Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Ron Wishart's History

Graduated from Union HS, Union, NJ. Ran track & cross country. My distance medley indoor track relay team won Group IV NJ state championship in 1960. I ran several races against our classmate Howie Cohen of Asbury Park, NJ

Last day of high school was Friday, reported to USAFA on Monday. On the first flight of my life I was looking out the window when I noticed the prop stop turning on one engine. I thought they were just saving fuel, but no, we returned to Newark Airport. Wound up on a 4-seat Cessna to Idlewild to catch another flight, so I had 3 flights on the day of my first. Many more aircraft maintenance stories over the next few years.

My roommate the first summer was Bob Woods, followed by Gene Pottenger and Fran Zavacki for the next two semesters. Fran kept us going those last few months til 4th class year was over. Then the Wing was expanded and we became 23d Squadron. Because I published one issue of "The 23 Skiddoo" I feel I have to get this history published before the final deadline. Roommates over the next 3 years were Jeff Johnson, Jack Christy, Joe Rodwell, Dave Sicks, Norm Baker, and Dave Colwell. Graduated with a major in International Affairs -- didn't quite make the selection for the Master's Degree program at Georgetown, but eventually earned an MBA.

When I took the Academy medical entrance exam I learned I had no depth perception and couldn't be a pilot so after graduation I became a Combat Controller with the 1st Air Commando Wing at Hurlburt Field. While there I spent many weekends visiting Randy Toffel, Jeff Johnson, and other classmates at Craig AFB. A great experience at Hurlburt was working with the SEALs. Twice we had exercises where we surfaced from a submarine, rowed rafts to shore, and hiked across Eglin AFB to various objectives. Also many "Cherokee Trail" exercises with the Special Forces out of Camp Mackall, NC. Then I did a tour with the Air Commando Water Pump Detachment in SEA 1965-66. Some of you may remember talking with Eagle Control.

The war expanded and the Air Force replaced us with pilots in the air. I returned to 1ACW, now located at England AFB, and submitted a transfer to the Army. In 1967 I graduated from Ranger School and was assigned to a battalion forming at Ft Lewis. We joined the 199th Light Infantry Brigade just after Tet 1968. As a rifle company commander in the Delta, covered with mud from head to toe, I often wondered why I ever transferred, but the best thing about it was that I had met my wife Sandra at Ft Lewis. She was a Northwest Airlines stew so she flew to Tokyo for my R&R and we got married. After R&R I became a Mobile Advisory Team leader with the local forces. There was real excitement the first night at each new village when the VC would be surprised to find us there. Despite that, my Purple Heart came from my time with the 199th, luckily nothing too serious.

On return I was assigned to the 82d Airborne Division at Ft Bragg. I had 139 military jumps, but about 120 of them were with the 1ACW, including one in John Wayne's movie The Green Berets. I never had a malfunction, although I did dislocate a shoulder and needed surgery, but the scariest was my first. I was at jump school with about 30 other cadets. I guess we jumped in alphabetical order because Fran Zavacki was right behind me. I saw something hurtling past me and I thought maybe they throw something out at the end of the stick. No, it was Zavacki and he had a streamer. He cooly pulled his reserve, made one swing, and landed. The next day we both made our second jump and I think I was more shaken than he was. After graduation he went Marines and sadly he died from complications of a wound in Vietnam.

By chance, in 1970 the NY Daily News came to Fayetteville recruiting junior officers. I wanted to be a writer -- although that didn't happen -- and I loved New York. Some of you may remember I always referred to NYC as "God's Country." I was married now, not looking forward to another combat tour, so I took a job with the Daily News, moved to Manalapan, NJ and joined the NJ Army National Guard. In the 50th Armored Divison I was a rifle company commander, battalion operations officer, and brigade intelligence officer. The best job was two years as Director of Instruction at the NJ Military Academy, running the OCS and NCO Academy training. Most summers while in the National Guard I taught OCS and NCO infantry courses at Ft Dix, in addition to my unit assignments.

Then to the Army Reserves where I was operatons officer and XO for a Reserve Forces School, teaching Army Command & General Staff College, among other courses. Next I became Schools Officer for the 77th Army Reserve Command where I had staff supervision of three schools in the NYC Metro area. Retired in 1992 after 28 years plus the 4 at USAFA. It was a satisfying career and I was glad I was able to see and do so many things in several components.

During this time Mike Galbreath'64 was President of the Greater NY AOG chapter. Also on the Board from '64 were Todd Jagerson, Mike Greece, and me. Every other year we hosted the AOG luncheon the day before the Army game, and many years I organized the tailgate party at West Point. Ed Rossnagel '64 has taken over my job as Secretary. My Army Reserve friends would harass me, but there was no doubt that when it came to the game I was there for Air Force. After Air Force, I always root for Army and Navy to beat everyone else.

From 1970 to 2005 at the Daily News, I had several positions in Circulation and Production, although my favorite was working directly for the Jersey edition editor as the NJ production manager. One task in the first years was to make arrangements for Sophia Loren to film Lady Liberty one evening during production hours. The men mobbed her, I managed to get her into an office, but that's a story for the Story section. My last assignment was planning for the construction and equipping of the new (1996) printing plant and office building and being the facility manager for my final nine years. It is located in Jersey City, right behind the Statue of Liberty where we witnessed the towers come down on 9/11.

By the end of 2007 Sandra had retired so we moved to Arlington, VA, just in time for the birth of twin grandchildren. Our first grandson had been born at Bethesda just after I had retired from the Daily News, and we spent a lot of time helping out because his father was in the Marines in Afghanistan. That daughter is a JAG in the Air Force Reserve and works for DOD. The mother of the twins is an engineer for a defense contractor and travels to BRAC sites. She had been in the Navy and ran triathlons with their team, including a 14-hour Ironman.

In NJ I had been active in local politics and charities and served on the municipal Zoning Board and then the Planning Board for about 20 years. In the early 1970s I was on the Board of Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace, opposing and debating the Veterans Against the War who were accusing us of war crimes. Now that we're retired almost within sight of the Air Force Memorial, we spend most of our time going to concerts, museums, the pool in the summer, and restaurants. Restaurant Week in DC is a great deal. I liked NYC but DC is even better. We're on call to watch the grandchildren when a parent can't get to pre-school in time for pickup, or they're on a trip, or someone is sick so we get plenty of time with them.

So that's my life so far. It's been fun and satisfying.

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