Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

My History

Jim Pierce

I was born at Hamilton Field in San Francisco, California on December 3rd, 1939. Since my father was in the Army Air Corps, I began life as a nomad. By the time I entered the third grade in Alexandria, Va., we had lived in California, Utah, Florida, Texas, Alabama, New Hampshire, and New York. For a change of pace, we stayed in Alexandria for the next seven years before moving on to Japan and Colorado. When we were stationed at air bases, I loved watching the planes take off and someday wanted to be a pilot. After graduating from Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, I attended Texas A. & M. before deciding that I really wanted to go to the Air Force Academy and make the Air Force my career. I applied and was accepted in 1960. I graduated in 1964 with a BS in Engineering, majoring in Aeronautics and wanted to become an Astronaut. As a new 2nd Lt., I was lucky enough to be able to marry my sweetheart Nancy and then go to pilot training at Reese AFB in Lubbock, Texas. She was also introduced to the nomadic life after I graduated from pilot training in 1965.

After the usual adventures in Survival School at Stead AFB in Reno (I told Nancy that I never wanted to see a cornmeal bar again) and RTU training in Tucson, we were assigned to RAFB Woodbridge in Ipswich, England where I flew the F-4 Phantom, and where we adopted our daughter, Holly. After three years in England and one ejection using the old F-4 ballistic seat (from which I am now having some repercussions), I received orders to Southeast Asia as a Forward Air Controller. I trained to fly the OV-10 in Florida and was then assigned to Nakhon Phanom RTAB, Thailand. I flew over 200 combat missions in Laos, Cambodia, and North and South Vietnam. Most of the work that I did as a FAC involved Special Forces operating in combat areas outside of South Vietnam. When not involved in Special Operations, I flew normal FAC missions in the Mu Gia Pass and Ban Phanop areas looking for enemy defenses (mostly 23mm AAA sites) and possible daytime supply storage sites. Turned a lot of big rocks into pebbles in the process. The other important mission was to locate and pinpoint downed aircrew for the Sandys and Jollys and to brief them on the active threats in the area. While there, I was awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses and thirteen Air Medals.

Upon returning to the US, I was assigned to the Air Force Academy as a military training instructor. At the Academy, we adopted our son Patrick and I taught academics, then took over the T-33 indoctrination program for Cadets, taught them how to fly sailplanes and Cessna 172s and, during the winter, was the Officer in Charge of the Cadet Ski Club. (SOMEONE had to do it!) I also earned a Master's in Business from the University of Northern Colorado, but by the time I had enough flying hours to qualify for Test Pilot's School, I had missed the age requirement by one year and had to give up my goal of being an Astronaut. My next assignment was back to the F-4 at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, New Mexico. This was probably the best flying assignment I ever had, but the small desert town sent Nancy into culture shock! There wasn't even a MacDonald's there when we arrived. We then went to Anchorage, Alaska where I was on the Inspector General's team. The team traveled all over Alaska, from the Bering Sea to the tip of the Aleutian Islands and I was still able to fly. After 2 ¾ years in Alaska, I was assigned to Headquarters staff, Tactical Air Command at Langley AFB and we settled into our home in Poquoson, VA. For the first time in my career, I was in a non-flying job. Instead, I was piloting a GMD (Grey Metal Desk) and, no matter how fast I pushed it down the hallway, I couldn't get it off the ground. The most interesting aspect of the job I had was in developing operational tactics for new weapon systems that had not yet been fully developed. After three years behind the desk, a tour in Korea and the fact that Nancy was tired of moving, it was time to retire from the Air Force. #B

While at Langley, I had earned a Certified Financial Planner's designation and joined A.G. Edwards in Norfolk, VA as an investment broker in 1984. We moved to Williamsburg, VA in 1995 so we could build a bigger house as soon as our last child moved out. Also, in 1995, after commuting to Norfolk, VA for 11 years through a two lane tunnel that was often blocked by accidents, I was offered the opportunity to open a branch brokerage office in Williamsburg, VA for the investment firm Scott & Stringfellow, Inc. They didn't have to twist my arm very hard to get me to accept as it changed my commute from 50 minutes minimum (sometimes 2 hours, if the tunnel was blocked) to about 10 minutes. I stepped down from the branch manager's job in 2001 when I found that the ever increasing administrative paperwork involved in being a manager was keeping me from performing the job I really wanted to do: help my clients successfully invest. At the insistence of my wife, I retired for the second time at the end of 2006 just before the market began to turn down; which turned out to be good timing. I knew she was smarter than I was; this just proved it.

My hobbies have always included various sporting activities, with golf and fly fishing currently being the primary ones. At this point, Nancy and I have been married for over 46 years and look forward to our 50th anniversary. Along with our two children, we have three grandchildren and a dog named BJ which Nancy takes to various Nursing Homes and Elementary Schools as a Therapy Dog. I joined the Poquoson Kiwanis Club in 1985, served as its President in 1990, then transferred to the Colonial Capital Club Kiwanis Club when we moved to Williamsburg in 1995. These Clubs have provided a great opportunity to give back to the community. I've also been active in our Church, serving on the Vestry, as well as being the head of the Finance Committee for almost 7 years. I recently served on the Search Committee to select a new Rector and was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of our efforts. We all started off thinking that we wanted an experienced, white male Rector around the age of 50. Who we ended up selecting was a late 30's female Rector who had never been in charge of her own church. An open mind does wonders and we are all very happy with our selection. I am currently writing and implementing a Planned Giving Program and Gift Acceptance Policy for the Church.

What we learned at the Academy provided the basic building blocks that I have built my life on. The Honor Code, the competiveness, the ethics camaraderie of teamwork, the concern for others, and the trust that permeates throughout the experience have all served me well after graduation. I have always been able to look at myself in the mirror and not be ashamed of who I am and what I have done in my life.
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