My Military Service
Immediately after graduating from
high school in 1963 I enlisted in the United States Air Force. Upon
completion of five weeks of Basic Military Training in the 3726th Basic
Military Training Squadron, I was reassigned to Amarillo AFB, Texas for
training as an Airplane General Mechanic (more than two engines.) From
Amarillo I went to Pope AFB, North Carolina and the 464th Troop Carrier
Wing, a Tactical Air Command unit that was in the process of converting
from the twin-engine Fairchild C-123 Provider to the new Lockheed
C-130E Hercules. I was initially assigned to the 464th Organizational
Maintenance Squadron, but in August 1964 I was given the opportunity to
cross-train into the Aircraft Loadmaster career field and was
reassigned to the 779th Troop Carrier Squadron.By March 1965 I had completed all
training requirements and was assigned to a "combat ready" flight crew
as the teenage loadmaster. I was now a full-fledged "TAC-Trained Killer!" My aircraft commander was Captain Marvin
Shoupe, Captain Cornelius J. Carney - co-pilot; Lt. Dereck Eller -
navigator and Airman First Class Donald Sweet was the flight mechanic.
Over the next nine months we enjoyed numerous adventures all over the
world - first to France, then to Okinawa and finally to the tiny island
of Mactan in the Philippines, with flights to the Dominican Republic
and the Congo in between. My first combat mission was to the Dominican
Republic in April 1965. Within a just a few weeks I was in South
Vietnam for the first time. In October we came back to Mactan with a
hole in the wing from a bullet fired from a Viet Cong we passed over
while landing at Dong Ha, a remote airfield just south of the
Demilitarized Zone that divided the two Vietnams. While we were on the
ground I took the photograph shown below.
December after returning to Pope from Mactan I went home on leave. When
I got back I found orders waiting for me to Naha AB, Okinawa where I
was assigned to the 35th Troop Carrier Squadron.
From February 1966 to August 1967 I
flew on C-130As. Our misisons included in-country shuttles out of Cam
Ranh Bay, the Bangkok Shuttle in Thailand, the C-130 flare misison at
Ubon, Thailand and FACT SHEET and JILLI Leaflet missions that were
classified at the time, but were flown over North Vietnam and off the
coast of North Korea. We also had a special mission at Kadena, the
large SAC base a few miles up the island from Naha.
I reenlisted while at Naha and was assigned to the 58th Military
Airlift Squadron at Robins AFB, Georgia as a loadmaster on C-141s when
I returned home. The primary mission of the 58th was transporting
special weapons, but we spent most of our time on MAC "channel traffic"
missions all over the world, but particularly to Southeast Asia, Europe
and the Middle East. I was only at Robins for a year when I got orders
sending me to Clark Field, Philippines, which turned out to be the best
assignment I had while in the military. I was assigned to the 29th
Tactical Airlift Squadron and flew with a screw-ball crew that had a
reputation as the best crew in the entire 463rd Tactical Airlift Wing.
One of our missions was dropping huge ten and fifteen-thousand pount
bombs to clear helicopter landing zones.
When I left Clark I went to
Charleston AFB, South Carolina where I was assigned to the 3rd Military
Airlift Squadron, the first USAF operational unit to fly the huge new
Lockheed C-5A Galaxy. I remained in the 3rd for the rest of my 12 years
of Air Force service. I got out of the Air Force in July 1973 with the
rank of Technical Sergeant and a whole bunch of medals and decorations,
including the Distinguished Flying Cross and 13 Air Medals.
It was only natural that I had gone into the Air Force. Both my dad and
my uncle were Army Air Forces veterans of World War II. My dad flew a
30-mission tour as an aerial engineer with the Eighth Air Force in
B-24s and his brother Delmar flew 35 missions as a B-24 pilot. Uncle
Del remained in the Air Force for twenty years, and flew the B-29 and