Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

A Narrative Resume

Tom Till


I grew up in South Texas. In the summer before I entered fourth grade, I moved to San Antonio, where I was sent to board at a Catholic military elementary school. Later, I became a day student through the 8th grade. My high school, Central Catholic High School, was another military school for boys. It was a good school and, combined with five years of military grade school, provided a solid preparation for the Academy.

1960 -1964: AT THE ACADEMY

My goal from the time I entered high school was to go to the academy, and I was happy and proud to have attained it. As I am happier when I am working than when I am studying, I was anxious to graduate, and get to work. My eyesight deteriorated substantially early in Third Class year; I began to squint in class and recognize people by the pattern of their walk, not their features. This ruled out flying and undoubtedly changed my life. The impact of this didn't hit me immediately. But gradually, as I began to think about it, it bothered me more and more. I didn't know what I could do on active duty that would be worthwhile, nor what impact it would have on my career.



My operational active duty in the Air Force was as interesting as a non-flyer's could be if you wanted to experience a broad range of the Air Force's operations and management structure: I served in tactical units and field headquarters in Vietnam, at SAC HQ, and at HQ USAF.

Jun 1964-Jan 1965: Georgetown University Graduate School
My roommate was Steve Croker, until he got married and he and his bride took over our small apartment. I then moved into a basement room at Captain Zook's home in Great Falls, VA, not far from where he was working at the CIA.

Mar-Nov 1965: Armed Forces Air Intelligence Training Center, Lowry AFB, Denver.
From AFAITC I got orders for South Carolina.

Jan-Feb 1966: 363rd Reconnaissance Technical Squadron, Shaw AFB, Sumter, SC
I got to Shaw in late January, took a quick look around at the rapidly disappearing stock of personnel and equipment, and – two weeks after getting there – volunteered for Vietnam.

Feb-Mar 1966: Air Intelligence Officer, 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, Holloman AFB, Alamogordo, NM.
I joined the 366th TFW to rotate with it to Vietnam. The residents at Holloman said you could tell what time of day it was by the size of the rocks the wind was blowing against the outside walls of the house. We had a lovely trip over in a C-130 A-model; it might have been noisy but it was cold. And it was long: Holloman-Travis-Hickam-Guam-Cebu-Phan Rang). We were so glad to get there.

Mar-May 1966: Air Intelligence Officer, 366th TFW, Phan Rang AB, RVN.
I worked for a good boss, a major, who had become an intelligence officer after working as a meteorologist until he delivered an unequivocal forecast that “The typhoon will never hit Okinawa.” It was so good finally to be doing something real; during the short time I was at Phan Rang, we were fortunate enough not to lose any pilots. Meanwhile, the 7th AF command structure in Saigon – mostly 7th AF Deputy Commander General Meyer, much more than General Moore or, later, General Momyer – was busy eating intelligence briefing officers for breakfast, working his way down through the lieutenant colonels and majors until all the briefing officers were captains and lieutenants. In May I got shipped to Saigon from Phan Rang.

May 1966-Mar 1967: Intelligence Briefing Officer and Intelligence Targeting Officer at HQ 7th Air Force, Tan Son Nhut AB, Saigon, Republic of Vietnam
I got a few nights and days of training before I started giving briefings. We worked six-day weeks of 13- to 14-hour shifts, beginning at 2200H, briefing at 0700H for 60-90 minutes, including a lot of questions. Then followed researching and writing answers to questions until 1100-1200H. In late fall, when more briefing officers had arrived and been trained, I was sent from the operations floor upstairs to work with Colonel Gene Tighe, Director of Targets (who had worked with Lockheed's Skunk Works in designing the intelligence sensors for the U-2 and the SR-71), and Brigadier General Jamie Philpott, DCS/I (famous for developing the original list of “84 Targets” that McNamara had commissioned for the initial air strikes on North Vietnam). I got to see McNamara in action on one of his trips to Vietnam, and for a couple of months briefed General Westmoreland. My tour in Saigon was a very heady time but even more it was a sad and sobering time, as the morgue was across the street from the HQ building. More directly, working in the operations center, I heard the name of everyone who was shot down, whether killed, injured, or MIA. That included our classmates as well as other USAFA pilots I knew – Pat Wynne comes to mind, as does David Zook, who was one of the MIAs. Never in my life – before or since – have I felt the intensity that I felt every day when I was working in Vietnam. Everyone on the staff felt the same – focusing on everything we could possibly do to make sure that our pilots knew what they were going up against.

Apr 1967-Jan 1969, Air Targets Officer, HQ Strategic Air Command, Offutt AFB, Omaha, NE.
Nebraska and HQ SAC in April 1967 were as different from Saigon and 7th Air Force as anything could be. But though the atmosphere of general tension might have been gone, the work ethic was not. You could see it in the dedication of the men who had been there for years, laying the SIOP, working six-and-a-half-day weeks while endlessly smoking cigars. My main project at SAC was helping develop a system for projecting estimates of future target systems for the annual Nuclear Weapons Requirements Study.

In September of 1967, Christine McDonough and I were married.

Jan 1969-Jan 1971: Air Intelligence Staff Officer, HQ U.S. Air Force.
As part of a Joint Task Force on the organization of armed services intelligence, I was heavily involved in conceiving, preparing, and negotiating approval of a Joint Staff paper on the reorganization of elements of armed services intelligence. Later I was staff assistant for an intelligence task force on how to improve career development for USAF's intelligence officers. In the summer of 1970, I became a member of Army Navy Country Club, where I still belong. In the fall of 1970, I began studies for a law degree at Georgetown University.

Late in 1970, I decided to leave the Air Force. In January 1971, I resigned.


In February 1971, I was offered a policy analyst's position in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation.

1971-1974: Policy Analyst, Office of the Secretary of Transportation
At the outset, I learned about the transportation sector by drafting the first federal statement of National Transportation Policy. It wasn't long after I walked in that my Office Director said to me, “Till, you don't know anything about transportation. Why don't you write the National Transportation Policy Statement required by the Airport and Airways Development Act of 1970?” It took a year of drafting and clearing and drafting and clearing, not only with more than a dozen organizations inside the DOT, but also with everyone on the civil side of the federal government's hierarchy right up to OMB and the White House staff.

In September 1973 our first child, Morgan Joseph Till, was born. What a joy!

1974-1975: Program Assistant for the Northeast Corridor Program Office
The next major phase of my work was my participation in the government's efforts to aid the ailing rail industry as the Penn Central went bankrupt, joining six other bankrupt Northeast and Midwest railroads. This was the latest development in the growing problems of the U.S. rail industry; it precipitated a national transportation crisis that, beginning with the creation of Amtrak in 1970, caused the U.S. Congress to devote a major effort to the railroad industry for 16 consecutive years.

Because of my work with on the National Transportation Policy Statement, I was asked to join the immediate Office of the Secretary to staff a new Northeast Corridor Program Office established in response to Congressional pressure to maintain and improve the Northeast Rail Corridor during this crisis, as it is essential to passenger rail service from Washington, D.C. to Boston, MA. I became the special assistant to the Special Assistant to the Secretary.

We focused on three things: determining the needs for federal aid to the Northeast Corridor rail infrastructure; the condition of Amtrak, which was in the early stages of formation and encountering many problems; and, the most difficult, to determine who should be the owner of Penn Station New York, which was of no use to the new freight railroad being formed under the Northeast/Midwest reorganization.

In concert with the organizations around New York with an interest in Penn Station, I led a federal-regional-state-municipal project team that recommended that Penn Station New York be transferred to Amtrak from the estate of the Penn Central Railroad.

1975: Special Assistant to the Deputy Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
I followed my boss when he was made Deputy Administrator of FRA.

In August of 1975 our daughter Mary Margaret was born; three months later she died of meningococcemia. It was the saddest event of my life.

1975-1976: Assistant to the Associate Administrator for Policy, FRA
When my boss was promoted to succeed the outgoing Administrator, he required a politically connected special assistant, which I was not; I was assigned as the assistant to the newly-hired Associate Administrator for Policy, who headed the office that was responsible for the major studies and analyses required under the recently enacted railroad reform laws.

1976-1979: Director of Rail Industry Structure, FRA
In 1976, I was made director of rail industry structure, with responsibility for financial and network analysis of the railroad industry. In this capacity I directed an analysis of the rail industry's long-term capital needs combined with a strategic policy review mandated by the Congress under sections 504 and 901 of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976. I also led development of a new system of financial reporting for analyzing financial performance of the U.S. freight railroad industry. Preparing the 504/901 Report involved a massive set of studies, some 45 contractor teams in all, to gather the data and perform the necessary analyses. It was a two-year effort.

In September 1976, Thomas Arthur Barriger Till was born, which was truly a blessing.

In 1976, as the resolution of the Northeast and Midwest railroad crisis was being decided, our attention focused as well on the so-called Granger railroads in the Great Plains, many of which were in bankruptcy. Our office was charged with the financial evaluation of these railroads. Of particular importance was the Milwaukee, which had a parallel mainline from the Midwest to the West Coast; our analysis found that it was incapable of being reorganized, and thus not worthy of federal financial assistance. This analysis, and the arguments that supported it, provided the basis for the policy to require strict economic evaluations for federal aid in the form of loan guarantees to these agricultural railroads; all loans were repaid, without any defaults.

In 1978, our office completed the 504/901 studies, publishing a report entitled "A Prospectus for Change in the Freight Railroad Industry," which laid the economic basis for the deregulation of the U.S. railroad industry. In September 1979, I left the U.S Department of Transportation for the consulting industry.


In 1979, the consulting firm Reebie Associates from Connecticut recruited me to open a Washington, DC-area office at just the time that the Carter Administration reduced the DOT's research budget by 95 percent. Timing may not be everything, but it is a lot. Notwithstanding, assignments from public and private clients were sufficient to maintain the practice. They included the development of a corporate strategy for Amtrak CEO Alan Boyd (1st Secretary of Transportation; CEO of the Illinois Central Railroad; and, after leaving Amtrak, the first CEO of Airbus North America); assisting in developing the application for the proposed Union Pacific-Missouri Pacific merger study, which was the first major application for a railroad merger after the relaxation of formerly restrictive federal laws on railroad mergers. As an aside, the Reebie firm developed a modern version of the Roadrailer, a unique piece of integrated road and rail freight technology that could run as an over-the-road trailer or could be used as a railcar on the railroads; it is possible that it will begin to see a lot more use as we move toward a more sustainable transportation system.


In 1982, the Reagan Administration asked me to become Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, a position I held until 1985. During that period I led successful negotiations to privatize the operations of the Department's Test Center in Pueblo, Colorado. And I brought to the Washington area the first Pan American Railway Congress to be held in the U.S. since the Eisenhower Administration. I also reorganized the agency.


From 1985-1990 I maintained a private practice, consulting to firms in government and the private sector. The practice comprised issues on policy and strategy development, planning and project management and evaluation in the manufacturing, railroad, and technology industries. I also assisted in the development of the program for the first World Railway Congress and organized a symposium on the impact of current road costing methodology on the U.S. railroad industry.


For the next nine years I worked internationally. I gained interesting experience in working and negotiating with corporate and government officials in North and South America, Canada, Australia, Russia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

While working out of London for the EBRD, I also learned a lot about the United Kingdom and its newly privatized rail system. During this time, I either worked on or managed about a billion dollars in projects for both the World Bank in Russia and Ukraine, and for the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

In 1993, my wife and I separated and later divorced.

Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc, Bethesda, MD: 1990-1992
Major assignments for Booz-Allen included developing: a regulatory strategy for the rail transportation needs of a Canadian natural resources firm; a market penetration strategy for a major U.S. rail carrier seeking to expand its service in Mexico; recommendations for the government of Venezuela on the reorganization and financing of their maritime fleet; and a plan for restructuring and increasing private sector participation in the urban transit system of Melbourne, Australia.

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank, or IBRD), Washington, DC: May 1992-October 1996
The World Bank retained me in 1992 to work on transportation projects in the former Soviet Union. My principal work was on major road and transit projects in Russia, and, later, on railroad and transit projects in Ukraine.

Related to the work on the Russian transport sector, the project team developed analyses and recommendations for a comprehensive set of Transport Strategies for the Russian Federation, of which I was an editor and contributing author.

Other interesting assignments at the World Bank included performing an analysis of the relationship of policy issues affecting the macroeconomic, industrial, and transport sectors in Sub-Saharan Africa; and an assignment to the Managing Director's task force on project management.

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, London, UK: November 1996-January 1999
The EBRD hired me to develop and direct railroad investment projects in Ukraine and Uzbekistan. In each case, a major component of the project was to develop, in tandem with the client, proposed policy reforms for transport that would become part of the conditions of the project.


In January 1999, while skiing with friends in Colorado, I was contacted by the politically-charged Amtrak Reform Council, an independent federal commission established to oversee a statutorily-mandated program of improvements that the Congress had enacted for Amtrak, America's long-suffering national railroad. Our task was to perform an ongoing analysis of Amtrak's financial performance vis-à-vis statutory criteria and to determine the major issues affecting the administration and operation of Amtrak through a series of nationwide public hearings.

When Amtrak's financial performance failed to meet these criteria, the Council developed recommendations for a new statutory structure and business model for the nation's approach to intercity rail passenger service. The ARC's work wound up in Fall 2002.

Shortly thereafter I began to notice symptoms that were diagnosed as two different kinds of cancer.


From late 2002 through late 2003, I assisted the University of Denver in developing significant segments of the curriculum for the new Intermodal Transportation Institute. I also served as an instructor for the course in Transportation Law and Regulation.

In all, I developed four major courses in the curriculum: Transportation Law and Regulation, Law for Transportation Managers, Global Trade, and Freight Transportation. I am currently a member of the Institute's Faculty Council. Now ten years old, the Institute has developed an excellent Executive Masters program in Intermodal Transportation Management.


At the end of my successful treatment for cancer in November 2003, I left for Seattle to take a position as the Managing Director of Discovery Institute's Cascadia Center for Transportation and Regional Development (Cascadia is the region west of the Cascade Mountains from the southern end of the Willamette Valley in Oregon to the Lower Mainland of British Columbia). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had just awarded the Center a substantial grant to promote major reforms in the approach that was being taken to infrastructure planning and implementation in the region.

My experience there focused on restructuring the projects in the Center into a coherent program, and learning as much as I could about metropolitan, regional, and state programs and processes for maintaining and improving transportation infrastructure, including the chaos of regional and municipal finance, a field that seems to lack of any overall tools for understanding the impact of the inconsistent decisions of a tangle of twelve overlapping boards and panels governed by 151 directors.

Early in 2005, I met a lovely woman from Vancouver named Patricia Jacobsen. She was one of the speakers at a conference that we held. After the conference we ended up on a task force together, which was successful in accomplishing its goal. We decided we wanted to continue to see one another.

In December 2006, I was appointed by the Secretary of Transportation to the Blue Ribbon Panel of Experts formed to advise the National Surface Transportation and Revenue Study Commission.


In May 2007, I left Discovery Institute to return to private consulting. My focus is on government policy affecting the transportation sector, both domestically and internationally.

I led a project to assist Transport Canada in understanding current policy, regulatory, and investment activities being undertaken by U.S. private and public sectors to address trade and transportation issues, particularly those affecting trade between the U.S. and Canada.

During this period, I have become affiliated with the Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance, Lewiston, N.Y., which works bi-nationally to ensure there are as few impediments as possible to the free flow of trade between two of the world's largest trading partners; and the Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors, Washington, D.C., which advocates strategic funding to maintain and improve our national system of strategic surface transportation infrastructure. I am also a member of the National Journal's blog of transportation experts.

In October 2008, Patricia Jacobsen of Vancouver, British Columbia, and I were married in Alexandria, Virginia. As my job was more portable than hers, I joined her in Vancouver, where we now live. In marrying Pat, I joined a great family with four adult children, one son and three daughters, each of whom is an accomplished and settled person. There are also four lovely grandchildren. All of them have, individually and as a family, welcomed me with warmth and affection, which I return in full measure.

They join my family of two fine sons, now in their mid thirties. Morgan is a producer with the PBS NewsHour. Thomas is a project manager in the construction industry who will complete an MBA at Virginia Tech this summer.

In the spring of 2010, I have begun lecturing in the Center for Transportation Studies, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia. I teach a course on Transportation and Sustainability.

In March of 2010, I became a resident of Canada – what the Canadians call a “landed immigrant.” I enjoy, and like, and respect Canada and Canadians. I also remain and always will remain an American.


For 40 years, since 1971, I have been looking at the challenges facing the United States and the world at large as they are reflected in the transportation sector. I would not be surprised if those who look at these challenges from the perspective of other sectors – economic, national defense, environmental, and social – agree with me that the challenges are rooted in an overall framework of law and policies that requires a fundamental overhaul to restore common sense and ethics in both government and the private sector.

From another perspective, however, living around the U.S. over the years and also in Vietnam and the U.K. and now Canada, together with extensive professional travel in many countries, I have had the opportunity to see how different societies and economies can find their way through their difficulties and renew themselves. That gives me confidence and hope.

Though I continue to take part in the long-running U.S. transportation policy debate, I have throttled back a bit. I am now a better skier than ever in my life. Pat and I travel extensively, and I am planning to take up golf again after a hiatus of three decades.

One thing is certain: I am very much interested in staying alive and healthy so that Pat and I can visit with all my classmates at our reunion in 2014.

[ Raleigh Garcia and China ]
[ My Predecessor's Parting Shot ]
[ Sansom & Richter in Saigon ]
[ Harvey Wallender in New York ]
[ Bill Dickey in Washington ]
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