Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Mike's History

mike.jpg My first encounter with the military came early in my life, I was a new borne, and we had a triple A battery in our back yard in Los Angeles, California near North American Aviation. I was borne on the 29th of January 1942 just after Pearl Harbor. My mother told me that the barrage balloon read Myrts place. As a teenager, in Utah, I watched the movie The Long Grey Line, and thought—why would anyone want to spend their college years confined by all those rules and regulations. During my senior year at Jordan High School, I had decided to accept both the football and basketball scholarship offered by the University of Utah.

Then in December, 1959, Coach Bob Spear called to see if I would be interested in attending the new Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It sounded interesting, but not a high priority for me. Coach Spear also talked to my Dad who was sold on the idea. As he explained to me—if you can get in and work hard enough to stay there, you will get a great education whether you make the basketball team or not. So, I filled out the forms, took the tests and got a nomination from our Congressional Representative. When the appointment came, I was still not excited, but knew I could not pass up the opportunity so I became a member of the Class of 1964.

While I can't say that I enjoyed the Academy, I was challenged by the experience and in the end thankful for the opportunity. At USAFA, I learned the important lesson that it is not the circumstances of your situation that bring you satisfaction, but the people that you live, work and share life with that truly bring success and value to whatever you accomplish. My association with the men of 3rd squadron, where I spent all four years, helped give me purpose, direction and comradeship. The basketball team was a tight group and we learned together that preparation, teamwork and a never quit attitude could overcome short comings in size and talent. I received the best advice on how to succeed in the Air Force from an assistant coach, Captain Buzz Cirillo, who told me to do whatever job I was assigned as if it were the most important in the AF—to do my job and just a little more, and get along with people. As I look back on my life, I believe he had it right.

Education, experience and training aside, the most valuable asset I gained from my Academy experience was the love and companionship of a young lady I met in the Athletic Department my 1st Class year, Mable Fish. She agreed to go with me into the “real Air Force,” so we were married on graduation day. Almost 47 years later she is still the love of my life and by far the best experience of my 4 years at USAFA. She gave me two sons, and I gave her 22 moves in 29 years of Air Force life.

From USAFA it was on to pilot training at Williams AFB, combat crew training in the RF-4C at Shaw AFB, and then to Udorn Thailand for 100 missions over North Vietnam. Mountain Home AFB, Idaho was our next and our longest assignment, 3 ½ years. Next was the most difficult Air Force assignment of my career. Two years at the Air Force Institute of Technology for a master degree in Aeronautical Engineering. My goal was test pilots school, but that didn't happen—instead came a directed-duty assignment in engineering in Air Force Logistics Command at Hill AFB. I thought my career had been derailed, but I spent two great years learning from and working with the dedicated civilians that work in the Air Force. They don't wear uniforms, but when cut they bleed red, white, and blue. I was very impressed with their desire to do the right thing for the AF and our country.

After Armed Forces Staff College in 1975, it was back to the cockpit at Shaw AFB as Operations Officer and then Commander of the 62nd TAC Reconnaissance Squadron. This I will call my best assignment in the Air Force although there are some very close 2nd place options.

From the National War College in 1979 I was assigned to go back to USAFA on the Commandants staff as Deputy Commandant for Military Instruction. This helped me understand some of my consternation as a cadet. With the Dean, Commandant, Director of Physical Education, and Director of Athletics all vying for their share of the cadet day, it was obvious why we felt we were getting our education and training by drinking from a fire hose.

The stay at USAFA was too short. Since I had some “loggie” experience, I was asked to go back to the Ogden ALC at Hill AFB as the Chief of Aircraft Systems Management. This was my 2nd best AF assignment and it took me to all the Air Forces around the globe flying F-4s. We settled in for a nice long stay, but it was not to be as I had not had a Pentagon assignment.

By June, 1984, I was in the Pentagon as the Deputy and then Director of Theater Force Analysis in AF Studies and Analysis. This was an interesting time as the AF, among other things, was trying to decide between the F-16XL and the F-15E. Needless to say we spent a great deal of time at TAC HQ. Two years at the Pentagon, then back to Ogden ALC as Director of Material Management. In 1987 HQ AFLC decided it was time for some staff work at Wright-Patterson. This was an interesting time as the AF combined AFLC and AFSC into Air Force Material Command, the largest command in the AF, during this assignment.

In 1990, I was asked to command the Sacramento Air Logistics Center. These were the days of the first Gulf War, a new combined command, and the base closure commission looking to reshape the Air Force footprint- never a dull moment.

In 1993 Mable and I decided it was time to see what life after the Air Force would be like. I retired 1 July 1993 as a Major General, 29 years after the Class of '64 threw their hats into the air on that sunny Colorado afternoon. As with most I am sure, leaving the active Air Force came with mixed emotions. The people, the mission, the ideals and opportunity to serve would surely be missed, but we were both ready to move out of the fast lane and find a more settled course.

We moved back to Layton, Utah where I went to work for Battelle as the manager of their Ogden operations. A year later the State of Utah asked me to lead the community effort to retain Hill AFB, and Defense Depot Ogden, two installations that were on the chopping block in the 1995 round of base closing. Hill AFB was retained, but DDO was selected for closure.

Battelle had given me a year leave of absence to work with the community. However, the community then asked me to lead the redevelopment effort for DDO. For the next eight years, we acquired the base from the Army at no cost, and raised and invested over $50 million for redevelopment of the base infrastructure, transitioning it to a thriving industrial park and winning the national installation of the year award for closed military bases in 2002. This was a great experience with lots of new lessons learned. Working with local government was a real eye opener and left me longing for the more efficient military model.

The next opportunity came when the Utah State University Research Foundation (USURF) asked me to be the Director of the Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL). This was in Logan, Utah, a 65 mile commute through the mountains. Another move was out of the question, so we bought a small second house in Logan and for the next 5 ½ years lived and worked together in two places. The people and the job were great and after three years, I became the President of the Foundation as well as Director of the lab. SDL is a small company, about $60 mil per year, providing specialized sensor systems, and research for NASA, the Missile Defense Agency, the Air Force, Navy, and other intelligence gathering organizations.

I retired from USURF and SLD in October, 2008. There is life after formal employment and it is quite satisfying. Our oldest son, Todd is a Colonel in the Air Force, his brother, Greg, a physician in Highland, Utah. We have 6 grandchildren and enjoy being with them. I am now Chairman of the Board of Barnes Banking Corporation (another long story by itself) a member of the Board of the Weber State University Research Foundation, and a member of the Board of the Utah Defense Alliance, and Southwest Defense Alliance.

I often think of the Academy, the experience, the people, and the opportunity to serve our great country--I would not change anything. Life is good and we are blessed by our experiences. “Service before self”, learned early and exercised often, brings the best from life.
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