Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Harold's History

Somewhere in my DNA was the deep desire to be an Air Force pilot -- even before I had even ridden in an airplane. One evening at the dinner table my dad showed me an article announcing that President Eisenhower had signed the bill creating the Air Force Academy. My journey began.

Raised in a very small farm community, the critical lessons of hard work and integrity were instilled throughout home and school. However, the academics in a graduating class of 17 were not as rigorous or ingrained.

Due to a limited academic background, the result of small school and poor study habits, I wasn't accepted to the Academy in the first two tries. After a couple of years of college as prep school, the Academy finally agreed that I should be a member of the Class of 1964. I know there was divine intervention.

Academic struggles continued, but great professors, tutoring roommates and more divine intervention culminated on the stadium field with my hat thrown high into the air.

During a couple of knee surgeries to fix "fields of friendly strife" damage, I met a wonderful girl from Colorado Springs. Not wanting to rush into anything, Bette J Douglas (BJ) and I waited until the day after graduation to be married in the Chapel, then headed to Craig AFB for pilot training.

Fortunately, I was more successful at Craig and graduated high enough for the first choice -- RF-4C to France. However, President deGaulle decided saving his bacon in WWII and the Cold War were not sufficient reasons for the Americans to be in France and we were kicked out, except, of course, for those Americans buried in France. In 48 hours from being notified, BJ and I shipped household goods and were on a plane back to the CONUS with me continuing to Vietnam.

After completing 202 missions, again divine intervention, I headed back to Europe, this time to the 38th TRS at Ramstein. During that 3 year tour, there was lots of flying time, winning two Royal Flush NATO reconnaissance competitions and our first son's birth.

A tour at Andrews with AFSC and another son were followed by Armed Forces Staff College then back to the cockpit in the F-111 at Mountain Home. While on leave, we received a call from the squadron that I had been ordered to the Pentagon, Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was both the "best and worst" of assignments. Worst due to being in the Current Ops Division where if it was on the front page, we were involved including the hostage crisis in Iran. Best because of the great people that openly shared their talent and abilities. After 4 years there, it was off to the Air War College.

Back to the cockpit in A-10s led to rapidly changing assignments as ADO at Myrtle Beach and England AFB, then Chief of Safety at TAC HQ. The commander told me to fly all of the airplanes in TAC and I dutifully complied by staying current in the A-10 and adding executive checkouts in the F-5, F-15, F-16, and additional front seat flights in all models of the F-4, OV-10, etc.

Soon we were posted to Panama as the Wing Commander of the 24th Composite Wing and later the USAF Southern Air Division. There was great irony in General Noriega awarding me Panamanian Pilot Wings while raising the pressure on Americans in Panama. While there, Ace Rawlins joined the team as DO then Vice Commander and Rob Tornow succeeded me as commander. A tour with 12th Air Force at Bergstrom led to retirement in 1990.

I have been blessed in retirement to continue to fly. I was General Manager of the Department of State's Air Wing operating 63 aircraft throughout South American in counter-drug missions -- almost like being a wing commander again. That was followed by president of DynAir Fueling supporting airlines across the US, then president of Thyssen Stearns building jet bridges that connect terminals to airliners. I got to work for Ace Rawlins at Lockheed Martin for a stint then joined Alliant TechSystems modifying aircraft for DOD and Homeland Security. Deciding that I was still too young for retirement, BJ and I formed BJAerospace as a consulting company providing business development services to several companies.

Recently my civilian flying time exceeded my military hours. The moment BJ pinned my wings at Craig, I and a bunch of new USAF pilots took the test for commercial pilot licenses. Instructor and ATP have been added. One thrill has been instructing in L-39 jet fighter/trainers, including teaching aerobatics and BFM to private pilots. I still get air under my butt in the T-34 and twin-Cessna 340.

BJ and I are blessed with two sons who have (like me) married great women and have produced 4 grandchildren, all in Texas. We are busy with family and church lay leadership. Again, God has intervened and blessed us beyond measure -- and we thank Him for His Grace.

We live near Fort Worth, Texas and are enjoying the consulting business interspersed with golf and travel. The door is open and the welcome mat is out. Come see us.

The Academy gave me much more than an education. It deeply instilled core values of integrity, honesty, hard work, recognition of limits and how to overcome them and duty, honor, country. Classmates have been close associates throughout the travel. I am humbled to be associated with the great men of the Class of 1964 and deeply appreciative of their friendship.


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