Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

My History


My Dreams

On April 1, 1954, when President Eisenhower signed the law establishing the Air Force Academy, I was in the sixth grade in Denver. My father was an Air Force officer stationed at Lowry AFB, and I heard about this new and wonderful school right in the beginning. In the fall of 1954, my family moved to George AFB, home to a F-86 wing populated by aces and heroes from the Korean War. My fantasy, as a 13 year old, was to attend the Air Force Academy, and fly fighters, what an impossible dream.

As time passed, I continued to dream, but increasingly realized that the Academy was for "supermen," and that I could never qualify. As a senior in high school, I did not even apply until my father pointed out that Air Force officers weren't rich, and that if I wanted to go to college, I needed a scholarship or appointment to an Academy. Belatedly I began the application process, and to my surprise, learned that it was not too late to apply through President Eisenhower.

Life at USAFA

Amazingly I received an appointment, still hardly able to believe it was not a mistake, and thinking I would be turned away when I arrived in Colorado Springs. Although I was a reasonable high school athlete, I doubled down on my fitness training running up and down a small mountain near my home, and began a regimen of pushups and exercise. Little did I realize that I (probably all of us) had no idea the physical exertion and abuse we would suffer over basic cadet summer.

On that fateful June day, we signed papers proffered by nice smiling women and then were ushered out the door onto the terrazzo where we were greeted again by snarling, screaming young men in khaki uniforms. I went into immediate shock. I really don't believe I saw or met any of my classmates for days. It was too late to back out, my ride up to the "campus" had left leaving me on my own. I won't begin to try to describe the events of that summer, but refer you to the history of Don Heide, his words will bring back memories and tears. I will relate that I was assigned to 46th and Finest summer squadron, and I learned that Richie Mayo was not only the Squadron Commander, and football quarterback, but also that he was a god or something like that.

September, 1960, I am still here, but down one roommate, and about thirty pounds. It wasn't that the food wasn't good, they just did not give me time to eat. The good news was that I now qualified to box as a light heavy weight, and that proved to be the highlight of my doolie year when I won the Cadet Wing Boxing Championship. I particularly remember one match against a gray tag who had abused me and my roommate during the summer. He caught the pent up fury of basic cadet summer, and required attention from paramedics after the bout. Revenge can be sweet even fifty years later.

I won't belabor the rest of the four years. You were all there, and hopefully most of you can still remember. There were many highlights, and a few stand out: marching in JFK's inauguration parade; the far east field trip I selected because I didn't think I would ever have the chance to go there; being one of Colonel Archie Higdon's pet projects; watching the Cadet Chapel rise from the ground and attending baccalaureate in 1964; and most importantly, making so many lifelong friends.

Air Force Years

June 1964, graduation, marriage and off to Arizona for pilot training. I gained twenty pounds in the forty five days of honeymoon and vacation before I reported in to Williams AFB for Pilot Training Class 66A. I finally had time to eat, and strawberries were in season. USAFA had prepared us well for the first phase of our Air Force careers, pilot training, and the year flashed by. I did well enough to get an F-102 assignment because I wanted to go to Europe. Highlights of that year included a "new" car, and more lifelong friendships.

Perrin AFB north of Dallas was our home for the next six months as we learned to become interceptor pilots. My strongest memories of Perrin include: learning to become an accomplished instrument pilot flying in weather and at night; a North Texas ice storm; and seeing Al McArtor scatter a formation of geese on initial while I was in mobile control. When it came time to look for the next assignment, surprise, no European slots (another fantasy dashed). The consolation was an assignment to fly the F-106, an incredible airplane, but in northern Maine at Loring AFB! A great place if you like to hunt and fish.

After being frozen at Loring for two years (by Air Force Personnel Branch and the Maine weather), it was off to Homestead, Florida for F-4 RTU with an assignment to "pipeline southeast Asia." Fate intervened again in early 1968, when the North Koreans captured the Pueblo. I was off to Japan/Korea flying the F-4 on exciting 5 to 6 hour missions over the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan wearing the infamous "poopie" suits. They were almost as effective as basic cadet summer for taking off weight.

In 1972, after completing a remote tour at lovely Kunsan by the sea in Korea, I was told that my next assignment would be back to the "zoo," and that I had been requested by name by the Chemistry Department (a subject I did not like). I made a very difficult decision to change my "life plan" and leave the Air Force to attend law school. I figured that if I was going back to academia, at least I would pick the subject (chemistry, yuk).

Life as a Civilian

In the fall of 1972, I enrolled in law school at the University of California at Davis, California. With the mindset of an Air Force fighter pilot, I found myself at odds with some of my classmates, many of whom were war protestors, etc. I found one friend at the university, Sandy Purcell, who was there working on his PHD in entomology. Sandy and I spent time together flying at the aero club, and drinking wine he made in his garage. Some of it was very good (he got premium grapes from Napa where he was working on a disease affecting the grape vines), however I caution you to never drink wine that is still fermenting. After three years of wine and professors, I graduated, passed the California Bar exam, and joined a law firm in Ontario, California.

Law was challenging and exciting, but that old fate came calling again. In 1977, I had an opportunity to join the management of a small pump manufacturing company. It provided not only a chance for leadership, but also for real engineering. The next thirty years were a lot of fun and profit too, as I accumulated a number of patents for new pump designs (Thank you Archie Higdon. You were right, it was good stuff to know.). If you are still reading, you are either a close friend or leading a dull life.

Work hasn't been the only focus of my life. Along the way I have: gone back to graduate school to study fluid mechanics; participated in triathlons and run a marathon; learned to scuba dive; learned to sail (at least, improved on the basic skills learned in the cadet sailing club) and sailed to Alaska for a summer; and have taken up golf. My wife, Natalie, and I live in Sarasota, Florida where we have been for sixteen years, where I spend time being involved in community and church activities. We want to take this opportunity to invite one and all to stop by if you find yourself in southwest Florida.

My Toast to the Class of 1964

Now that you know what I have been up to for the last fifty years, I want to share part of what I have learned with you. In a way, it is back to the beginning, for I have learned that the Academy truly is for "supermen." I am unbelievably proud and humbled to have been a member of the Class of 1964. Your accomplishments and contributions made to the United States Air Force, this country and the world are truly amazing.

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