Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

My Cadet Days

I wish I had kept a diary or some record of my cadet days in the 21st Squadron (originally the 16th but changed when the Wing expanded to 24 squadrons). I can remember some of my roommates (Bobby Woods, Joe Liro, Skip Chandler, Dave Bittenbinder are some) but there I others that I'm not sure of. Just reading some of the histories and stories already recorded (Lee Downer and Bobby Woods) bring back some fond memories. Those midnight missions Lee described were certainly memorable, how could I have gotten the X4 move. But as I sit here, some other memories are coming back. One was the night that Skip Chandler, myself and one other hearty soul hung banners from the spires of the chapel. As I remember that was Skip's idea. And how can I forget the evenings of little study, but early to bed listening to jazz when Bobby Woods and I were roommates. This was probably not the best use of our time as we were both struggling academically and was almost my downfall. (Spent most of 3rd class year on academic probation.)

One of the more memorable events occurred on our Southern European field trip which began in Madrid. On the first or second day there, we were taken outside of Madrid to see Franco's summer home, some Roman aqueducts, etc. The very first stop had a lot of gardens and as luck would have it several of us got separated from the group and lost track of time. When we realized that there didn't seem to be any other cadets around, we made a mad dash for the entrance where the buses were parked. Sure enough, they were gone. Luckily Jack Hudson had taken Spanish in high school. The first order of business was food and there was a small restaurant across the street. The only word that Jack recognized was the word for "egg", so we all had omelets. Somehow we found a way to get to the next stop on the tour, but the buses had already left when we got there. Again Jack was able to find us a way to the last stop on the tour, but again we were too late. So we're about an hour outside of Madrid and we had a mandatory formation that evening to go to an embassy reception. Not saying we were panicking, but we could see images of us on restriction for the remainder of the field trip. We ended up riding back to Madrid on a bus with chickens on the roof and the whole nine yards. We got back to the hotel just in time to change clothes and make the formation. Needless to say, we were a little more careful about sticking with the group on tours after that.

In fact that whole field trip was filled with a lot of memories that could have turned out to be less than pleasant. Dave Bittenbinder and I watched a student riot develop one night in Munich that we had the good sense to leave just as the police started rounding up anyone that looked young enough to be a student. Another time several of us had met some college girls from Missouri in Heidelberg. One thing led to another and we decided to take a midnight swim in the river Neckar. We all wondered what that strange chemical smell was, but luckily we couldn't see the foamy crud floating on top of the water until the next day. Looking back, the Lord obviously spent a lot of time looking after us that summer. It was a great time of adventure and learning to be resourceful in a variety of situations.

For a small town boy from Virginia, the Academy seemed like a dream. It took a long time for me to realize that I belonged in that group of America's finest. Looking back, I wish I had taken the time to appreciate it more. I wish I had remained close to some of those special people that you share so many fond memories with. But life is a journey and you're constantly making new memories. My nature is to focus more on the road I'm on and what's coming ahead, rather than focusing on the past. Praise God, I'm not the person I was then, or even 10 years ago. I sure don't want to go back to relive any of it, but I treasure the memories of that time in my life. I'm very proud to have been and to be a small part of the history of the Class of 1964.

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