Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Fred's History

FHW.jpg I've been a ham radio operator since 9th Grade, and with 20/40 vision at USAFA, was convinced I wanted to be an Electronic Warfare Operator (EWO). The Captain who was my USAFA Navigation instructor suggested that if offered a waiver for pilot training, to take it, because promotion opportunity would be better. I chose Vance AFB for pilot training, because it was closest to USAFA and I could come back to Colorado and ski some more,,which I did !

I was not a 'natural pilot', but I kept trying, I soloed the T37 on an elim ride with my Flight commander, spent twice as much time in the T37 simulator than was in the syllabus, and completed T37s. T38's were another adventure, and again, I doubled the required simulator time, and passed. I'd discovered an interesting physiological phenomenon, where if there was a bright light in my peripheral vision (like the sun!) and my blood sugar was a tad low, I would lose vision in my right eye. Told the flight surgeon about it, but as with mechanical malfunctions in aircraft, they couldn't duplicate it on the ground. I resolved never to get caught as the only pilot in an airplane, where I could become one-eyed in a tight situation. The B-52 assignment on graduation sounded like my kind of adventure!

I was assigned to Carswell AFB in B52F's - the squadron had just returned from the very first Arc Light deployment - the planes were silver with black bottoms. The unit was also very short of copilots, so once certified, we'd spend two weeks a month on alert with our primary crew, and another two 3-day stints on alert with another crew. That's 20 days a month in the alert shack. It was a wonderful day one summer when HQ SAC acknowledged our manning problem and let us stand down one alert sortie! My A/C had just come out of B-47's and was having a tough time with Air Refueling - so on our first Chromedome,the Squadron Commander came along as 3rd pilot. The first daylight A/R went fine, but the second, at night over Lake Superior in heavy weather, did not. The Squadron commander ordered me out of the seat and helped get the gas - I had zero refueling time in that outfit.

After two years, one squadron was being closed, and we were told to pick any B52 base for our next assignment, but it better have D-models. I picked Fairchild AFB, and a couple of weeks after I arrived, the Pueblo was captured. The D's at Glasgow AFB deployed, and we followed shortly. Arc Light from Guam was challenging, and fun. My new A/C was LtCol Merlin Hueppchen, who'd flown B-26's in WW2,and was totally proficient in the Buff. He let me fly the plane from takeoff until I fell off the boom. It took a few missions, but I caught on to A/R, taking on 100,000+ onloads in one contact. When you fly 3 or 4 missions a week, you do get proficient much faster! We helped defend Khe Sanh, doing mostly MSQ (SkySpot) bombing. I completed two tours as a copilot -, 150 missions, but declined to complete the application for a Distinguished Flying Cross, in deference to my classmates who were languishing in Hanoi as a result of their F4 and F105 missions.

In 1970 I decided that while the Pilot Upgrade schedulers were being very patient with me, that flying left-handed was never going to be a huge success, and I volunteered for Command Post Duty. That was indeed interesting, and some stories are posted separately.

In April 1972 I was on duty in the Robins AFB command post when a warning order came through for what became Bullet Shot. It included all of our B-52G's and crews, and three slots of Air Ops Staff officers - my AFSC. I knew that I had been back from SEA the longest, so I volunteered for the TDY to U-Tapao. Assigned to Bomber Ops as a Performance Officer, coordinating the fuel and bomb loads with maintenance, briefing the pilot teams,and responding to midair emergencies with the hazard team. Enjoyed the "Answer quickly before they get out of range" calls from Bomber Charlie - sample - Aircraft almost out of UHF range, has one drop tank that won't feed, what should he do ? 19,200 pounds of fuel about 85 feet out from centerline, you have to manage your lateral CG as carefully as your fore and aft CG. The drops were also way AFT, so unbalance could get your squirrely CG in both dimensions! My answer - which worked - proceed to the first target, use half the fuel in the tank that does feed, drop only the internal bombs on one target, retain the external bombs (which were forward of the CG) and come home. I had so much fun doing that job TDY that I volunteered to come back PCS. I did, and missed LineBacker II. While back at Robins between the U-T TDY and PCS, I got to attend the funeral of Capt Jimmie Turner, a Robins Aircraft Commander, who died trying to bring back a battle-damaged D-model with an injured crewmate who couldn't bail out.

Just before my tour at U-T was up, I was on a pilot proficiency sortie in a D, getting some time, and had been T-29 qualified for a couple of years. The IP, knowing my next assignment was Titan II missiles at Davis-Monthan, called for me to come up and get the landing - which I did - from the Left Seat. This was May 1974, and I hadn't landed a Buff since December 1971. Good landing, and my last as an AF Pilot. Titan II was an industrial management kind of system - every kind of industrial hazard you could come up with, topped off with an H-bomb warhead. fortunately, but Academy background in the physical sciences made it interesting, and I got along well with my crewmates and the maintenance folks who helped us keep the Missile ready to launch, and the Russians deterred.

Between skipping the Left seat in the Buff, and turning down a couple of staff opportunities that could have gotten me a General's endorsement on my OER, I was not promotable to Major. I could see the end coming, finished my MS while on Titan duty, and checked out the possibilities with the personnel folks. When the time came, I turned in my request for enlisted duty with my first AFSC choice as Management Analyst (a natural with my new Master's degree) and walked west with my list of preferred bases - Williams,Luke, March, Norton, George, Edwards, Vandenberg, Travis. I got a call from Chief Master Sergeant Rich Babcock at HQ SAC - since I was a SAC resource, they had first dibs on me as an NCO. Rich wanted to know if I would like to help them test the new Air Launched Cruise Missiles at Edwards AFB. I couldn't have imagined a more perfect assignment. It turned out I had the perfect mix of experience - Buff's and Missiles, and while there discovered a knack for computer systems.

Three years went by in a flash, and Chief Babcock called again - he needed me at Offutt to be the computer guru for the SAC Comptroller, and I got into programming on Tektronix workstations, took over the IRMCO program and did the planning and rollout of the first Desktop PC's (Zenith Z-100's) for all 43 SAC Base Comptroller offices.

My retirement ceremony was in front of SAC HQ, with the SAC Band playing the Air Force Song - and the words I'd memorized as a cadet brought tears to my eyes one more time. The Information Technology skills I discovered in my NCO years have kept the bills paid ever since, and when I fly, I buy a ticket.

Fred Wagner Captain, USAFR retired KQ6Q
[ Persistence Isn't Always a Virtue ]
[ Titan Missle Adventures ]
[ Space-A Travel - An Adventure! ]
[ Gone But Not Forgotten ]
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