Class Of 1964 USAF Academy


Remarks by T. Allan McArtor

U.S. Air Force Academy Class Of 1964's 50th Reunion
September 5, 2014
Colorado Springs, Colorado

WELCOME...all of you - Class of 64! Back where it all began.

Hard to believe, but Labor Day weekend has come and gone. Another summer has drawn to a close. And now we're in the autumn of the year.

Since graduation, many of us have returned to celebrate class reunions, but NO reunion is as significant and will be as memorable as our 50th. This is one of those important milestones along our journey of life, and I feel privileged to share it with you.

Imagine -- a half century ago, when we, as young men, crossed the platform, saluted General LeMay, and tossed our hats in the air. We crossed the threshold. We probably never truly understood that June morning, and certainly we could not envision, the implication for our futures.

Over the last few days, and particularly this evening, I've been looking at you through the lens of deep appreciation, and remembering the words of Stephen Spender's poem.

You are citizens,

who in your lives fought for life,

and left the vivid air,

signed with your honor.

I say that with a great sense of pride. Pride in belonging to one of the most accomplished classes ever. And pride in calling you "my classmates."

Just look at what we've accomplished. We flew fighters, bombers, tankers, airlifters, helicopters, Space Shuttles, commanded missiles. We developed strategy, managed programs, invented technologies, became experts in intelligence. We instructed, coached, became commanders and leaders, flew combat missions, invented tactics, and had one helluva good time serving together.
With that, I want to acknowledge our class officers and the exemplary leadership they've provided. Rod Wells, Jay Kelly, Bob Thomas, Matt Feiertag, Usto Schultz, and Bob Hovde, and the entire Reunion Organizing Committee. Give them a hand!

Our new class senator is Doug Jenkins. He's taken over from Pete LoPresti. Doug's a great choice. Look for him to call on you from time to time to get your thoughts on a variety of issues. ( Not that any of you need any prodding about expressing your opinions!)

Pete, we thank you for your commitment and a job well done.

Eight days ago, August 28th, was "Ace Day" -the anniversary of our classmate, Steve Ritchie, when he became a fighter pilot Ace.

Steve is another "class guy" (and yes, the pun is intentional). He was interviewed earlier this year for a nice story in the Huffington Post. It was titled "America's Last Fighter Pilot Ace: Downing Two MIGs in 89 Seconds." The article is very complementary, and in typical fashion, Steve credits everyone but himself for his air combat success.

"Cinco" received the 1972 James Jabara Award for Airmanship. More about that later.

Steve, we're all proud of you..and it was fun to see you and "2-time MIG killer", the Ole Lefthander, Fredo Olmsted, at the F-4 on the terrazzo today. Tail number 463 is an old fighter friend to you both.

There are so many others I want to recognize tonight, and I promise to give them their just due in a minute. But first, let's turn to the occasion at hand.


Fifty years ago, arguably. the most accomplished class in Academy history graduated. June 3rd,1964 changed us. Better yet, it challenged us! The Academy groomed us into capable young officers, dedicated to upholding the highest standards of excellence and service to nation.

We grew as the Academy grew. It was still very young, only six years old when we arrived in 1960. Our class represents about one percent of all Air Force Academy graduates, yet our collective impact on the Academy, the Air Force, our culture, and within ourselves, carries far more weight!

Our class knew what it meant to rise to the challenges of our time. And we kept rising.

We answered the call of war, and lost 17 classmates - classmates who died defending the ideals of this great nation.

Our ten classmates held as POWs endured a collective SIXTY-ONE years in captivity - starved, tortured and beaten. But never, EVER defeated.

I proudly wore the POW bracelets of these classmates, and still display them in my library at home as a reminder of their courage, their commitment, their faith, and patriotism.

We all endured the era when returning veterans were not welcomed very warmly. Yet, I suspect that everyone here has been referred to as a "hero" at one time or another. It is at that moment when we most keenly feel the memory of our comrades who did not return home to this great country. They are the ones who paid the price for that honor which we now enjoy on their behalf.

Yes , the Class of '64.

We went on to become doctors, lawyers, government leaders, generals and titans of industry. You all left a mark of distinction in your careers.

Yet, regardless of the path we took, our Class held to one constant. We personified the high moral code ingrained in us by the Academy.

It's here that I want to pause to acknowledge Al Larson's terrific work on the Honor Code comments. The response to his question - "What did the Honor Code mean to you?" - was overwhelming.

In answering Al's email, many of you used phrases like:

"trust, faith in my fellow man, moral compass, honesty, character, and integrity."

The code meant different things to different people, but it brought us all back to the same place.

It WAS our "moral compass."

Despite the many changes in the look and fabric, the Academy remains essentially what it has always been -- a disciplined community of learning and individual development, dedicated to the highest standards of integrity and personal honor.

To this day it continues to teach cadets how to organize, manage time, break down a problem, think under pressure...and always with honor, integrity, and service before self.

The more I think about it, the more I'm amazed.

Fifty years!

For me, it's been 50 years of "aviation"...and I must say, I've enjoyed a rather kaleidoscopic view of this industry. Fifty years in aviation has also been shared with my beautiful wife, Gracie. And I'm proud to say that we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary this past July. I'd have to say that ranks as THE most significant accomplishment of my life!

Congratulations to all the couples out there (as well) who have enjoyed your "first" 50 years of marriage.

Today, I have the good fortune to continue to do what I love, interacting with the aerospace industry and seeing aviation's impact on the lives of so many.

You know, this year marks the 100th anniversary of "commercial flight". Boy, I can only imagine what the next 100 years will bring. And YOU, my fellow classmates, have participated in, and shaped, half of that amazing history!

Last week, many of us received an email from the "Oracle of '64", the Class sage and philosopher, Mitch Cobeaga.

When Bumaga speaks, we all take note! His theme was, our Class will meet the Doolies during our reunion, the Class of 2018. What will our impact be on them as we regale them with stories of Thuds, Phantoms, SAM's, Huns, C-124's, MIGs, Buffs, Jolly Green's, FAC's and the like...?

Now what if we had been visited by a 50th reunion group when we were Squats in 1960? They would have been the Class of 1910, from West Point or Squidville!

Mitch imagines their tales of horses, caissons, howitzers, iron clad ships and observation balloons; then later Spads and Fokkers, trenches and mustard gas, and the War To End All Wars.

Mitch's closing was vintage "Bumaga". He said, "I am sure our reaction would have been the same as the current Doolies...BIG FALCON DEAL!"

I don't have to tell the class of '64 about milestones. We've set the bar pretty high on many of them. To describe them all could well take up this entire evening. We can lay claim to many "firsts." So here are some of my favorites.

The sight of Ace Rawlins in 3rd Squadron becoming the FIRST cadet to climb to the top of the Cadet Area flag pole. He removed the rope, and wrapped the pole all the way to the bottom with blue and white crepe paper. It took plenty of guts and skill, until it rained, and the blue paper stained the pole. Let's see another class try and top that!

Here's something else that's likely never to be surpassed- your generosity. We have contributed far and away more than any other class; $11 million and counting. And that doesn't include some of the donations to the Falcon Foundation or the Holaday Center, or the Spirit Club.

Though we are the sixth graduating class in history, we are number one in altruism. No one else even comes close.

And that brings me to my good friend and roommate, Max James. His benevolence is as big as his heart. Today he's doing yeoman's work in championing the Center for Character and Leadership Development. Many of you have stepped up as well, and for that your class and your Academy are grateful.

Max has founded Camp Soaring Eagle for seriously ill kids in Arizona. He and Linda are incredibly generous! Hugh Williamson and I are proud to support Max on the Camp's board.
The "Greatest Class Ever" can lay claim to that title for many other reasons, like having the most Distinguished Graduates. One would be considered pretty good. Two is hard to find. But FIVE from the same class? That's pretty shit-hot!

First, Harry Pierce was honored. Vice Chairman of GM, CEO of Hughes Aviation, lawyer, and the man who gave the best reunion speech I've ever heard.

Harry's more than a brilliant business leader. He's a champion for education, minority opportunities, and as a reflection of his own situation years ago, Harry sits on the board of SIX different foundations that support leukemia and bone marrow research and treatment. Good on ya, Harry. We are all very proud of you.

Next there was Paul Kaminski, honored as a DG in 2003, and literally the inventor of stealth technology. (or was that Bill Garrett hanging midnight skulker footprints on Fairchild Hall in the wee hours of the morning? Talk about stealth!).

Dr. Kaminski served as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology. President Reagan once told him: "Seldom has a person of your rank achieved so much for his nation through the shear genius of his ideas."

Paul's resume is a testament to incredible technical achievement, superb leadership, and sense of duty. He was named an AIAA Honorary Fellow a year ago. Paul, we all take a lot of pride in your accomplishments.

Another "first" for the Class of '64, and by the way, another Distinguished Graduate honoree, is Fred Gregory - the first African-American Space Shuttle Commander in 1989 on STS-33.

Fred went on to become Acting NASA Administrator. Not at all bad for a young pilot who had wandered into the "weird-air" of helicopters. But I have to admit... Fred and Annette host one of the best annual '64 Mini-Reunions at their home in Annapolis. Simply awesome!

Major Gen. Ed Mechenbier is another Distinguished Graduate. Honor, duty, loyalty and integrity are just a few of the words that capture the essence of the man. On his 113th combat mission over North Vietnam, he was shot down, captured, and then imprisoned for six years. His leadership among his fellow POWs is well documented. Ed has been a true champion of mentoring the next generation. Ed, words don't express how very proud we are of you.

The fifth DG is the aforementioned Mr. Max F. James (from Humbolt, TN). He is remembered by this class as the lead singer of the folk singing quartet, The Pikesmen. (catchy name, Max Pikesmen!) And he was the irreverent editor of the Talon magazine. (You know, I still have a box full of them in our basement.)

Max was the rescue helicopter pilot for space launches out of the Cape, then became a rescue helicopter pilot in Vietnam, and a gutsy and courageous one at that. Over the course of 200 rescue missions, Max got shot down twice.

For all you have contributed to the Academy, our friendships, and the community, Max, we are all very proud of you.

We should all take pride that our class had a joint Rhodes and Fulbright scholar, Bob Sansom. He was not only really smart, but a great guy, and a loyal friend.

We also take a point of pride in our two other Fulbright honorees, Jeff Levy and Tom Tietenberg.

Turning to athletics, we had Terry Isaacson, a great running back, and an even greater quarterback. He was a true All-American who ran the "option" as well as anyone. (Although Bloodworth, Lorber, and Ritchie don't know why we called it an "option".)

Ike was also an All-American wrestler and played on our Academy golf team. He was certainly one of the Academy's best athletes. He was also the FIRST in our school to be on the Heisman ballot. (Some Navy kid named Staubach won the Heisman that year.) Terry was named to the Academy's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.

Speaking of football, who could forget the thunderous cheer from 41,350 fans, when one of our own, John Lorber (number 47), scored that first-ever touchdown in newly built Falcon Stadium? Turns out it was one of several times we would cross the goal line that day against Colorado State, while creating the largest traffic jam on I-25 in Colorado history!

To this day, Four Star General Johnny Lorber continues to serve the Academy as Chairman of the AFA Athletic Corporation, the new 501c3 that will raise funds to keep the athletic program competitive and one in which we can all be proud. And I am pleased to be one of his wingmen on that Board.

Likewise, who could forget the athletic exploits of one Jim Ingram? He shared Cadet Wing Commander duties our senior year. Ingo was the FIRST in the Academy to win four straight Wing boxing titles, and a 31-and-oh record.

Imagine! The same hands that broke so many blood vessels in his opponents' noses, are the same delicate appendages that led him to become a renowned vascular surgeon. Oh, the irony!

And do you recall possibly the most natural and gifted athlete of us all, Parke Hinman? Parke was the FIRST four-sport lettermen in school history, earning honors in basketball, football, track and baseball. Parke was also inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.

A stroll down memory lane wouldn't be complete without mentioning a few more classmates.

I remember in 1966, when 1st Lt. Karl Richter shot down a MIG-17, becoming (at age 23) the youngest American pilot to shoot down a MIG over Vietnam. Less than a year later, we remember hearing Karl had been shot down and killed on his 198th combat mission. Our class honored him with the statue in the Mall of Heroes.

And remember my fellow 2nd Squadron mate, Bob Lodge? He was a "scary" smart guy, but on his best of days, Bob could barely do a few pull ups. And yet, when Bobby strapped on 63,000 lbs. of F-105 Thunderchief, watch out! He was a formidable foe.

Bob was as gutsy as he was intelligent. He was awarded 5 Silver Stars and 7 DFCs. On his 2nd tour, and on his 186th mission, he was shot down in a F-4D during a mission of great bravery. Bob won the Jabara Award in 1974.

Marty Bushnell won it too in 1979, and no wonder. He did some gutsy development testing for the "new" F-15.

Steve, Bob and Marty -- that makes THREE Jabara Awards for the Class of '64. Extraordinary, simply, extraordinary!

And, I am proud to say, only the Class of '64 had three Thunderbird pilots serving on the team at the same time, in 1972, after I joined my very good friends, Nels Running and Jerry Bolt.

And a proud shout-out to then B/Gen Joe Redden, who in 1989, became the 15th Commandant of Cadets. Nice going, Joe! During our Cadet days, who could have imagined?
The list goes on and on. I could stand up here another 15 minutes but Rod is giving me the hook sign. Just let me get one more important point across.

The accomplishments, memories, and "firsts" I've been talking about this evening shouldn't be equated with bragging. I prefer to look at it as "pride". What we have accomplished together may never be duplicated. It's not every day you see such cohesion in a class. It is easy to leave the Academy in your rear view mirror, and get on with your lives and lose touch.

But we didn't, and that says a lot about this Class. The camaraderie, the special experiences only we know about, and the unbreakable bonds forged by our close association during the last half century can never be understood by anyone else - not even another class. That is a rare gift.

And so I draw my remarks to a close from where they began... the changing of the seasons, and the passage of time. We're in the autumn of the year - the back nine of our lives. And yet, I strongly believe that we're not done yet! Not by a long shot.

As you can imagine, speaking to my own class has been a special honor. I can't put into words what this moment means to me. Suffice to say that I, along with you, am committed to leaving our Air Force Academy positioned strongly for the future. May God bless you all, and I offer a toast to the Class of '64. To our continued success!

Thank you!
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