MSgt John T. DeAntonio US Air Force (Ret) (1966-1988)
MSgt John T. DeAntonio
US Air Force (Ret)
Veterans – read more stories like the following when you join www.togetherweserved.com)
Note from Admin: We lost Tony on Feb 27, 2013. He was a huge part of Air Force Together We Served and is missed by his many friends and adopted family on AFTWS. Fortunately he left a legacy of his military service to his family by completing his “Reflections” before his passing.
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
There were a few factors that influenced my decision to enlist. Several of my cousins were in the service at the time, three Air Force, two Army, one Coast Guard, and a brother in law in the Navy, so there was a strong family influence.
Another factor was the Civil Air Patrol, I was in the cadet program where I had the opportunity to become familiar with the Air Force and I found that it suited me. There was also a touch of patriotism contributing to my decision to enlist. This was the mid 60’s and there was an anti military air about the country which bothered me. Seeing the anti-war demonstrations aggravated me and I was ashamed of those of my generation for participating in what I considered to be unpatriotic behavior.
Then there was my circle of neighborhood friends, the guys that I grew up with, played sports with, went to school with and chased the neighborhood girls with. Most of them were two years ahead of me in school. When graduation was out of the way the next order of business was a visit to the recruiting offices. So, the day after I graduated from high school found me in the Air Force recruiting office of TSgt Day signing a delayed enlistment contract. It is a decision I have never regretted.
WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
After basic I was sent to Keesler AFB, MS. For the 48 week long Aircraft Control and Warning Radar Maintenance course. So my first year in the service was spent in training. My first assignment was with the 765th Radar Sq. at Charleston AFS, ME. I was destined to spend the majority of the next twenty plus years on small, isolated, radar sites, far removed from the real flying Air Force.
Two years and one day later I was on my way to the 792nd Radar Sq. at North Charleston AFS, SC. Which coincidentally is my home town.
One year later, after a quick trip back to Keesler AFB for additional training, I was sitting atop Monkey Mountain, home of the 620th Tactical Control Sq., six air miles north of Da Nang RVN.
Returning stateside one year later I got the garden spot assignment to the 701st Air Defense Sq. at Ft. Fisher AFS, NC. Being such a plush assignment I was out of there at my one year mark. After a six week TDY to McClellan AFB, CA for additional training, I jumped the pond and landed in Germany with the 603rd Tactical Control Sq. – a mobile unit that lived more like grunts than like the spoiled airmen we are thought to be. I managed almost four years of trucks, tents, and C-rats then headed back to the good old USA. The destination this time was Fortuna AFS, ND. The 780th Air Defense Group needed another SSgt for their AN/FPS-35 Radar system maintenance team.
Just a little over one year later, I was ordered back to Keesler AFB for twelve weeks of additional training. After that party was over it was back to Germany, back to the trucks, tents and C-rats -back to playing Air Force grunt! This trip found me at Pruem AS in the Snee Eifel, home to the 612th Tactical Control Flight.
Five years later I returned to the States, California to be exact – back to McClelland AFB and the 1849th Electronic Installation Sq. With that outfit you don’t sit at home for very long, there was one TDY after another travelling all over the country and the world. As much as I loved the Tactical Units, EIS was my idea of the ideal job. As NCOIC of the Heavy Radar section I felt like I had the best job in the Air Force. It didn’t last long. I soon received orders to Cambridge Bay Canada, attached to the 4700th Air Defense Sq. DEW Systems Office. As a member of a Contract Performance Evaluation Team we were to travel the DEW Line from Point Lay, Alaska, across the very top of Canada, to the East coast of Greenland. Living a frozen nomad-like existence. With twin engine Otters as our camels we crisscrossed the Arctic stopping at isolated radar sites who were just ecstatic to see an Air Force Inspection Team drop in and disrupt their daily routines. As hard as I tried to get back to McClelland and the 1849th EIS, the assignment section had other plans for me. I was shipped back to the Garden Spot again and finished up my twenty two years of active duty at the 701st Radar Sq. at Ft. Fisher AFS,NC. The decision to retire turned out to be a bad one. Wish I had stayed in.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
In a round about way I guess you could say I did. As the maintainer of the radar equipment that presented the data to the scopes that the operators used to direct our aircraft against enemy targets, I was a participant. If ducking for cover as the occasional rocket or mortar fell is participating, I did.
WHICH, OF THE DUTY STATIONS OR LOCATIONS YOU WERE ASSIGNED OR DEPLOYED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?
I would have to say it was Pruem AS. Germany. The mission was exciting, the equipment was state of the art, the people were outstanding and the travel opportunities were fantastic. Some of the deployments were miserable, cold, wet, tiring affairs but the sense of accomplishment was overwhelming. And the beer was good!
The picture is of the Pruem Basillica then and now. (1945 & 2000?)
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
There are so many memories that it is difficult to pin down any particular one. I suppose one memory I will carry with me always is the sadness and disappointment I felt when we learned that the mission to rescue the POWs from the Son Tay prison camp had not brought any of our men out. That mission was partially directed and controlled by the 620th TCS on Monkey Mountain.
WERE ANY OF THE MEDALS OR AWARDS YOU RECEIVED FOR VALOR? IF YES, COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW THIS WAS EARNED?
No personal awards but I did receive the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with a V device when I was assigned to the 620th TCS, Monkey Mt. RVN.
OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
That would be the Vietnam Service Medal. It is most meaningful to me because it was a cause I wholeheartedly believed in.
And then there is the National Defense Medal, because that one puts me in the company of the greatest fraternity ever known.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
There is one person that I do remember as having a huge impact on me. He was my first Supervisor at Charleston AFS, Maine – Tsgt Charles B. Jeffries. In addition to training me on the technical intricacies of the FPS-27 Radar System, he also instilled in me a penchant for presenting a military appearance and bearing at all times. He also taught me a very valuable lesson about respect. I was on the verge of making a very bad decision concerning a certain officer and Sgt. Jeffries, with his usual finesse, proceeded to counsel me using very forceful and colorful terms. He proceeded to explain to me that although you may not like or respect the person you will respect their rank and the uniform they wear. It wasn’t a suggestion. Without sugar coating anything he let me know then, and on many other occasions, just what was expected of me by the Air Force. He also fixed in my mind exactly what a good NCO should be. Technically knowledgeable, dedicated to the mission, and caring for your subordinate’s welfare. Because I had the good fortune to get to know such a model NCO early in my career, I think it helped make me become a better NCO. One other tidbit of information about Sgt Jeffries, he could not, as hard as he tried, pronounce De Antonio. He would butcher it in ways I had never heard before. So he shortened my name to Tony and it has stuck with me ever since.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Depends on your definition of funny. This story has always brought a smile to my face.
While I was assigned to the 612th Tac Control Flight we were garrisoned at Pruem AS, Germany. The 612th is a highly mobile radar system capable of deploying rapidly to any spot on the globe. One day we received a tasking to support some NATO exercise in Italy. Because of the long lead time we had the luxury of sending a pre-deployment scouting party to the area to locate a suitable spot to set up the equipment and make other arrangements. This enviable task fell to the operations folks. They selected the operations officer and the senior operations NCO as the two most capable individuals for this boondoggle trip. Now the first rule of selecting a location for a radar set is the higher the better. That cuts down on ground clutter and gives a much cleaner air picture for identifying aircraft and controlling them. Seems simple enough so far. Although I do not remember the exact wording of the unit deployment order what follows is the gist of what was written:
The 612th TCF will convoy from Pruem AS, Germany to Bitburg AB, Germany on (Date). From Bitburg AB, Germany the 612thTCF will air deploy via X# C-141, X# C-130 aircraft to Aviano AB, Italy. The 612th TCF will marshal their equipment in hanger ####. On (Date) the unit will ground infiltrate to the 5th Tee of the Aviano Golf Course.
Now anyone who has been to Aviano is aware that if you walk out of the Officers Club and turn around you will notice some hills there known as the Italian Alps. And all they found was an 18 inch rise on the golf course? The rational of this was never explained but you can imagine the ragging our Ops crew took. Our antenna also took a few dings from errant golf balls. They quit yelling FORE! And started yelling INCOMING!
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?
Immediately after retiring I enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. I had started taking night classes way back in 1969 at The Citadel and took classes at every opportunity. I finally consolidated them and after a few more classes I graduated from UNCW in December 1990. After that was finally out of the way I used my Air Force training in electronics to get a job with Exide Electronics as a quality assurance associate for Uninterpretable Power Systems. Ten years later NAFTA hit us and the plant moved to Mexico. I moved on to Chloride Electronics as an electronics lab tech. That was a short stint and I moved on to Corning as a shift technician in a plant that manufactured optical fiber. Deciding that I would like to be my own boss I got my Real Estate Brokers License and sold real estate until the bottom fell out of the market. I now consider myself to be fully retired.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
I have long been a member of “Vietnam Veterans of America” but would not say I was active in the organization.I am a member of The American Legion, Post 10, Wilmington, NC. The benefits I derive from this association is the feeling of still being able to contribute something to my community and country.
HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
It taught me discipline and tolerance. I also think that the responsibilities I was given, my varied experiences and the world travel have instilled in me a self confidence that has enabled me to be successful in my post service endeavors. The Air Force has also shown me the value of good leadership and what can be accomplished through teamwork.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?
My advice to those currently serving would be to take advantage of every opportunity that comes up. Get as much training as the Air Force will give you, attend every class, school and seminar that you are able to. Take full advantage of the off duty classes and distance learning opportunities.
Become involved in your base and local community, it will help make even the worst assignment more tolerable. Get out and explore your surroundings and learn a little something of the history.
Another piece of advice would be to keep a journal or some kind of written record of your service time. Important dates, places and people. Service records can get lost or damaged. Take pride in yourself, the uniform you wear and the country you are serving.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?
TWS has become one of my daily rituals, starting with the cup of coffee in the morning. I began missing the service as soon as I was presented my retirement certificate. I missed the camaraderie of other service members, and I missed the uniformity and order which the service demands. I have joined numerous radar site related groups which I enjoy because we all have common experiences. At TWS I am able to share the experiences of others that I would not otherwise have access to. I enjoy being able to interact with Airmen that had such jobs as F-4 Crew chiefs, Armament troops, Airframe welders, Aircrew Life Support Specialists, TI’s,FACs, Pilots and so many more that I never had contact with during my service time. Not only have I been able to re connect with several old friends I have made some new friends that I feel as close to as if they were family. TWS has given me the living connection to my military past that was so sorely missed.
When I first joined this site I sent my TWS “recruiter” a thank you note. I would like to publicly thank MSgt James (Sammy) Samson for sending me that most welcomed invitation.