Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

USAFA & Air Force Remembrances

by John Sowers


For about 100 recruited athletes and qualified service academy candidates, our military life started after we joined the AF Reserves and took basic training at Lackland AFB in August 1959. We then went (my first airplane ride) to the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Maryland for seven months of academics, extracurricular activities, and sports to prepare for college entrance exams.

We lived with enlisted Navy, Marine, Army, and other Air Force personnel. This is where my roommate Don Spoon and Rich Porter, Jay Kelly, Nick Lacy, Bill Skaer, John Lorber, Dick Morris, Bob Sansom, Ben Collins, George Gates, John Cunningham, Cam Coberly, Tony Covais, and many others in the class of 1964 learned how to spit shine shoes, clean barracks, and drink a little beer. It was the best of times; they gave us food, clothing, shelter, free education, $78 a month pay, and an almost guaranteed nomination to a service academy.

We were allowed to go home in March 1960 to await word of an appointment. Don Spoon and I went to New York City for a couple of days. I remember visiting Ripley's Believe or Not Museum, gawking at many New York buildings and sights, and going into a bar and buying a girly whiskey sour. That was a big deal for an 18 year old from Seminole, Oklahoma that was a dry state. I then traveled alone to Yale University and Vassar College to visit David Boren and Martha Godfrey, two of my high school classmates. David was later a Rhodes Scholar, Oklahoma Representative and Governor, and US Senator, and is now President of the University of Oklahoma.


I had visited the academy in the early summer of 1959 after finishing high school, so at least had seen the facilities before arriving in June 1960 with Rich Porter, Keith Lacey, and Jay Kelly. We met at Keith's home in Fountain, Colorado the day before entering, and Keith's wonderful mom and dad fed us well and bedded us down.

I don't remember much about the first week—just a lot of noise (described by General George Butler as leadership by decibels), lots of push-ups, but not much food. A FUNNY: My summer roommate was Harvey Manekofsky from Connecticut. After we had been there for over a week, he whispered one night just after our door was closed that he knew we had been busy, but would I please stop calling him Barney because his name was really Harvey. We both laughed to tears.

I arrived at 205 pounds with no body fat, and was down to 176 pounds before academics started. I was fortunate to be assigned to 13th Squadron; we had strong leaders like George Butler (61) John Dinsmore (62), Ron Fogleman (63), Bob Sansom (64) and Paul Kaminski (64). The 13th Squadron was Honor Squadron for 4 of 5 years during the 1961-1965 time periods.

My first roommate was Irishman Patrick James Tuffey. He had a long, fresh scar on his head. Just before coming to the academy, he had gotten into a verbal exchange in a New York bar and a man hit him over the head with a beer bottle. ANOTHER FUNNY: Some upper classmen (mostly yellow tags) came around on Halloween for trick or treating, hoping our parents had sent us some homemade goodies. Pat passed out Oreo cookies; he had carefully replaced the white filling with shaving cream. Got em !!

LAST FUNNY. The final semester of our senior year was a “pain” academically; most of us were burnt out. We were taking a tough engineering finals test. After the instructor left the room, Mitch Cobeaga, after looking at the test, stood up at the back of the room and threw his book across the room and hit the blackboard full force. What a tension reliever.

I, like many, really liked the looks of the academy through my rear view mirror as I drove away after graduation. The only two things I didn't like about the academy was the policy of withholding food from 4th classmen, and mandatory chapel attendance for 4th classmen (and I am a believer). However, it was overall a great experience because of our classmates, good AOCs and instructors, and the honor code. There was a trust and respect for each other that cannot be over stated, and exists as strongly today.


My eyes were 20/50, so pilot training was not an option. I decided to go into the Air Force civil engineering career field and was able to take some related courses under Captain Wally Fluhr, who later became the head of the Civil Engineering Department at the academy. He was an excellent officer, instructor and engineer, and played a major role in the design and construction of missile complexes throughout the United States.

Support officers see the Air Force most often at ground level, but I cannot over emphasize what an exciting time I had as an Air Force officer and civil engineer for almost 26 years (64-90). It was always interesting that some in other career fields knew a lot more about my job than I did, but they were always happy to straighten me out.

As classmate General Dick Hawley said about the Air Force when he retired, it was about great people, and I totally agree. Here are some highlights of my experiences.

University of Illinois (64-66): The Air Force sent me there for a MS degree in civil engineering. Classmates Dave O'Brien (physics), Reid Knutson (civil engineering), and JJ Williams (industrial engineering) were also there at the same time. Reid goofed off and made A's; I worked my tail off and barely made B's. Dave breezed through and is now a Chief Scientist of the Air Force at Patrick AFB. JJ breezed through and worked as an Air Force manpower officer for 20 years, and later had a successful career with USAA in San Antonio.

Vandenberg AFB (66-67): My first work place was a trailer, and we shared desks with those who were on TDY. We were in Systems Command on a SAC base. My SAC neighbor had access and information about all missile launches, so we could get up really close and watch Atlas, Thor, Titan, and Minuteman missiles blast off, and sometimes blow up. My boss was Lt Colonel Robert C. Thompson who later became the Director of Air Force Civil Engineer and Services under General David Jones. He would often come into our cubicles and announce that we were all going to the gym to stay healthy. He believed in working and playing hard; he and his wife Mary Belle were wonderful people.

In the summer of 1966, Lt Col Thompson anointed me engineering supply officer on an ocean mission starting in Hawaii aboard the range ship Sunnyvale. We sailed to uninhabited and generally unexplored Henderson Island (near Pitcairn Island—reference The Mutiny on the Bounty). A few visited Pitcairn to provide medical and logistics assistance, and sure enough, there were Fletcher Christian's descendents. They later came aboard to visit our ship, and one accompanied us to Henderson as he knew how to get small boats ashore. We had helicopter support, set up a base tent camp and completed both underwater and land surveys with a 30 person engineering/design team.

We found human bones in a cave; the ship's carpenter built coffins, and we buried the remains. The wildlife (birds and small rats) had probably never seen men; you could easily pick up the birds from their ground nests. We could walk out onto a shallow reef, and easily catch lobsters by hand. We worked among inland coral that was razor sharp and could quickly ruin leather boots and gloves.

When we crossed the equator, the ship's crew took great delight in initiating us into the Domain of Neptunus Rex. We were stripped down to our shorts, blindfolded, and made to crawl around on a wet deck, much of the time bumping into steel obstacles. Toward the end they shoved your head into a large can full of foul garbage, and then had you kiss the sardine smeared belly of a fat Hawaiian. On the way home, we sometimes entertained ourselves by breaking out pistols and firing at floating targets dropped behind the ship. We stayed in contact with our families using a ham radio system, a first for me.

Taipei AS, Taiwan (67-69): My assignment was to the base civil engineer (BCE) staff at Taipei Air Station, home of the 327th Air Division. There were five civil engineer officers on station (O-5, three O-3s, and me the O-2). The Air Division rotated intelligence personnel to South Vietnam, and controlled several Taiwan communication sites, CCK Air Base that provided C-130 support to South Vietnam, and Tainan Air Base that provided maintenance support for fighter aircraft from South Vietnam.

During that first year, the other four officers were reassigned to South Vietnam. I had been promoted to O-3, and with two new Lieutenants, became both the BCE and 327th AD engineer. My air division boss was Brigadier General Levi Chase who I believe must have mentored General Dixon of TAC renown. If I had to talk to him, his secretary would schedule the meeting right after he had been out flying fighters with the Nationalist Chinese, and then for a short period of time he was somewhat pleasant.

One of our military once failed to salute General Chase properly, and so we had Saturday morning in-ranks and facility inspections for a month. Guess who was put in charge of that? However, General Chase was a highly respected warrior who had combat experience in WWll, Korea, and Vietnam. I also was acting Base Commander on occasion. The first time, an OSI agent came to me and had me sign a paper that authorized them to search and arrest an NCO who was smuggling gold to Japan. His jealous girl friend found out that he had a second girl friend—something about the wrath of being scorned.

I experienced most of the war in Vietnam from afar. However, one Monday morning at our 314th staff meeting, two seats were empty. Those officers were killed that weekend coming back to CCK from South Vietnam aboard a C-130 that crashed on final. I was in Saigon twice in January 1968 just as Tet started; it seemed like a dream looking down and seeing aircraft spotting and dropping bombs so close to Tan Son Nhut. Outside the terminal, Army APCs were flying down the road in the direction of heavy gunfire.

Taipei was an R&R option and we saw a continuous procession of young Army soldiers. I talked to Tom Mitchell (63) and his wife at the MAAG club; they were on R&R from Okinawa. He was killed a short time later on a C-130 mission in Laos. I had to go to 13th AF at Clark AB often, and saw and talked to pilots like Roger Head (64) and Ron Fogleman (63). Roger was flying F-4s and Ron F-100s. Ron carried on a different conversation with me; he wanted to know about my job and its challenges. No wonder he became the academy's first Chief of Staff of the Air Force. A few weeks later he was shot down and rescued by a cobra gunship; they had to stuff him into an empty ammo compartment before liftoff.

One of my most memorable moments was meeting and having a brief conversation with Lt General Benjamin Davis (and wife Aggie), who had replaced “Whip” Wilson as 13th AF Commander. General Davis was a Tuskegee legend and true gentleman; Wilson was a #%#&^%*&$#.

My friend Bill Skaer (64) was also in Taiwan during this time. He was in a “spook” outfit somewhere on a mountain top outside Taipei. His new beautiful daughter Eve was something to behold.

The Pentagon (69-73): I must have made someone at the Air Force Personnel Center mad. For the first 6 months I felt like my work world went into slow motion. My biggest challenges were getting to and from work, finding and begging people to coordinate on staff papers, and praying that the 19 year old secretary wouldn't make mistakes when typing those papers.

Things changed after attending Squadron Officer's School for four months in early 1970. Bob Lodge (64) was also there at the SOS; he was back from the war and we enjoyed meeting to drink coffee and talk quietly at breaks. He was the one who said: “that a MIG at 6 o'clock was better than no MIG at all”. He was a legend, and was killed after going back to war.

Major General Maurice R. Reilly was the Deputy Air Force Civil Engineer whose primary job was to go before congressional committees and present and defend the Air Force military construction program. His dad was a foreman on the King ranch in Texas; General Reilly quarterbacked the University of Colorado football team in 1941, and then went to war as a pilot. I served as his executive officer for almost three years, primarily helping him prepare for the hearings, carrying the books and charts and sitting behind him, and being there when he needed a sounding board. He was unflappable; he could sell fans to Eskimos. He exposed me to the Congress; all I will say is--GOOD GRIEF, even if it is an oxymoron. He could water your eyes when he put pen to paper, and hopefully some of that skill rubbed off on me. He was a great Air Force officer and mentor, and was made out the finest grade of steel.

I worked with and was exposed to many important civil engineering and budget people at the DOD and the Air Force while at the Pentagon. I never forgot that I was expendable and certainly didn't try to burn any bridges behind me, and those folks helped me later when I went back to the real Air Force.

You see a lot of USAFA grads at the Pentagon or around Washington DC. Bob Baxter (62) Steve Croker (64) and Bob Sansom (64) are three that come to mind. On occasion Bob Sansom and I would meet and play tennis on clay courts near the Potomac, as he was hanging out at the White House and flying to places like China with Henry Kissinger

Thailand (73-74): My assignment was operations officer of the 554th Red Horse heavy construction squadron at U-Tapao Airfield. The B-52's and U-2s were flying off at night or early morning, and the C-130s were hauling ammo and supplies to who knows where. The B-52 unit has taken casualties during Linebacker ll operations and attacks on North Vietnam in late 1972.

We had pulled our people and equipment out of South Vietnam, and were trying to re-constitute. We were deployed to four sites in Thailand, had a detachment in Korea, and later established new detachments in the Philippines and Okinawa. We were 11 officers, 500 military and 250 civilian personnel. We also brought a “real” horse from Vietnam and had to give that stallion some TLC. It was hooked on beer and was mean. Some aircraft maintenance folks stole it one night, and after two days they called us to come get it. They had put it in one of their facilities or dorms, and it tore the place apart.

My job was straightforward: get the projects designed and prepare bills of materials, get the materials, get the vehicle fleet and construction equipment fixed and distributed, put our best officers and NCOs at the detachments, go visit the detachments, and go to the Philippines, Okinawa, and HQ PACAF and do the planning and get approvals to put those two new detachments in place.

Again, my job was straightforward, but the commander and deputy commander had to deal almost full time with personnel issues related to drugs , alcohol abuse, venereal diseases, failure to repair, etc. However, I was called by the legal folks once to review a case and recommend dismissal or retention of an aircraft maintenance NCO who was dependable at work, but had 26 recorded cases of venereal disease. I also had one such dependable NCO who headed our plumbing shop, but who drank a fifth of vodka every night. He collapsed one day, had to be air evacuated to Clark AB, and died there.

At U-tapao, we had our share of snakes, scorpions, and one large five foot water monitor lizard that was considered good luck and that lived in the river khlong that ran through the base. There were lots of lizards hanging around our latrine/shower areas, a large flock of huge ravens at the far side of the base, and lots of rice bugs (they looked like a large cockroach that primarily fed on rice, and were considered a raw delicacy after it had digested its rice).

It was easy to get infections, boils, and serious rashes from contact with untreated water, the soil, and high humidity. One Sunday, our Captain Vince Rusinak (68) went swimming and boating where the base khlong entered the Gulf of Thailand. He got a small scratch on his foot or leg, and before that day ended, he was in the base hospital with red streaks heading toward his heart. Vince now owns a thriving real estate business in Colorado Springs. Once treated with strong antibiotics, some of the bacteria would go dormant in your body and would reappear after leaving Thailand, especially those bacteria affecting eyes and hands. I don't wear a ring for two reasons. They can be jerked off if caught in equipment, etc, and can take the finger with them (happened to one of our heavy equipment operators).The skin area under the ring was also a place where those bacteria would reappear, based on personal experience.

Shortly after my arrival, our Commander told me that someone was stealing copper materials from some dorms we were building and it had to stop so we could finish the work. “So, take care of it.” We believed the copper was being stolen during the day by some of our workers, either military and/or local nationals, since all expensive construction materials were secured at night. I gathered all the military and civilians together at the end of that day, and had them in formation and at attention, including the local nationals. I got up real close to them. I would talk and an interpreter would repeat my words in the Thai language. I didn't hold back my feelings about stealing and the fact that there were airmen out there who needed those dorms. I told the local nationals that I would depend on them to police their own if any were involved. If the problem wasn't resolved, I told them that I would fire all of them. I think the military got the message—at least their eyes were wide. The locals started cheering. I had to turn around as I didn't know what to do--laugh or what? The next day two or three of the local nationals didn't report for work, and the stealing stopped. You just never knew what role you had to play on any given day.

Our work in the Philippines was interesting. Our men lived at a navy communications complex near the Crow Valley gunnery range where they would construct or repair buildings, roads, drainage systems, bridges, and range facilities. The trip to this area was very interesting; we traveled over dirt roads and through villages that had no electricity but lots of goats living under raised houses. We crossed paths with some heavily armed locals, and got a lot of smiles and V signs from local children. My first day on the gunnery range was revealing. It made me appreciate how good our U.S. pilots were; they came in straight and steady and dropped their inert practice bombs very close to their targets. However, the Philippine pilots looked like I was at the controls, weaving and bobbing all over the sky.

7002 Civil Engineering Flight Commander (74-78): This job was the best of my entire Air Force career and life, and I thank Major General Robert C. Thompson for the assignment. Our activity was located in two separate compounds in forests outside Ramstein AB, Germany, and we also used office space at HQ USAFE/DE to support our design engineers.

CIVILIAN SERVICE UNIT: This heavy construction and repair activity had 241 personnel, 130 pieces of heavy construction equipment, mobile asphalt and concrete plants, runway paint marking trucks, and a soil/concrete/asphalt test laboratory. The unit was self contained with its own vehicle maintenance, logistics, dining hall, and living facilities. Most were Germans who had worked for the USAF since the early 1950s, and many were combat veterans from WWll. They were augmented by 20 Turkish and Spanish construction personnel. They worked in Africa, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Germany, France, Great Britain, and Spain. They were multi skilled and were assigned the highest priority engineering projects in USAFE. Their most critical projects included hardened command and control complexes, complete airfield pavement replacements and repairs, the first ever contingency runway, aircraft protective shelter modifications, major POL system repairs, LORAN sites, ammunition storage, and gunnery range repairs. I am not exaggerating when saying that this semi-military unit was the most responsive, effective, and efficient in the world. They were well known by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

GENERATOR/BARRIER/INTERIOR DETECTION UNIT: These 20 enlisted military repaired and installed aircraft arresting barrier systems, generators, interior intrusion detection systems, and communications power switchgear for USAFE bases. They deployed and supported NATO/JCS exercises from Norway to Pakistan, and were prepared to deploy immediately in case of war. They also trained USAFE power production and fire fighter personnel on barriers, generators, and detection systems.

ENGINEERING SERVICE UNIT. These 15 German professional engineers designed projects and prepared bills of materials for the Civilian Service Unit. They completed planning surveys and design support for key construction projects throughout USAFE.

My most important job was to stay out the way of the CSU, GBIDU, and ESU. I focused on improving their logistics tail for materials and new construction equipment, and getting them promoted. I was terribly proud of writing their regulation—it was one page long. We started a summer program to have top USAFA civil engineering students (Opp of 77, and Lockhart of 78) spend a month or so with the 7002 CEF. They got dirty and traveled to some exciting places. We still get Christmas cards from retired Lt Colonel Gil Opp.

Our compounds were located very near the takeoff and landing flight paths of Ramstein F-4s, so we heard the sounds of freedom almost daily. I could walk out my office, quickly change clothes in the CSU officer's area, and in two minutes be jogging past the clay tennis court and soccer field and into beautiful forests, with my dachshund Cinnamon.

I could write 1000 pages, single spaced, about the wonderful men and women of the 7002 CEF, and about the truly outstanding work they did for the USAF. I will give you only one example so you'll get the picture.

In early September 1977, we were tasked by HQ USAF to quickly construct a contingency runway at Hahn AB, Germany. We were told to immediately send our Operations Officer (Herr Fritz Schwab) to the Pentagon so he could provide estimated costs and verify that we could complete the work that year.

ESU and CSU engineers immediately surveyed the construction site to determine required material, equipment, and personnel requirements, and provide an estimated completion date. Keep in mind that Hahn AB has possibly the worse weather conditions of any base in Germany, and local asphalt suppliers usually stop all their operations in November-February.

After 94 straight days of work, the job was completed and included installation and testing of two aircraft arresting barrier systems. Herr Bert Jordan led the 40 men construction team, MSgt Keener led the barrier team, and Herr Egon Albrecht provided heavy equipment maintenance, most of which was done at night. They built a 50 feet by 5200 feet runway, and two 50 feet by 500 feet taxiways. It required 35,000 man hours, 24 pieces of heavy construction equipment, removal and compaction of over 200,000 tons of earth and rock, compaction of 30,000 tons of crushed rock base course, placement of 5400 tons of asphalt, and a complete underground drainage system. This was done on the side of a steep hill, and it rained or snowed many of those 94 days. The men sitting on the heavy construction equipment (scrapers, dozers, etc ) day after day at first thought they had been run over by an elephant; they were physically sore and exhausted for most of the first three weeks. But they just wouldn't quit.

Personal from General David Jones, Chief of Staff, USAF.

"When I list my points for pride for the Air Force in 1977, the Hahn Runway Project will be right up there at the top of the list. You beat tough odds and the weather, and helped give us an achievement and symbol that will contribute to readiness for many years. That took imagination, initiative, and hard work. I'm grateful to you and your people, and want to offer personal thanks and congratulations. Great work."

Sometimes this job was bittersweet. Over my four years, we lost some men because of illness and accidents, but another enemy was alcoholism. All three units had to cope with this problem at one time or another. If you were a German, their government had a “cure” program and individuals suffering from job stress or alcoholism could enter a 30 day recovery program at a remote site where rest, exercise, healthy food, and counseling were promoted. Our one military alcoholic ended up with the DTs and in the hospital, and was transferred out of our unit, primarily because of our wartime mission.

Another issue was German pride, something that festered at times between our CSU construction men and our ESU professional engineers. If things weren't going smoothly during a construction project, it usually had to do with a misunderstanding of the design plans and design criteria, or shortage of materials, and each unit might point fingers. Solution: A construction leader was teamed with a professional engineer. They would both sign off on the engineering plans and bills of materials, and the professional engineer was required to spend time at the construction site and assist as required as Murphy's Law would often raise its ugly head. Sounds simple; it resulted in mutual respect, and it worked well.

I still today miss the 7002 CEF, and still stay in touch with Herr Bert Jordan who has long since retired. However, most important was that my replacement was an outstanding officer and friend Jim Bannwart (67).

Air War College (78-79): I thought this would be a year of golf and relaxation. Surprise; there was an over abundance of reading, required papers, team exercises, and required socializing. The best part was meeting officers from many career fields and countries. Two of my favorites were Marine Bill Russell and South Korean Kwak Young Dal.

Bill served two tours in Vietnam, once as an advisor and once as a company commander. He was in the field for 90 straight days at the battle of Khe Sanh in 1968. His job was to keep his men battle ready, and to find and kill the enemy. He highly respected supporting arms, fox holes, a piece of cardboard to lay on at night, and enough food, water, and ammunition. During one battle, his men fixed bayonets as they were running out of ammunition. During that same battle a mortar round landed underneath Bill, and he picked small slivers of metal out of his scrotum for several weeks.

Colonel Kwak was a fighter pilot, and we became good friends. My next assignment was to South Korea, and when I landed in Seoul in 1979, he was there to meet and greet me. We worked together in 1981-82 to bed down the A-10 weapon system at Suwon. He later became Lt General Kwak, superintendent of their Air Force Academy, and after retirement was elected to their congress.

314th Air Division, Korea (79-82): This was a very interesting and rewarding assignment. I worked in a brick building with no windows at Yongsan Army Garrison in Seoul. One young engineer and I were part of Logistics, along with aircraft maintenance, supply, and logistics plans personnel. We also worked closely with engineers from the Korean Air Force, Combined Forces Command, and the Eighth Army.

We worked all civil engineering and services (food and dorms) issues at all USAF bases and sites in Korea, and were involved daily with planning for large force deployment and command post exercises.

My initial energizer was Major General Edwards, former chief of staff for General Dixon at HQ TAC. He was something else, but had my respect. He was replaced by Major General “Fat” Fred Haeffner, one of the finest leader I have ever known. I remember his first words to the staff: “If we aren't making mistakes, we aren't going to make any progress”. I don't know why he had the nickname “Fat” but I do know that he later was an outstanding senior competitive weight lifter in California when he was Assistant IG of the USAF. I would often go and see him on Saturday mornings at Osan AB. He would be in the underground command post in jeans and cowboy boots, always smiling and ready for war.

My first six months were more than interesting. One task was to write and prepare a 10 year build-lease agreement with the Korean Government (Korean National Housing Corporation) that required they build 201 family housing units at Osan AB. I don't think this had ever done before in PACAF. I started by going to the top State Department representative who had direct access to the Blue House (the Korean President). He had served in the Korean War, his wife was Korean, he was highly respected by President Park, and he was from Shawnee, Oklahoma, 20 miles from where I grew up. What luck; he helped me get that lease signed on Dec 31st when half the KNHC staff was celebrating the coming New Year and was half crocked. This happened even though President Park had been assassinated earlier that fall.

My two year assignment changed to three years, and I was responsible to work with South Korean engineers to provide facilities to bed down the A-10 weapon system at Suwon AB. This was $33 million of their money. I had a great team of young engineering officers and NCOs who were tasked to monitor design and construction criteria. I was again lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Years later we all saw what the A-10 could do during the Gulf War.

HQ MAC, Scott AFB (82-90). Whew. For anyone reading this far, this was the final chapter in my Air Force career. I spent the first half of this time as Programs Director and then Assistant DCS of Engineering and Services. I was the DCS during the last half of this time and know this job was what most Air Force Civil Engineering Officers strive for.

To me the Military Airlift Command was very special. It was performing its wartime mission almost daily as normal business, airlifting people and materials all over the world using C-130, C-141, and C-5 aircraft. It also provided C-9 medical airlift support and spiced things up with C-130 and helicopter Special Operations and Air Rescue missions.

We had 15 Air Force bases and numerous tenant units worldwide for over 90,000 MAC personnel. Some of the bases were interesting for airlifters, especially Bolling, Andrews, Hurlburt, and Kirtland, and two overseas bases at Rhein Main and Lajes in the Azores. As most know, Hurlburt is where Jimmy Doolittle and his B-26 crews prepared for the first air attack on Japan, and those Hurlburt pavements were still preserved. I always enjoyed visiting Hurlburt and the Special Operations folks. Their Wing Commander in 1989 was Dale Stovall, the most decorated airman in the Vietnam War. He was quiet, but an absolutely outstanding officer and leader.

Maybe the most important task during my time at Scott was to provide the facilities for a new purple suit activity called the United States Transportation Command. These folks, headed by CINCMAC and Navy/Army generals integrated all service forces to get the ammo, fuel, beans and bacon to the battlefield effectively and efficiently. They were up and running before the Gulf War and were vital to that success.

As was true during my entire career, I was blessed to work with 120 great people that comprised the HQ MAC/DE staff. They didn't run around with their hair on fire but would do anything to get our job done right and on time. My bosses Dave Cornell and John Harty were the very best, and folks like Andy Allen, Larry Van Buren, Roger Weber, Dan Tatum, Walt Smith, Art Morrisette, and Chief Beck were the perfect blend of civilian/military professionals.

MAC had many USAFA grads that I knew or worked with and who excelled, such as Rod Wells (64), Bruce Fister (64), Tom Eggers (64),Bob Woods (64), Gary Anderson (64), and Tom Pilch (65). When around those guys, the trust thing always kicked in.

When I retired in 1990, Lt General Tony Burshnick (60) did the honors; he was another great Air Force leader who was once the Commandant of the Academy. I remember some of my last words, with a focus on the great MAC mission, the need to let our young folks make mistakes and excel, and to keep our powder dry as a nation.

Trudi (64-present). When I retired from the Air Force, I said that the best thing I took into the Air Force and the best thing I took out of the Air Force was my best friend and wife Trudi. Not once did I have to worry about who was taking care of our Air Force brats Beth and Chris, so I could work at 110 percent with no worries about what was going on at home. We are also now blessed with five grandchildren, none of which have any body fat. Their parents are tougher than I ever was; the first words those five learned are “please” and “thank you”.

Some Things I Learned, or Heard.

Harry Reitman—I never learned anything with my mouth open.

General Poe—I started out enlisted. My Sergeant said we'd better have a pencil and paper in hand to write down what he wanted done, because he wasn't going to repeat it. He also said we needed to come to work with some fear that we could be fired.

Major General Reilly—Spend a lot of time coming up with a good title for each construction project or staff paper; it can sometimes sell with that alone. When you put pen to paper, always put today's date at the top. If you want to check your spelling, read it backwards.

General Cassidy—When people are doing and saying stupid things, just smile them to death.

Major General Thompson—Life is like riding on a carrousel; there is a ring and you must lean out far to grasp it. Take the risk; go for it. And don't forget to smell the roses.

554th Red Horse Squadron—Either lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

My wonderful Dad. Alcohol has killed a lot of people, but it is keeping some of us alive.

My wonderful Mom. Son, you were out late last night; what would you like for breakfast, tomato juice or ice water, or both?

Herr Fritz Schwab. Some people are really stupid. They think that if you told them it will take 10 men to do the job in 20 days, then they think that 20 men should complete the job in 10 days. Keep this up by increasing the number of men and eventually you will have completed the work yesterday.

Marriage—I have been married twice, the first time and the last time.

Trudi. Don't take Nyquil if you have a cough and cold. Instead, sip a small glass of Yukon Jack slowly and you'll easily sleep through the night.

Captain Sowers to MSgt Persian many times. Can you do that job that you say is impossible? Response: I can do anything; and he did, many times.

Herr Bert Jordan. Lick the top of your hand and apply salt. Now lick the salt just before you drink the tomato juice and tequila. After doing this a few times, you won't be able to taste the salt.

Lt General Springer. Take care of your own health and your family first. After that, doing your Air Force job is easy. Sowers, let's go play tennis.

Favorite Books:

Dwight Eisenhower: Stories I like to Tell My Friends
Jimmy Doolittle: Autobiography: I Could Never Be So Lucky Again
M. Scott Peck M.D.: The Road Less Traveled
Steven Ambrose: Undaunted Courage
King Solomon of Israel: Proverbs


Us in Scotland
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