Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Jim's History


jim.jpg Growing up in a small town in upstate New York, I dreamed of getting out in the big world and doing exciting things. As an avid reader of the ‘Terry and the Pirates' comic strip, I enjoyed the experiences of aviator Steve Canyon and found occasional references in the comic strip to the new Air Force Academy in Colorado. It was the foundation of a goal to attend that institution and ultimately become a pilot. I was encouraged to follow that dream by my high school math teacher and track coach, who was a former B-25 navigator. I worked hard at that goal and in my senior year went through the testing and nomination process, resulting in a Congressional nomination to West Point and an alternate appointment to the Air Force Academy. Not being keen on an Army career and a small possibility to get to the Air Force and flying from there, I decided to try the process again the next year in hopes of more desirable results, so I went to Plan B after graduation, enrolling in the aero engineering program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York.


The second try in the nomination process was successful and gained me my nomination to USAFA, so in June I joined the ranks of the Class of 1964 and embarked on the experience of a lifetime! That experience is one that I will always cherish – a tough, but outstanding, education; wonderful camaraderie; and opportunities and travel that I never could have had otherwise; and attaining my ultimate goal of becoming an Air Force pilot!

Air Force

Following graduation, I returned to my upstate New York home and wed my high school sweetheart, Susan, who had spent my senior year in Denver working as a Registered Nurse. Obviously, most of my weekends had been spent in Denver that year! Wonderful memories. In August, we headed to Vance AFB for UPT in Class 66B. Upon graduation I was assigned to Reese AFB as a T-37 Instructor Pilot, where I taught both on the flight line and academics. In 1969 I volunteered for and received an assignment to fly F-105s, so, following Survival School at Fairchild AFB in November and AT-33 Fighter Lead-in Training at Myrtle Beach AFB in December, we headed for McConnell AFB and F-105 RTU. During that period DOD decided to pull the strike 105s out of SEA, so the class finished training and were assigned to the operational squadrons there, awaiting other opportunities. I was in the 563rd TFS, flying F-105 Thunderstick IIs with LORAN installed.

Late in 1970 I received an assignment to the F-105 Wild Weasel Program, which was a critical need in SEA, so off I went to Weasel School at Nellis AFB in February 1971. In March I headed for Korat RTAFB and the 6010th Wild Weasel Squadron (later changed to 17th WWS), part of the 388th TFW, stopping enroute in Clark for Jungle Survival. My first flight after arriving at Korat was as a passenger on an EB-66 five hour night electronic jamming mission with probe and drogue refueling from a KC-97 tanker. That was an experience and little did I know that I would have to do that myself on one of my future missions, rather than the normal boom refueling we did with the KC-135. We had gotten one flight during RTU to experience the basket and probe refueling, a back-up method for us and a real challenge! At least one pilot brought back a basket on his probe! My first F-105 mission at Korat was interesting, also (see Story 1).

During my tour at Korat I flew 172 missions in the Route Pack 1 and 2 regions. The majority of those were B-52 Arc Light support, mostly at night, bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail. We also escorted gunships and occasionally a Recce. Due to the lack of Wild Weasel expertise in the 7th AFC Frag Shop, we all had to take turns for two week TDYs there to provide assistance. During my stint I was able to brief Gen Slay, the DO, on our inability to strike SAM sites unless fired on first, according to the current Rules of Engagement. Fortunately, and maybe as a result of that briefing, the ROE was changed and we were allowed to engage first. That led to some interesting missions, particularly recce and F-4 strike escorts.

I completed my tour in March 1972 in a most unusual way (see story 2) and headed stateside for graduate study at the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson AFB in Class GAW-74, majoring in Air Weapons, another name for an MS in Engineering Sciences. Upon graduation in March 1974, thinking I would probably be assigned to Eglin AFB to work on air-to-air weaponry to put my recent degree to direct use, I instead found myself assigned to Electronic Systems Division, Hanscomb AFB in the E-3A AWACS Program Office. During the next four years I would coordinate the developmental and operational testing of AWACS, spending a lot of time at the Boeing plant in Seattle. I also managed the technical enhancement program, including potential Foreign Military Sales, which earned me a three week site survey trip to Iran, to whom we were considering a sale. Not long after that TDY, the Shah was overthrown and the potential sale went away.

Following the tour at ESD, the Air Force (with me in great agreement) decided that it was time to get back to the cockpit. I received an assignment to F-4s at Kadena AB, Okinawa. Since I had been out of the cockpit for six years, but had prior fighter time, I was awarded a quick basic checkout in F-4s at George AFB, a total of three flights! Needless to say, my gaining squadron commander in the 25th TFS was not happy to get such an inexperienced pilot that he would have to spend a lot of sorties getting me combat qualified! I had been pleased to get this assignment because I knew that the 18th TFW was due to transition to F-15s in the near future and I hoped to be selected for that transition.

I ended up taking Tim Kline's (Class of 64) spot in the Wing Operations and Training Division, which involved managing the transition – getting assignments for the F-4 WSOs and determining those pilots moving to the F-15. Fortunately, I was one of those pilots, checked out at Luke AFB in late 1979, and spent the next 1 ½ years having a ball flying the F-15 as the 12th TFS Asst Ops Officer in one of the last fairly unrestricted airspaces in the world. We deployed to the Clark AB and Osan AB regularly. Another benefit was the opportunity to take the family on a C-130 all over the Far East, a wonderful experience for everyone.

Coming to the end of the Kadena tour, I knew that if I wanted a decent chance for promotion to Colonel, it would probably not lie with another flying assignment, so, with the help of Thad Wolfe (64), who was then the Exec for the Deputy for Operations (AF/XOO), I was assigned to the Operational Test and Evaluation Division (AF/XOORE) and there managed the air-to-air test programs – AMRAAM, AIM-7, and AIM-9 missiles; and aerial targets for the Weapon System Evaluation Program.

While there my boss cajoled me into running the Marine Corps Marathon with him in 1982. I finished with no ill effects, so I ran it again in the next two years, qualifying for and running in the Boston Marathon in 1984. That kept me recreationally running 10K races for some time.

In March 1985 I received my promotion to Colonel and knew that I would be reassigned soon. Thinking that this next assignment could be my last on active duty, I decided that I needed to keep my options open for employment following retirement, so I opted to forgo a return to ops, probably as an ADO, and instead asked for an assignment in AFSC. In June I was assigned to the Aeronautical Systems Division at Wright-Patterson AFB as Deputy Program Director for Tactical Fighters under Rusty Gideon (66).

After his promotion to BGen I succeeded him and spent the next two years managing the source selections for the Air Defense Fighter Competition between the F-16 and F-20, and the Peace Pearl Program, the first Foreign Military Sales initiative with the Republic of China, involving the integration of the F-16 fire control system into the ROC F-1 interceptor, a MIG-21 variant. That earned me a trip to China and a lot of high level Pentagon interaction and ‘guidance'.

It was a challenge to successfully establish and manage a group of Chinese officers for program liaison on base, but that's another story!

In January 1988 I moved up to Assistant Program Director for the Systems Program Office, which encompassed all tactical and strategic systems, except for the B-2 and F-22 Programs. I was enjoying my job and figured that I was in a stable situation. Much to my surprise in July I was notified that I had been selected to PCS to Langley AFB to be the AFSC Liaison at TAC Headquarters. That left me in a dilemma. If I accepted the assignment, I had to choose to either move the family, with two children still in high school, or leave them in place to finish school, while I went remote. Those choices did not appeal to me, so I put the family first for a change and turned the assignment down. That led to my retirement in February 1989. I had thoroughly enjoyed my Air Force career, but it was time for a change.

Post Air Force

I spent the next year finishing my basement, a long overdue project, and interviewing for follow on employment. That came in April 1990 when I hired on with Modern Technologies Corporation to provide project management assistance to the LANTIRN Program Office. That task lasted over nine years and, when that went away, there was always another program that needed help. My final task involved testing and acceptance of C-130J training systems, especially the flight simulator. It was fun getting back in a cockpit, although not a fighter, but it brought back fond memories. Simulators have come a long way over the years! I retired from MTC in November 2006. Since then, my wife and I have enjoyed traveling, golf, and spending time with our four children and eight grandchildren. I also enjoy volunteering at the Museum of the United States Air Force, where one of the F-105Gs I flew now resides.


USAFA BS Engineering Science, 1964

SOS, 1972

ACSC, 1978

AWC, 1983

Significant Decorations

Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal w/15 OLC, Air Force Commendation Medal

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