Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Earle's History


earle.jpg I was born into a middle class family in York, PA, with my younger brother, Bob. For various reasons, I developed an attitude of rebellion against authority that accompanied me for much of my life and which contributed to some interesting moments during my life at the Academy.. With the benefit of hindsight, I can now value the gifts of faith (from my mother) and appreciation for the traits of character and honesty (from my father). While I can't honestly claim to have lived up to either of those consistently over the years, they have had great influence on the person I have tried to be. I only wish at this point in my life that I could have the kind of conversation with my parents that I never had so that I could tell them how much I appreciate all that they did.

I arrived at the Academy more or less through the back door. After graduation from high school, I attended college with less than spectacular results. My dad, correctly sensing that more structure in my life would be helpful, arranged for me to take the civil service exam for the Air Force Academy. Although my scores were not high enough to get the primary appointment, they were good enough to qualify for the USAFA prep school which at the time was located at Bainbridge Naval Training Center in MD, where I also had the good fortune to meet some of my future'64 classmates, including John Lorber, and Dick (moose) Morris.


While I didn't fully (or even partly) appreciate it at the time, the academy had a profound and positive effect on my life. It reinforced my appreciation for the values of honor, honesty, courage, service and perseverance in adversity. Unfortunately, my rebellious attitude at the Academy often led me to persevere in areas that were counter-productive to good order and discipline and I often found myself on the tour path with other kindred spirits who were inclined to push the limits of the system.

I have fond memories of exploring the tunnels under the academy complex which we discovered provided great inclement weather routes to Arnold Hall and the gym and also gave us access to the dining hall food lockers during our First Class training detail. In an effort to impress my dad, I wound up on the 8th squadron boxing team along with Tom Hill, John Lorber and Karl Richter. My main military accomplishment as an underclassman was being promoted to squadron supply sergeant in my second class year. That lasted about a month until I got caught cutting chapel and was busted back to regular cadet. Ironic, since my faith is now an important part of my life.

Highlights of my time at the Academy include the summer field trips to the Conus bases – I spent a week throwing up on a navy destroyer, jump school at Ft. Benning, and the Far East field trip where we were treated like royalty. Looking back, I realize now that the best part of Academy life was the privilege of having friendships with so many fine men who served their country with exceptional valor and sacrifice.

Air Force

After graduation, I wound up in pilot training at dusty Laredo where I discovered some latent flying skills and was able to select F-4s after graduation. My first assignment after pilot training was F-4 RTU at Davis Monthan for WSO training where we were paired up with some outstanding fighter jocks from the 81st TFW at RAF Bentwaters / Woodbridge in USAFE who were transitioning from the F-101A.

Also while at Tucson, I met wife #1, Konni Nelson who lived down the street from our quarters in Escalante Gardens. After a year or so as a GIB, I could see that a Vietnam tour was in the cards and didn't want to go there riding behind someone else, so I elected to go back to Tucson to upgrade to the front seat.

After graduation, I was assigned to the 480 TFS, 366th “Gunfighter” wing, at DaNang where I flew 201 missions, evenly divided between close air support in the south and interdiction in the southern part of North Vietnam. Although the missions tended to blend together, a few stood out.

One, in particular, I have not forgotten. As a newbie in January of 1968, I was assigned as number 4 in a strike against a 37MM AAA complex at Khe Sanh. It was dusk and the flight lead set us up on a racetrack pattern. We rolled in out of the West, perfectly silhouetted against the evening sky. As the leader and then two and then three rolled in to drop their load of six 750's, I could see increasing numbers of red balls floating up from the target.

After I rolled in and got lined up, red streaks were flying over the top of the canopy, under the nose and between me and the wingtips on either side. I waited until the back seater called out the release altitude, pickled the bombs and then banked and yanked for all I was worth, fully expecting one of those red balls to hit. But none did. I remember thinking on the flight back to base that it could be a very long year.

My tour also included TDY for a couple of months at DASC (Direct Air Support Center) Victor with the Army at Hue Phu Bai, which greatly increased my appreciation for the USAF. On my final mission, I said goodbye to my friends at the DASC with a 500 knot low pass over their command post, which also took me over the commanding general's office. My CO advised me after landing that it would be a fine idea to pack quickly and take the next plane out. I wound up going through the full tour without a scratch or a hole in my aircraft. I'm still convinced that God had plans to keep me alive for something else, which I'm still working on.

After my Vietnam tour, I returned to the 92nd TFS at RAF Bentwaters in England for five more years where I picked up a masters in business management through a U. of Arkansas extension program and was assigned duties as a flight commander.

Post Air Force

I resigned my commission in 1973 to make my fortune (still waiting for that) and joined EF Hutton in Denver as a stock broker. After 3 years in the brokerage business, I went on to try a variety of things, including co-managing a sewing factory with a childhood friend, owning a bar / restaurant with my brother in Vermont, managing a flight evaluation team for a new commercial flight management system, aerospace marketing for a few different companies and lastly, application development, consulting and account management for a marketing data services company for ten years.

I was divorced in 1982 from my first wife, Konni, with whom I had two wonderful children, a boy, Sean and daughter, Shea. In 1986, I married my present wife, Laura (who was previously married to an F-4 pilot – she obviously knows quality when she sees it). At that time, I had custody of my two kids and Laura had custody of her two fine sons, Adam and Shaun, who were about the same age, 14-16, as mine and we put the two families together.

It was a wild year, but everyone merged beautifully and all the kids still see each other as one family. Along the way, they all got married and have given us eleven grand children. Around 1990, Laura (whose family is Jewish) and I felt that we needed to do some investigating and make a serious decision about our faith. Laura subsequently was baptized and we have both been very actively committed to our faith ever since, which has been a blessing to both of us as we have seen God's hand at work in ways that have been truly amazing. In 2008, we made a trip to Israel which was profoundly eye-opening and moving. I left full time employment in 2008 and Laura and I are now starting a home-based business in the deregulated energy market. We moved in December, 2010 from Springfield, NJ to Yardley, PA and are looking forward with anticipation to whatever life has in store and living “life to the full” (John 10:10).

Major Assignments and Awards

July 1964: 3641st Student Tng Sqdn, Laredo, TX; F-4 Training (WSO), Davis Monthan, Tucson, AZ;

Mar 66: 92TFS, RAF Bentwaters, Eng. (WSO); Jun 67: Davis Monthan F-4 Training (Acft Cmdr);

Jan 68: 480 TFS, DaNang (Acft Cmdr.); Jan 69: 92nd TFS, RAF Bentwaters (Flight Commander / Instructor Pilot);

March 1973: Honorable Discharge

Distinguished Flying Cross; Air Medal (13 clusters);

Army Parachute Badge;

Senior Pilot
[ Home ] [ Table Of Contents ]