Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Thad's History


My interest in the Air Force Academy and in making application started with my older brother Spence receiving notification of his selection as an alternate for entry with the class of 1963. He was not selected that year but it planted the seed for me to apply the following year. We were being raised by our mother in Moses Lake, Washington. While we both had opportunities for some form of academic or athletic scholarships, it was clear that we would need financial assistance wherever we chose to go to college.

The Air Force Academy's curriculum contained courses that appeared daunting even though I'd taken what college preparatory courses our High School offered. Still, it appeared to be worth applying and I received some encouragement from family, teachers and coaches I trusted.

My first real awareness of military aircraft came when I was in elementary school in Coulee Dam, Washington (The Grand Coulee Dam was considered a likely target during the Cold War) and would hear the drone of large aircraft flying over at high altitude. At first I thought we were about to be bombed but later found they were B-36s, probably from Fairchild AFB near Spokane. Our routine air raid drills where we were told to get under our desks and cover our heads probably contributed to the conviction that those planes were going to bomb us. The only other connection with the military was a distant relative who had retired from the Air Force and put my brother and me in the cockpit of a T-6 Texan at Lowry AFB during one of our family trips from Coulee Dam through Denver and on to El Paso, Texas to visit relatives. It was slightly later that I began hearing stories about my Great Uncle, Clarence Tinker and some of his exploits during WWII.

During our late elementary school days and into high school, my mother worked for the government, first in Coulee Dam with the Bureau of Reclamation, then Moses Lake with the Department of the Air Force at Larson AFB. Our dad was a carpenter and, like many men in the west at that time, followed the large power projects throughout the region. Dad first worked at Boulder (Hoover) Dam before I was born, then moved on to the Grand Coulee Dam project about 1940. That's where both Spencer and I were born. At the time, the town was called Mason City but that was changed in the early 1940s to Coulee Dam. When the Dam project slowed for the line of work our dad did, we moved to Seaton's Village, NM on the outskirts of Santa Fe while dad worked at Los Alamos helping with the construction of barracks to house many of the people moving there as part of the Manhattan Project. We weren't in New Mexico too long before returning to Grand Coulee as the cycle of work picked up again there. We moved to Moses Lake in 1952 where our mom had applied for and gotten the job at Larson. Aside from the association with kids from the base in the local school system, and attending the 6th grade on Larson in some converted one-story barracks, we still didn't have much connection with the military or military tradition. The town was growing fairly fast though with increased irrigated farming, the placement of Atlas missiles in the area, and the growth of Larson Air Force Base so we did begin to feel the military presence and meet more and more military families. Larson AFB had a MATS (Military Air Transport Service) airlift wing outfitted with C-124s and C-118s. I recall a sad incident near Christmas in about 1954 or 1955 when a C-124 loaded with airmen flying to their homes for Christmas crashed off the end of the runway killing most of those on board. That accident had a profound effect on our mother who had several co-workers who died in the crash.

By then our mother was raising Spence and me so her job at Larson was even more important to sustaining our family. Both parents were attentive to our development and care but the divorce left us, like most kids, torn between parents and feeling different than most of our friends who had both parents at home. Divorce was not nearly as common in those days and single parents, even less so. Our dad returned to Coulee Dam where he worked at odd jobs until his death in early summer of 1959 at age 50. Our mother continued to work at Larson and raise the two of us.

Our small town environment and school experiences were good and gave us a lot of opportunities to participate in various sports, student government activities, and other extracurricular things that contributed to developing backgrounds that would be useful when applying for USAFA.

I found initial inspiration from my parents and brother. It was Spencer's interest and success in wrestling and his application to USAFA that led to my similar commitment. We had some very helpful teachers and coaches that also provided good example and kept an eye on us boys knowing that our mom was handling our growing up by herself—no small task then as now. We had one of the best high school wrestling coaches in the country in Eric Beardsley. He was in the school system as a gymnastics and tumbling teacher/coach, then took a sabbatical to Springfield, MA to do his masters and to complete his thesis in a “how to” publication on wrestling. He went on to establish an enduring tradition at Moses Lake High School that continues to this day having won more state championships than any other single school in Washington State. Eric was selected at the NAIA Coach of the Year several times after taking the coaching position at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. I was also inspired by my track coach Ray Adams who was an excellent teacher. Finally, another of our wrestling and cross country coaches, Gary Frey was a factor during that stage of life in that he enlisted the senior wrestlers to help him in his first year as head coach to use our experience to help teach the younger teammates what we knew. Gary had no experience as a wrestler but had been the assistant under Eric. Gary was also unconventional in some ways that made him a character and an exceptional English and literature teacher.

Still, my family remained the greatest inspiration and example to me in those early years. My parents worked hard, supported our activities, and had fun friends who got together as families. Dad died in the summer of 1959 at the age of 50 in a diabetic related incident. That was young. Spencer went to college at Washington State University, studied and graduated with a degree in Architectural Engineering. He wrestled for two years at WSU, but by his junior year, had to give it up due to the time demands of his degree.

Had it not been for mom's effort to get all the application completed for USAFA, I might not have made it. The testing, medical checks, and interviews were something new to me. During that period, I had also applied for a Navy ROTC scholarship but was quickly turned down during the eye examinations due to a color vision deficiency—red/green issues of some kind. It was fortunate that the USAFA accepted me with the same eyes and same deficiency, although it would affect my initial assignment nearly five years later.

Senator Warren Magnuson nominated me to attend USAFA. It was a big deal to get a letter or telegram from him announcing the appointment. Like many of our classmates, attending the academy would change my life in ways impossible to imagine at the time.

The symbolic transition was the trip to Spokane and Geiger Field to catch my first flight—bound for Denver. Jim Erickson was on the same flight and it gave me some sense of connection to home when our paths would cross at the academy that first year. So, 17 and with some foreboding, I was off.


Dooly Year:

Our first year at the academy was a blur for me…a fur ball of activity, orders, screaming young men, staring into the eyes and wide open mouths of seemingly flabbergasted upper-classmen who couldn't believe they had to set straight such a pathetic creature. One of the great favors I received before leaving home was a visit by the parents of Mike Major, a cadet in the class of 1962. They went through the things that I might expect to happen upon arrival and some of the “dirty tricks” to expect throughout the summer and first year. When those events happened as predicted, it helped to smile inside with an “I knew you were going to do that”. There were a few things that made the first year more bearable—the ability to join and travel with the Cadet Chorale, the Catholic Choir, and the wrestling team. So, time spent in high school in sports, choir and student government activities was worth it. Another thing that helped prepare for that first year was the habit of doing chores every day that included the kind of things that made life easier at the Academy—making our beds, cleaning up our rooms and the house, taking care of our clothes, and getting studies completed while doing all that. Just the work habit helped.

Mandatory chapel was another feature of our Dooly year that seemed like an oxymoron—I was a cradle Christian (Catholic) so attending church on Sunday was just something we did. I was surprised that it would be any other way. Some cadets came to chapel in the auditorium and slept under the piles of coats that we shed once inside and out of the cold.

Tenth Squadron—“Tiger Ten”:

Our class was one of those that got to stay together in the same cadet squadron for our entire four years, with the exception of a few moves to other squadrons to keep the numbers about equal among them. That was a nice thing in some ways since we had more time to develop friendships that would last to this day.

The academy never seemed easy, especially in the sciences, but it sure became more fun after getting through our initial math and science courses—and getting the drift.


Over the four years I had great roommates: Dave Risher (KIA in Vietnam), Bob Hovde (wrestling team mate, smart as a whip, very organized and kept a neat room), Frank Packer (little need to study; taught himself to play the banjo while on confinements for flaming out his Taylor Craft and landing on one of the fairways at the Army-Navy Country Club; and later killed when his parachute streamed during a bailout of a flamed out F-104), Dick Menger and Chuck Davis (both separated from the academy), Terry Isaacson (our All-American wrestler and quarterback, as well as a varsity golfer; a talent for writing which he is now doing) and Ray Greene (former army enlisted and hell-raiser; “founder” or user of the infamous “Greene Chair”). While on Group Staff, I also roomed with Ted Saito who had a great career in the S&T side of the Air Force.

I enjoyed many of the courses but was not a model student. I recall being on academic probation for chemistry and spent a lot of time Dooley year getting extra instruction. It paid off even though I never got better than a “C” in the subject. I was able to stay off academic probation in order to wrestle.


I had my share of demerits but set no records, a few Class II infractions, and a Class III punishment. The class III was the result of breaking confinement to visit a young lady from Loretta Heights at Arnold Hall…and getting called in an “all right” inspection just prior to reentering my room. That caper netted 40 Tours, 80 Demerits and 4 months restrictions. As fate would have it, the punishment was initially reduced to 30/60/3 before “award”. Then it was reduced again to 20/40/2 for good behavior. This, coincidentally, meant I was off restrictions one day before our first varsity wrestling meet of the season. It turned out that the approval authority was the Commandant, Brigadier General Sewell who was also a pretty solid wrestling fan.

Other Highlights:

There were and are too many memories from “cadet days” to recall all the good and bad and even formative ones, but some were too well etched to miss passing on.

Our Dooley summer obstacle course race stands out as one of the more grueling experiences of the summer. I finished in a reasonable time but as grimy, sweaty, and as exhausted as I recall ever being. It was good to be done with it.

The third class overseas field trip stands out as a remarkable experience given the relatively limited travel I'd done as a kid. I selected the Far East Field Trip that took us through Alaska, Japan, Okinawa and Hong Kong. There were a number of “firsts” on that trip, but the exposure to other cultures was the lasting memory. It was exotic to an 18 year old: from the people to the buildings, traffic and trees—it all seemed different and full of wonderful. It was also a time for young guys fresh from a few years of being hemmed in experience a lot of new things. The airpower and other service demonstrations were among the stated purposes of the field trip and those, too, were memorable. Meeting some of the Japanese cadets at their self-defense academy and having some pictures to bring home to share was also fun. Learning a little about bargaining from street vendors stayed with me, too. It was hard to believe how inexpensive some things were and how remote and dingy some of the places we were led in order to buy some items. I took home brocade silk and jade ear rings to my mother. Those were the only things she asked for…and I was something of a hero for remembering to do that. The interesting thing to me was the attic-like place I had to go to buy the silk at the best price.

Summer Detail:

Between our Second and First class summer we had our chance to lead the summer detail for the incoming class of cadets. Major Dick Fritz, the assistant wrestling coach, was also the OIC of the cadet conditioning program within summer detail. He asked me be the cadet in charge of that detail. That turned out to be a great way to spend part of our summer, to get to know some of our classmates in a different way, to observe an entire incoming class, and to be outdoors in a beautiful setting. The calisthenics, running the hills in combat boots and other conditioning activities also meant we'd come into the fall and wresting season in reasonable shape to start our competitive conditioning. Major Fritz was also a nice person to work with. He gave me all the responsibility and authority I needed to do the job and had a great attitude there and in the wrestling room.


The wrestling program was another highlight. Karl Kitt was our head coach. He was a master at the techniques of the sport, and most of us were just too smart for our own good and didn't make it a goal to significantly expand our repertoire of moves. Coach Kitt had lots to teach us, though sometimes the moves were complex when first introduced. In hindsight, those could have been match changers if we'd mastered them. We had our best records in 1962 (8-3-1) and 1963 (7-2-1). Terry Isaacson was our only All American and a great one both in wrestling and football. Our squadron had a Group champion rugby team our First Class year. It was great to get outdoors following nearly 5 months in the wrestling room.

The Car:

This was another highlight for several reasons: it was a 1959 Mercedes Benz 190 SL that I bought from one of the football coaches. I hadn't owned a car before coming to the Academy so this was my first and spoiled me for a long time to come.

Just as entry to the Academy was a blur, the first year, graduation, marriage, and getting ready for our first assignment were other very hectic times for me then for Jill and me as a new married couple. It has given us a lot to laugh about after some 47 years of marriage.

Career choice:

Because I was not able to get a medical waiver for my color vision deficiency, I had to make a choice of career fields in a matter of two or three days for my initial path. While the choices were interesting, I chose the intelligence field, specifically Signals or Communications Intelligence and never regretted that experience.


Jill and I were married about 22 hours after graduation. We decided to have our wedding in Evergreen, Colorado where I had attended Bob and Dee Lorenz's wedding in 1963 as an usher or one of the other “assistants”. It was such a beautiful old mountain church and the surroundings were breathtaking. As I recall our wedding, Tim McConnell, Gary Matsuyama, Joe (Joseph Cecil Horne) Smith, Vince Bristow, Pat Moore and G. Warren were sword bearers; and Ray Green and Ang Cappuccio were ushers. Ray was a little late but showed up with a red tinted contact lense as a special wedding gift. This wasn't the first time that Ray had suggested the impact of a red filter on detecting the dramatic contrast between Red and Green.

Our first assignments were to Goodfellow AFB, San Angelo, TX for Signals Intelligence training, followed by our first tour of duty overseas at RAF Chicksands with the 6950th Security Wing in Bedfordshire, UK. That was a terrific assignment with a wealth of great memories. It was also a perfect place to get started with what became a life-long interest in antiques. We lived in three different villages (Hitchen, Hertfordshire; Ampthill, then Ickwell, Bedfordshire) but enjoyed the last home the most—a 400 year old thatched cottage named “Thacket Eves” in Ickwell. It had a nice green in the center of the village and a large May Pole which was used in the annual May Day celebration. The village green was also the venue for occasional cricket matches.

After volunteering three times to serve in Viet Nam, I was accepted and Jill and I returned to the U.S. so that we could get her and Thori settled in Ephrata, Washington near her mother and one of her brothers while I was in Viet Nam. Like so many others, I received survival training at and near Fairchild AFB, WA and then some weapons training at Hamilton, AFB, CA before flying from CA to the Philippine Islands for jungle survival training. I was assigned to Pleiku in the Central Highlands, then to Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon.

Jill told me of a frightening event that year. Pleiku periodically came under rocket attack. Those events sometimes made the news. After one such attack that did make the news in Ephrata, the local Catholic priest was making visits and just coincidentally came by to check on Jill and Thori. Jill imagined the worst and was afraid the priest was there to deliver bad news related to the rocket attack. It took a long time to settle down from that scare.

The enduring highlight of our Air Force life was that of raising our three children, Thori, Christian and Molly and watching them grow up and start lives of their own.

Thori graduated from University of Texas, Austin, entered the US Marine Corps through OCS, graduated pilot training and earned a slot in the F-18. He deployed twice to the Gulf following the first gulf war then went to the USMC Reserve still flying the F-18, flew with United Air Lines, then joined a consulting firm following a UAL furlough. He is now working for the National Counter Terrorism Center as a Senior National Intelligence Officer. Thori and his wife of over 20 years Julie have two terrific daughters, Hannah and Eve.

Our second son Christian graduated from Creighton University in Journalism and Advertising, worked for a major Ad Agency in Los Angeles on Blue Cross/Blue Shield, then transitioned to working on the Apple account before joining Wieden+Kennedy from Portland, OR on the Microsoft Account. His time with W+K has given him the opportunity to work in Tokyo, Portland, New York, China (Beijing and Shanghai), New Delhi, and London—the latter three on the Nokia account finishing up with W+K as the Global Account Manager for Nokia. Chris is now in NYC doing free lance work and enjoying it.

Molly is our youngest and also graduated from Creighton in Omaha. Molly taught in the public schools for over 11 years and now is teaching at the school within her church. Molly and her husband Logan have four wonderful children, Ethon (13), Nolan (11), Truman (7), and Quinlan (3). We can't envision life without the enrichment our adult children and our grandchildren bring.

There are real memories for each of our assignments but, for simplicity, I've summarized active duty assignments by using the official AF Biography from the AF.Mil web site:


1. January 1965 - September 1966, operations flight commander, 6950th Security Wing, Royal Air Force Station Chicksands, England

2. September 1966 - June 1967, signals intelligence operations officer, 6994th Security Squadron, Pleiku, and later Tan Son Nhut Air Base, South Vietnam

3. June 1967 - June 1969, student, University of Wyoming

4. June 1969 - February 1970, development engineer, Defense Intelligence Agency, Va.

5. February 1970 - August 1974, pilot training, T-38 instructor pilot, flight commander and assistant section commander, Vance Air Force Base, Okla.

6. July 1974 - January 1975, B-52 aircrew training, Castle Air Force Base, Calif.

7. January 1975 - August 1977, crew commander, standardization and evaluation instructor pilot, and operations officer, 325th Bombardment Squadron, Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.

8. August 1977 - June 1978, student, Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.

9. June 1978 - May 1981, readiness analyst, chief of personnel and administration, executive officer to the director, directorate of operations and readiness, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.

10. May 1981 - March 1982, commander, 9th Bombardment Squadron, Carswell Air Force Base, Texas

11. March 1982 - December 1982, deputy commander for standardization and evaluation, 1st Combat Evaluation Group, Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

12. December 1982 - July 1984, command center senior controller, Headquarters Strategic Air Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

13. July 1984 - June 1985, student, National War College, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.

14. June 1985 - February 1988, vice commander, then commander, 509th Bombardment Wing, Pease Air Force Base, N.H.

15. February 1988 - July 1988, special assistant to the commander for officer professional development, Headquarters Strategic Air Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

16. July 1988 - September 1990, deputy director, national strategic target list, joint strategic target planning staff, Headquarters Strategic Air Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

17. September 1990 - January 1992, commander, Strategic Warfare Center, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.

18. January 1992 - August 1993, assistant deputy director for operations, National Security Agency, Fort George G. Meade, MD.

19. August 1993 - present, vice commander, Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base, VA

In our 31&1/2 years on active duty we moved a lot, not just Permanent Change of Station moves, but also sometimes 2 or 3 moves while at a base. Jill got very good at getting us packed and underway. Our children (all adults, now) each shared in about 10 moves themselves before leaving home to attend university.

Each of the assignments were somewhat unique, but several standout as favorites for the type of work, people, quality of life and impact. Chicksands, Pleiku, Fairchild AFB, WA; Barksdale AFB, LA; Pease AFB, NH; Ellsworth AFB, SD; Ft. Meade, MD (NSA); and Langley AFB, VA were among our most enjoyable and challenging.


I expected our moving and pace to slow somewhat after retirement from active duty. That's not the way it worked. We moved from Langley AFB, VA to Old Town Alexandria, VA to begin the next phase of our life immediately after retiring. Since retirement from the USAF, we've lived in Alexandria, VA; Rapid City, SD; Burke, VA; and now Colorado Springs in those sixteen years. In the process, I've had the opportunity to serve as senior line manager, account manager, in several business development partner roles, and twice as CEO of small organizations. I'm now working with several interesting companies as an Independent Contractor. I've really enjoyed those dealing with innovative products and services and Boards of Directors work with some companies in those categories. Here's a chronological list of the companies I've worked with in the past sixteen years either as a consultant or full time employee:

· Youth Services Int'l. (Consultant)

· Browning Resources U.S. (EVP)

· International Youth Institute (CEO)

· Western Research Institute (University of Wyoming Research Corp)(CEO)

· Science Applications Int'l Corp. (SAIC)(Account Manager and Business Unit General Manager)

· The Thomas Group Inc. (Business Development Principle)

· The Boulder Group LLC (Business Development Partner)

· Independent Contractor: Serving QinetiQ-North America, Taxi2000, and Colorado Engineering Inc.

Boards & Professional Affiliations

· Member, Board of Directors, World Energy Solutions (2008-Present)

· Member, Board of Advisors then BOD, NanoVapor, Inc. (2006-Present)

· Member, Board of Advisors, Watermark Risk Management, LLC (2007-Present)

· Member, Finance Committee, Air Force Association (2009-2010)

· Member, Falcon Foundation Board of Trustees, USAF Academy (2009-Present)

· Board of Advisors, William Ruckelshaus Institute for Environment and Natural Resources Research and Policy, (1995-2005).

· Western Research Institute, Board of Directors (1996-2006); Vice Chairman (2001-2006)

· The Retired Officer Association National Board of Directors (1996-2002).

· Chairman, Veterans and Retiree's Council, Air Force Association (1996-2003).

· Member, Colorado Springs Court Care Board of Directors (2006-2007)

· Life Member, Air Force Association

· Life Member, Air Force Academy Association of Graduates

· Life Member, Order of Daedaleans

· Life Member, National War College Alumni Association

· Life Member, The Military Officers Association of America [Formerly TROA]

· Volunteer, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), Alexandria, VA (1997-1998)

[ My Career Summary ]
[ My Photos ]

[ Home ] [ Table Of Contents ]