughout my military career, learned so much about the USAF, the other services, both US and foreign, the world and myself. Ups and downs, yes, but the USAFA Class of 1964 experience and the training instilled in me, and I know in all of you as well, the tools to get through it all and to serve our nation and others ahead of ourselves. Would I do it all over again? You bet!


In retirement, after a short stint as an F-16 instructor with CAE Link, I was chosen as the Executive Director of a non-profit affordable housing corporation and worked in that field for 10 years. Near the end of that employment, my wife, Beverly, was stricken with breast cancer, and after a vicious 4-year battle, our gracious God took her to be with Him in 2002. I was her main caregiver with my boys, Matt and Chris and her parents, when able. I worked only part time during that period and finally retired in 2003.

In 2008, I finally met a wonderful lady, Kathy Whitehurst, at church and we were married in July of 2009. After a brief honeymoon, we were settling down to married life and planning some trips. Two months later, my son Chris, who had played arena football and semi-pro football for a few years, was heavily working out for the next season and experienced chest pains. He took some medicine and went to bed. He passed away that night. We were devastated. His brother Matt had shared an apartment with him and moved in with Kathy and I for awhile. He has now married and lives in St. Petersburg with his wife Cindy and stepson Tristian, and is a chef at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tampa.

Kathy and I have moved to Madeira Beach, Fl and are really retired this time. We are active in the reformed Presbyterian Church in America. I began flying again in late 2004 and continue to enjoy slipping the surly bonds of Earth in a Piper Cherokee, when able. My daughter Jennifer, a CPA and website designer, has 17 year old twins, Jared and Hannah, and they are living in Tampa as is my son Sean, who is active in real estate. Kathy has three married daughters-Elizabeth and Art, Leslie and Craig, and Laura and Justin and five grandchildren: Candler, Sam, Kate, Tallis and Eliana (on the way). Quite a blended family! All of them are a blessing.

Well, that's more than enough for now. We hope to see many of you at the 50th! Cheers, Wayne
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