Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Jack's History

I was 17 when I entered the Academy on 27 Jun 1960, and was already somewhat disillusioned by the time I jumped out of the friendly stranger's car in front of the “Bring Me Men” gateway. I had kissed my tearful mother good-by at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport and boarded my first flight to Chicago where I changed planes for my second flight to Denver. On that flight I met the friendly stranger who offered me a ride to the Academy. The plane rides and the car ride from Denver were uneventful, even enjoyable, but the mountains were considerably smaller than I had imagined, and the countryside was 99 shades of brown. To top it all off, the cadet area looked unimpressively small during our approach.

In high school I had played football well enough that my coach was able to talk the Air Force recruiter into offering me an appointment. Doolie summer took its toll on me physically and emotionally, though, and I didn't do well in the team tryouts. That disappointment nearly pulled the plug on my Air Force career. Fortunately, an upperclassman challenged me to find other pursuits. Eventually I found Lacrosse was a good substitute. My classmates honored me by selecting me as their Honor rep, and later as their Ring rep.

Flying was never something I dreamed of. Instead I selected flight school after graduation because most of the top brass in the Air Force were rated pilots. Although I knew nothing about any of the pilot training bases, I got lucky and selected Reese AFB in Lubbock, TX. At Reese I enjoyed what I imagined the typical college life was like. Texas Tech in Lubbock was home to many of the prettiest Texas girls so Doc Fargarson, Marty Neuens, Ed Underwood and I rented an apartment near campus to better exploit some of the natural resources available on the weekends.

I graduated near the middle of my class, having done well in flying, but less than well in academics. (Programmed Learning and I just didn't get along.) I had listened attentively as representatives from a variety of flying units regaled us with stories of their derring-do, and I noticed that the fighter pilots bragged about their harrowing escapes from dangerous situations while transport pilots bragged about their romantic encounters with exotic girls from far-flung places. There were six C-130A assignments to Naha, Okinawa available, and I was able to snag one. My sponsor at the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron, John Heimburger from the Class of '63, promised me cushy embassy runs to Manila, Taipei, Bangkok, and Seoul, but things changed before my arrival. Of the 270 days I was stationed at Naha, I spent 180 days TDY to Viet Nam or Thailand. My only trips to Korea were to Osan; my only trips to Taiwan were to CCK; and I never did get to the Philippines. In Viet Nam and Thailand I flew a variety of missions. Trash hauling and people hauling, of course, but also psychological warfare, and forward air control. Forward air control missions were out of Ubon, Thailand where I met the girl who eventually became my wife. After 9 months and 1000 hours as a C-130 co-pilot, I was reassigned to Viet Nam as a forward air controller flying O-1's and O-2's. The first half of my tour I was assigned to Quang Ngai in support of the Vietnamese army as well as the US Special Forces. The second half I went back to Ubon flying missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. After more than a year flying forward air control missions in three different airplanes, I volunteered for an additional tour flying fighters. The Air Force assigned me instead to C-141's at Charleston, SC, so I extended my tour in Viet Nam and went to 7th Air Force headquarters in Saigon where I matched given targets with attack resources and published the daily “frag” order. My ploy to win a fighter assignment failed, however, as my next assignment was to C-130's at Lockbourne AFB, OH. I went to Columbus hoping to make my next assignment to AFIT, to test pilot school, or back to Viet Nam in fighters. Unfortunately, none of those panned out until after I had submitted my resignation, when, lo and behold, a slot opened up at AFIT. By then I was committed to resigning.

I took terminal leave and went back to Thailand to invite the girl I had met four years previously to come to America. A year later I was working as a pilot at Eastern Air Lines in Chicago when Cat and I married. Since then we've lived in Chicago, Red Bank, NJ, and, for the last 26 years, in Peachtree City, GA. Three of our four daughters have married (two of them to Zoomies) and have given us five grandchildren. I left Eastern in 1989 and went to Northwest Airlines, which later merged into Delta Airlines. I retired at the end of August, 2009 after having spent 45 years in the cockpit of an airplane. I'm now riding on the front seat of a motorcycle and life is still good.
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