Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Ace's History

As He Remembers It

With 50 years of hindsight

And diminishing

Brain cells

Born and raised in Big Spring, Texas. High school years in Rankin. 27 in my graduating class. Played and lettered in all sports. Everybody had to participate in order to field the teams. A great way to grow up. I knew I wanted to be a fighter pilot since I was knee-high to a duck. At some point in high school I heard about the AF Academy getting started and figured that was the way to go because the AF was shutting down the Aviation Cadet program. So I applied. I got my driver's license when I was 14 so doing all the exams for the academy was doable. Mom let me take the car for a physical at Roswell AB in New Mexico, and Academic and physical fitness exams at Webb AFB in Big Spring and James Connally AFB at Waco. I didn't get in my first try so went to Texas A&M and tried again. This time I was accepted.

My 4th class year at the Academy was a piece of cake because I was retaking all the freshman courses I had just taken at A&M. I was on academic probation at the Academy for the next 3 years. I worked hard at it and it all worked out. I studied with a flashlight under the sheets after lights out and went to bed with headphones trying to learn German. My primary roommate for the 4 years was Jim White. I got to know the family. His brother was the space-walking astronaut that was killed in the fire. His father and two uncles were all generals in the service. Jim was killed flying the Thud on a bombing mission to the PDJ in Laos. A quick sidelight. When we graduated, I took a $2 bill and got all my 3rd Sqdn classmates to sign it. I put it in my billfold and have always carried it with me for the last 50 years. It is tattered and worn and the only signature you can read today is Jims.

I'll never forget our graduation – as we were all waiting for the dignitaries to arrive the announcer filled time by providing class statistics, then ended by saying that all 500 of us would be graduating with the exception of Nino Baldachi who was being washed back a class to 65' because he had failed a turnout exam. All the mothers in the stadium went Ohhhhh, poor Nino!! And the cadets cheered. I was sitting next to James Frank Hinkel (remember the order-of-merit thing) and as we approached the stage to acquire our diplomas the applause from the crowd was growing in anticipation of the goat crossing the stage.

We took our month's pay ($222.30 as a new 2nd Lt) and our 30 day honeymoon touring the Western US and ended up in Del Rio. We were at the stop light coming into town and I looked over at the car next to me and there was James Frank. He invited us over for a Coke. We followed him over to his apartment and ended up staying with him and Bonnie for a week and sleeping on their couch till we could get into our place. The night before we reported in for our first day of pilot training Bonnie set the table and tried to feed us breakfast before we went to bed so the girls wouldn't have to get up early the next morning.

Then Capt. Brad Hosmer was my instructor. Life was good. James Frank and I disregarded our previous academic history and went on to greater glory in the AF. I graduated #1 out of pilot training to get a single seat F-100. James Frank wanted a bathroom and a coffee pot so he and Bon went to KC-135s up North and on to become a 2-Star. Judy and I went to Luke for gunnery.

Gunnery was great. Me, Fiorelli, Gary Olin, Tom Mahan, Jack Baker, and Ron Drinkwater. A bunch of 2nd LTs flying the F-100 Super Sabre for six months. We learned how to max perform the jet and shoot the gun and drop the bombs including 50' level skip with live napes, air refueling (not easy in the F-100 because the probe was a good 4 to 5 feet off to the right so lining it up with and plugging the basket was tough. You had to ease up and stabilize with the probe behind the basket, then transition to flying formation off the tanker , move forward and hope the probe went into the basket or back off and try it again if you missed), low level down the Grand Canyon followed by nuc delivery on the Gila Bend range.

We learned air-to-air combat and shot the dart with our 20mm cannon. I'll never forget when I learned about compressor stall; Tom Mahan and I were on a 1 v 1 BFM ride towards the end of the day. It was beautiful with the birds lit up by the setting sun in the background and the ground getting dark. We were at about 15 or 20 grand in a rolling scissors with high AOA and the stick back in our laps using rudder for everything and trying to slow down and get behind the other when I felt a huge explosion which knocked my feet off the rudder pedals and spit flames out both ends of the airplane. Lower the nose, throttle to mil, get it going again and continue the fight. What a way to learn. Tom said it was impressive.

“Smiley”, our instructor taught us how to judge 50' –cows are about 5' high so just stack up 10 of them and that's 50'. And the mission towards the end of the course when I was #4 following Fio on a low level and then a drop on the tactical range; I was supposed to be back about a mile in trail on the ingress, but decided to move it into Route formation on Fio to check his SA and see how he flew. We were supposed to be at 1500'AGL but Fio was on the deck so down I went to stay with him. He didn't know I was there and we were looking up at the top of the Socorro cactus which were going by the canopy at about 480kts. Finally I gave it up. Fio was fearless.

Then it was off to the Big War. Everybody in our gunnery class but Tom and I and a couple of ROTC guys stayed in the 100 and went to Vietnam. Based on some work I had done back in pilot training Tom and I went to George to get an F-104 local checkout and then on to SEA. What happened back in pilot training was that I wanted to go air superiority; I figured F-104 was the way to go, and no 104s were coming down the assignment list. We were getting Thuds, F-100s and back seat F-4s. So, I called the Base Operator at George and asked who the Wing Commander was and his address… Col Darrell Cramer. I sent him a letter – “Hi, My name is Ace Rawlins, I'm going through pilot training here at Laughlin, I'm going to graduate #1 in my class, I want to fly the F-104, there are none available to pilot training, what do I need to do to get an F-104 assignment.” He was a good guy. He didn't have to respond, but he did and basically said that if I wanted to fly his bird then he wanted me and I should go to F-100s and he would pick me up out of there. I did and he did. So Tom and I from our F-100 class went to George and the F-104. As I remember it, they drew straws and Tom got the assignment. I was by name and F-104 assignments became available to follow-on classes. Interestingly, when I later gave this account to Judy's dad he said “Darrell Cramer – he was my Ops Officer in my P-51 Sqdn in England during WWII.” Small world.

Tom and I got to George and had just begun our checkout when the 436th deployed to Udorn. We would catch up to them a few months later as replacement pilots. In the mean-time, Tom and I were given the keys and command of the 436th building. We thought we were somebody. Checking out in the 104 was a blast, especially since we were the first First Lieutenants the base had seen in a while. There was lots to learn and it was busy and exciting.

In those days we owned the desert and the dry lake beds and low flying was basically as low as you could stand it. One day I was told I was the safety officer for a gun firing-in. Don't worry, the Sgt knows what he is doing, just get down there and watch. So I jumped in the truck and off I went. The aircraft was up on jacks, a palust unit was hooked up, everybody was waiting, and it was pointed in the right direction. I told the Sgt that it looked like it was pointed a bit high (just eye balling it) and he assured me that he had personally sighted it in using a barrel sight and it was ready. So, I gave the go ahead, he pulled the trigger, it went brrrrrrrrrrrt, 100 rounds went down range towards the revetment. No dust and not a single round went into the target. We all jumped into the truck and went roaring down to get a closer look. Not a single hole in the target. I looked up above the target and there was the prettiest group of holes in the railroad ties and we counted all 100. I told the Sgt to please re-sight the bird and call me when he was ready. I went back to the Sqdn a wiser 2nd Lt and the backside of my flight suite was still in place.

We learned about energy maneuverability, double attack, and fighting in the vertical. Tom and I finished up our checkout, kissed the girls goodbye and headed for survival training at Fairchild, then to snake school at Clark field in the Philippines and on to Udorn, our first real assignment. We were given orders to report to Udorn with an “arrive not later than date” and how we got there was up to us. Snake school was interesting with more practical application for escape and evasion. When they put us in the Jungle for the night I thought I had covered my trail pretty good and was hidden way back in the brush. I rolled up in my poncho and tried to go to sleep. The big jungle rats came out of nowhere and crawled all over me and nibbled on the poncho. But the Negritos showed me right away that you could easily be tracked and caught. Main lesson: cooking rice in a bamboo shoot. With snake school complete I went down to base ops and signed up for the next hop to Saigon. The smarter guys stayed at Clark and played golf. It took a couple of days to get out of Clark because the priority for transportation went to the guys returning to their units as opposed to initial entry. I was chompimg at the bit and couldn't understand why I had to fight my way into combat. But I finally got a hop into Ton San Nut, spent the night and caught the “Clong”, a C-130 that traveled around theatre and dropped off people and supplies at each base.

Prior to our arrival the unit had been going North doing a variety of missions; escorting the Thuds, bombing in the North and in Laos along the Ho Chi Minh trail etc. They were in the thick of it and had lost several birds and pilots to SAMS and Triple-A. Seventh AF pulled us out of the North and put us primarily on CAP up and down the Gulf and along the NVN border in Laos. It was smart on the part of the AF because our Sqdn replaced a full Wing (DaNang) of F-4s doing the mission. It really disappointed a couple of young eager beavers. We did get a bunch of flying time. From Nov 66 thru Feb 67 every pilot in the Squadron got no less than 80 hr per month. In the month of Dec 66, I personally got 127hrs and on one mission that month I logged over 10 hrs.

In Jan we participated in Operation Bolo when Olds and the Boys got 7 Migs. I CAPed over the Black River South of Hanoi for 45min at 10,000 ft on that mission. We were there as support to cover their withdrawal, but they didn't need us. Such is life. Our normal day was up for the early go, take off in the dark, hit the tanker over the Gulf about sunrise, go on station, hit the tanker each hr to retain fighting gas and RTB when we were replaced. If we got back to Udorn in time, we would load up a couple of 750s (the 104 could carry two of anything) and go bomb a target in Laos – usually on the trail or up in the PDJ around Ban Ban or Sam Nuea. Then it was off to the bar, dinner, back to the bar and hit the sack. Do it again next day.

What a wonderful way to break in a Lt. Throw away the Dash-1 and go fly combat. Somewhere in there Tom and I were made Flight Leads and we led and checked out others in the combat role. A couple of memorable events: One day Karl Richter dropped in with a battle damaged Thud. He gave me the tour and let me crawl up in the cockpit. That was a big airplane. I got a nosebleed crawling up the ladder. Guess what? We went to the bar and a whisky front came through. If I remember right, that was somewhere around 150 for him.

Another was when I landed down wind out of a blowing rainstorm, when the field was zero-zero after I had gone missed approach with 250# of fuel remaining and flamed out in the barrier after touchdown. Tommy had been listening on the Sqdn radio with the other guys who were betting on whether I would punch or not. He grabbed a beer and the Sqdn truck and met me in the barrier when he heard the call that I was doing a 180 and landing downwind. Nobody else was there and he yelled at me not to shut it down because I needed to de-arm and maint would have to tow it in. I just shrugged and told him I didn't shut it down. Maintenance came and got the bird out of the barrier and towed it in. Tom and I went to the bar.

And which of our classmates was it that wanted to see how the Jollys did their job, so he wrangled a flight north to Lima 97 where they shut down to gas and wait. They then got a call to go North and gave him a pistol and told him to wait there till they got back. A fire fight got started down the valley between the Pathet Lao and the Royalist and kept getting closer. He hid behind the gas barrels as the fighting got closer. At the last minute the Jolly returned, picked him up and high-tailed it home. As I recall the comment was something to the effect of “never again.”

One more interesting memory. I met Judy in Hawaii for R&R. It was a great R&R with my wife. She got off the plane in her dress, hat and white gloves looking mighty fine. I had arrived just an hour or so before and in taking the bus around the base to the civilian side I witnessed a small demonstration with a guy carrying a NVN flag and some kind of poster. A few hours earlier I would have dropped a couple of 750s on him. Now it was all I could do not to stop the bus and let him know how I really felt. However, my mission for the week was to enjoy Hawaii with my wife. Such was the SEA experience.

Tom and I got our hundred missions North at about the same time so we came home together. We told the girls we were coming home and would be there in a week or so. If getting to theatre was hard, getting home was even harder. We caught the Clong to Saigon, spent the night, into Clark on a C-130 the next day and then caught a hop into Okinawa where we became stranded. No hops going our way. We were standing in ops discussing our situation when it occurred to us that we might as well try to go to Hong Kong because we might never have the chance again. As it worked out there was the crew of a New Zealand Bristol Freighter filing out to Japan, said they were going to Hong Kong via Yakota Japan, Seoul Korea, Yakota, Hong Kong, and back to Okinawa. So we agreed that to go with them was a good idea. Their airplane was loaded and ready so we simply walked out to the bird and we were off on a new adventure. The bird was full, but the A/C simply asked the Crew Chief to add a couple of seats. It took him about two minutes to go into the back end of the bird and bring out two folding chairs and pop them open. No attachments and no seat belts. The airplane was so slow that as soon as we were airborne the Crew Chief broke out bottles of lime juice so we wouldn't get rickets during the ocean crossing.

The routine was get up early, eat, fly 4 or 5 hours, land, go to the club, eat, drink, sleep, get up, fly, etc. When we landed from the first leg to Yakota we went to the bar and as we walked into the club there was a PA announcement for Lt Rawlins to answer the phone. It was the Squadron at Udorn. What are the odds that they could even find us?! The Sqdn had been tasked to withdraw from theatre and turn the airplanes over to the Puerto Rico Air Guard and they wanted Tom and me to fly an airplane home. They wanted us to return to Udorn immediately, but I told them we were on our way to Hong Kong and then we could come back. The compromise was we could go to Seoul and back to Yakota and then head back to Udorn.

We did that and got to Udorn just in time for a big going away party Col Robin Olds, our Wing Cmdr down at Ubon had set up for us. We were the Cub Pack of the Wolf Pack and Robin Olds was taking care of us. He sent up a Blind Bat C-130 to pick up the Squadron. We spent the weekend. Col Olds the warrior led the Fighter sweep down the bar to start the evening. When things got slow and Robin needed a rest he sent in Col Chappie James the Vice Wing King to lead the singing and keep us alive. As a team, we called them Black Man and Robin. We went back to Udorn Sun morning and left for the States a few days later. Somewhere in there we got an extension to our stateside return from Judy and Shirley.

The trip home was interesting, but uneventful. We flew two cells of six and each cell had a tanker. I was #6 in the first cell with Tom in the second cell. First stop was Clark AB. It was a beautiful VFR day except for a couple of big black thunder cells. Our Sqdn Cmdr put us in echelon right and in turning right on to initial put us into the blackest thunder cell imaginable. I was tucked in tight (maybe 3 ft canopy to wing tip) on the end of the whip when #5 disappeared. I held it as long as I could, maybe 1/10th of a second, and then broke further down and away. Then #5 called lost wingman followed by my call. I rejoined and we came up initial as a pair. Next day it was off to Guam where we stayed for about a week waiting for a typhoon to clear. Every day it was up at 03:00 for the bag drag, pack the airplane, CNX, tour the island again. We must have seen the American War Dog Cemetery 3 or 4 times. It was impressive. It was a SAC base and the bar closed early. They were glad to see us leave.

Next it was off to Hawaii. Throughout the trip my airplane had a gear sequencing problem and I had to help it up. After takeoff it was gear up, light stayed on in the handle. Slow down, gear down, 3 green, nose up, gear up, negative-G, lights out, proceed. We only spent one full night at Hickam and departed the next night at about 0300. On arrival Tom landed short at Barbers Point to check out an engine problem and was ready to go the next day. It's a longer story than this so check it out on his page. Hickam to Puerto Rico was supposed to be one hop. We departed early with our tanker and coasted in over LA about noon and kept going. We lost our tanker after refueling over Ariz and kept going. It was about there that someone figured out that we would be landing in Puerto Rico after dark so the decision was made to land at England AFB for the night. The next day we threaded our way through some big thunder bumpers and met a tanker over Fla an on in to Puerto Rico. The second cell couldn't make it through the wx so they took it in to Homestead and came on in the next day. Tommy missed the party. Then it was off to see my little wife, now pregnant with our first.

Our next assignment was to Luke AFB as an instructor for the German program in the 104. Tom and I turned Captain about the time we began instructing. All was well for about a year and then I came down with Valley Fever and was grounded for three years. Rather than be the Command Post Duty Officer for three years we packed our bags and went to LA on Boot Strap to get a Masters at USC. Judy taught school in Watts and got to see the riots up close and personal. I found a good Flt Surgeon at LA Air force Station that put me back on Flight status and I therefore got my masters and went back to flying the 104 at Luke after a year. In LA we met up with John and June Graves and we all watched the moon landing amongst other things that year. Even got Melissa up to watch. I think she was about one and a half at the time. When we got back to Luke, Tom and Shirley were posted to Germany as an exchange pilot so I decided to give that a shot also. I didn't get Germany, but I did get an exchange with the Brits flying the Hawker Hunter out of RAF Chivenor in The West Country of England. You know, the AF was a great way of life. So we headed for England in the dead of winter, this time with our newest addition, Jennifer who was 6 weeks old.

England was probably the best family assignment of the career. We were the Americans on the Station. We lived like the RAF in RAF quarters and made a base load of friends. The Brits did everything just like we did, except 180 degrees out. We got together periodically with the French and the Norwegian families and bitched about the Brits. It was natural. They warmed up some bricks and set them at the base of the stairs and called it central heat. I had to keep the coal fire lit to have hot water. I wasn't too good at banking the coals so the pipes would either bang all night or there would be no hot water the next morning. The flying was great.

They put me through their PAI course which was the equivalent of our weapons school so I obtained an S prefix. The Hawker Hunter was similar to the F-86. It did everything at .9M. It climbed at .9, cruised at .9 and dived at .9. We started our fights at about 40 thousand and they ended up on the deck. We would put one guy in the cons to sucker them up and then jump them with 3 that were above the cons out of sight. Fri afternoon after the last student sortie it was instructor play time. 63 Sqdn would put up 4 against 34 Sqdn's 3, but unknown to 34 Sqdn 63 would put up 2 more and unknown to 63 Sqdn 34 would put up an extra – and unknown to either 79 Sqdn would put up 4. It was like WW II with airplanes everywhere.

And then there was Chivenor Air Day where we put up all 36 airplanes the Wing owned. Maintenance worked their tails off and we launched them all in one big Balboa. My bird didn't have any fuel gages. It didn't matter. I had the same amount of fuel as everybody else. We put all thirty six on the first thousand feet of runway which left 5000 ft for takeoff. Before we took off the Belgian F-104 solo landed in front of us coming our way, touch and go, rolled it, landed again and flew over all our aircraft sitting on the runway.

The Hunter had no nav aids. It had a compass. The Brits flew it all over Europe in all kinds of weather. The Mk 9 did have a DME set. There was a gage on the instrument panel with a needle in it that registered from 0 to 40 so if you were within 40 miles of the station you knew how far you were – but you didn't know which direction. A DF steer took you to the overhead, then turn outbound and start the letdown. At half the altitude start a 30deg banked turn back to the station and GCA would pick you up. Piece of cake. The Brits were the best DR pilots I knew of. Judy and I got to visit friends all over Europe on that tour and had the opportunity to see East Berlin one day after an all-night train ride through East Germany. What an experience.

The next assignment was back to Udorn following a quick five ride checkout in the F-4 at George. Judy and the girls went home to Chipita Park, Colo for the year and we bought our first house. Paid $28,000 for it and sold it a year later for $32,000. We thought we were real-estate tycoons. My second tour in SEA was to the 13th Sqdn at Udorn. Same Sqdn building, same hootch, same maid. I had 7 hours in the F-4 and did not like the bird. Too many people, too many engines and the other guy was always wanting to talk and tell me stuff I already knew.

The war was over up North. I only got a few combat missions in Laos and Cambodia. I did get to fly about all the versions of the F-4 except the recce version and the G model. I flew the C, the D, the E, the slatted E and the TISEO model. The fuel crisis was on so I only got 120 hrs for the year. I served as the Weapons Officer with the 13th Sqdn Panthers, moved into the 555th Triple Nickle and then took over the Wing Weapons shop before going home.

I was airborne the day Tommy jumped out of an F-4 down at Korat, or was it Ubon, I can't remember. I hadn't seen him in a couple of years, but I knew his voice when he came up on guard and said he was stepping over the side because the airplane was on fire. I later got the tape from Brigham and sent it to him. He tells a great story about E&E ing through friendly Thailand while the newby he was checking out stayed out of sight until the chopper showed up. He sent me the dried fish the farmer gave him to eat. True to fashion Tom never met a stranger.

About half way through the tour I went home for a week to say goodbye to Judy's dad who was dying of cancer. A P-51 Sqdn Cmdr in the big one, flying out of England with three kills to his credit, and a great father-in-Law. I unexpectedly made Major below the zone on this tour, but didn't know about if for about a week until Johnny Graves called me from Don Maung where he was in charge of communications and told me congratulations. I told him he was full of it because everybody at Udorn had been notified and I wasn't so it must not have happened. He assured me it was true so I went over to personnel and checked it out. Sure enough I was on the list, BZ. What a nice surprise. Coming home was easier this time. Scheduled all the way to C-Springs. We sold the cabin, traded the big Chevy wagon for an economical Pinto (not) because the fuel crisis was on and headed East via Texas to visit my folks. Next stop was Command and Staff at Maxwell.

Command and Staff was a good year – kinda like R&R. The Hinkels were there and it was great that the two families were together again and the kids were getting to grow up with each other. We bought our second house in Montgomery using the GI Bill and paid 16% interest for the year. When we left town after the year we sold it back to the realtor for what we paid for it – his promise when we bought it. Following Command and Staff we packed up again and headed to Langley AFB in Virginia for a full 3 yr tour as a staff officer in the plans shop at TAC HQ. Dixon was the boss and it was a real educational experience. I joined Daedalians, worked a project to integrate the Guard and Reserve into the Active (see where that is now with Total Force), Judy taught special needs children in Hampton. The girls were into 4-H. Then Lt Col Larry Welch taught our Sunday School class at the Base Chapel. We lived on the Chesapeake Bay in Poquoson in a residential area made up mostly of AF folks. In our spare time we went crabbing, fishing, and clamming, even found a few oysters. Then we would have a neighborhood feast on the lawn. When it came my time for assignment I was able to wrangle my way into the F-16 program so it was off to Hill following another 5 ride checkout in the F-4 at Luke. The girls were getting good at this moving thing by now and there were no complaints. Packum up and head West.

We rolled into town, found a house and settled in. Judy got a job counseling and enrolled at BYU to finish up her Masters degree. The girls got into horses big time and we all learned to ski with the Downers and McAdoos. The kids were growing up together in the AF family. I went to work as the Assistant Ops Officer of the 16th TTS and setting up the Sqdn facility in anticipation of the arrival of the first birds in January of 79. I didn't fly the F-4 at Hill as there weren't enough birds to keep currency on the guys already checked out and awaiting assignment. So I waited my turn to check out in the F-16. As I remember, I was about the 3rd Hill guy to check out. What a blast.

The computer in the early birds had 32K of memory and the stick didn't move. Soon thereafter the memory went to 64K and they gave us a stick that moved ¼ inch and had a stop. That really helped because you would wear your arm out trying to get another G in a slow speed fight with the immoveable stick. With the moveable stick with the stop you knew you had reached the limit and it didn't help to pull any harder. Lockheed and the AF handed us the airplane and said here it is boys, have fun- you can't hurt yourself, the computer will keep you out of trouble. They had done what we called a success oriented test program and in the quest to save money there were areas that were just not thoroughly tested. We taught ourselves and passed it on to those we taught. Give the bird to a bunch of fighter pilots and we will soon tell you what the true limits really are.

The size of the -1 grew. We were lucky. We got thru the first year without any losses. The second year was a different story. We started finding the problems – from the flight controls going to sleep to weapons and pylons falling off the airplane at inappropriate times. This was a great machine, but it had its growing pains. When the problems surfaced Lockheed solved them and fixed it. But we were losing airplanes at a rate of about one a month. With every loss a head rolled. It was great to be a Vice at Hill because you weren't there long. You got promoted and moved on. The Wing King, the DO and the Sqdn Cmdr was a different story. Not your fault, but you got fired. It was rumored that Creech went through 47 Wing Commanders during his tenure as TAC/CC. We went through a bunch at Hill. Not your fault, unlucky. Creech just didn't want any unlucky Commanders. Great leadership philosophy. TAC got through it but it wasn't pretty.

The airplane was and is awesome. Just think about turning and the airplane would lay on the Gs and turn. Be sure to set your neck first though or you would feel the pain for several days. Several guys had neck problems. A few lost it with GLOC. What about the body hickey. Get yourself a couple of really hard turning flights the same day, undress at home that night and your wife wants to know what you have been doing as your rear end and backside are all red spots from the blood being pulled through the skin. Great visibility. The most comfortable seat of any fighter yet.

I got caught up in the firing mess and had to move on to save / give my career a chance. Lots of stories to tell. Not enough time or space to even get started. So I left the family behind on short notice and headed for Shaw. My family finished up the semester in Utah and then joined me in South Carolina after Christmas with Judy's family in Colo. The good old boy system and TAC personnel combined to give me a second chance.

At Shaw I went to work in the Ready Team office preparing the base for the arrival of the F-16. Once a month or so I drove to McDill and provided another instructor in their F-16 school house. The F-16 program was now expanding like mad. Shaw would be the 2nd state side operational location. I proved to the Shaw leadership that I was worth taking a chance on and was therefore given the Sqdn CC position of the 2nd Shaw F-16 Squadron, the 17th TFS. The 17th had a long AF history. We called ourselves the “Hooters”. You have seen pictures of the snowy white owl in the attack mode on the side of a 1930s era P-6E out of Selfridge. So this would be the third Sqdn I had built from scratch. We're talking buildings and personnel – everything. What a blast. Personnel gave me the right people and they produced. We passed our inspections easily and took our place alongside the other TAC operational units. We went to Maple Flag and waxed a__. We deployed the Sqdn to Bodo Norway for a month to exercise our forward basing and ambassador skills. We intercepted Russian bombers and everybody got to shoot on the banner / rag. While we were gone Judy played the leadership role with the wives as all the Lts wives especially were experiencing their first separation from their husbands. When we returned home I was fired again – this time because I was promoted to Full Bull after only a year as the Sqdn CC. I stayed on base and moved over to head up 9th AF Stan Eval for a year while I waited for my Air War College slot. Another real learning opportunity and a chance to see how all the 9th AF units operated, including the Guard and the Reserves. Then it was off to Maxwell again.

Air War College was an opportunity to learn, work hard, play, check out the future high rollers of the AF, make new friends and renew old friendships. The Hinkels were with us again and that relationship was strengthened. What a blessing. Missy graduated from high school. We took a Pakistani general and his family under our wing and that relationship continues to this day. Following War College I was posted to the Pentagon where I was unceremoniously thrust into the budget cycle as head of the TAC panel and Chief of the Fighter Branch in Plans and Programs. Judy loved the assignment and got to know the city and it's museums well. She was a counselor in the Fairfax school system, Melissa enrolled at Rice University, Jennifer ran track. I worked my rear off and completed my 4 yr Pentagon tour in one year. Once again I worked with some really great people. Like most offices in the Pentagon it was in early and home late. We worked in a vault. There was one period where the vault was not locked for a week as we worked the President's Budget. All of a sudden the country boy from Texas was making some fast and crucial decisions that affected the Tactical force structure. Who woulda thought?. Next assignment was Panama, Howard AFB.

I went to Panama dragging my feet all the way. Hal Watson was the Air Division Cmdr and I shipped in as the DO and moved up to Vice prior to my retirement. We all learned to love diving the reefs, Judy worked as a counselor for the DODS school system. Jennifer graduated from high school there and entered the Air Force Academy, class of 92'. What I found in Panama was one of the most exciting assignments of my career. There was so much going on at that time with activity in all of Central America. We were a part of history. Noriega was beginning to act up and we had several fire fights with his forces towards the end of my tour. A Panama JTF was formed up under the leadership of the Army 2 Star. Watson made the decision that if anything happened, he needed to stay at home and run the Air Division. Therefore he told me to be the AF rep on the JTF which was headed up by the Army 2 Star with an Admiral from Rodman and me representing the AF making up the Top Three. The Army 2 star then made me the 2nd in command. The Admiral didn't even blink an eye when he announced that. Practically what that did was put me over Watson should we get into action and the 2 Star became indisposed. A year after I retired the US invaded Panama, captured Noriega and placed him in prison in Florida. Hal and I left at about the same time and Rob Turnow replaced Hal as the CC. I believe he was there for the invasion.

During my tour there I ran the AF flying operation, was in charge of the new anti-drug radar sites in Honduras and was involved in multiple Southern Command operations and Country to Country dealings. I flew the A-37 and later, at the request of General Conaway who was Director Air National Guard at the time, the A-7. He said he wanted some adult supervision of his A-7 operation there. The Guard kept 4 A-7s there year round and cycled pilots in every two weeks to man them. I was sure he was just joking and giving me the opportunity to fly the bird as I had always found the Air Guard to be a professional and capable bunch. I went to Tucson and got a 1 ride checkout and went back to Panama dual qualified. The job kept me busy and I wasn't flying the A-7 but every 2 weeks or so – not near enough. So I took a week, went to Puerto Rico and flew with them twice a day to immerse myself in the bird and get comfortable in it. Following that I was able to feel at home. My last flight in the AF was in the A-7.

What a great ride I had in the AF. I am very proud to have served and to have been associated with so many outstanding individuals who have served our great country so well. I feel a need to thank my family and Judy especially for her devotion and support which allowed me to be as effective as I could be.

Following the AF I hired on with Lockheed and we took up residence in Weatherford, TX. I worked in the F-16 program in marketing and training. I worked primarily in support of the Air National Guard and with the EPAF Mid Life Update Program within the F-16 program. Judy became a counselor in the Weatherford ISD, Melissa the editor of two community magazines in the DFW metroplex, and Jennifer has served 22 years in the AF as Intel, plans, and executive functions and is herself retiring at the rank of Lt Col on 16 Aug 2014. Judy and I are both retired and split our time and recreation between Weatherford, our cabin in Divide, Colo (which we call Rawlins Rejoin) and the Grandkids. Come see us.

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