CCM Robert D. Chandler U.S. Air Force (Ret.) (1966-2005)
CCM Robert D. Chandler
U.S. Air Force (Ret.)
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE AIR FORCE?
When I was a young boy, on rainy days I would sit and look at my dad’s military photos and dream about the future and what it would be like to be in the United States Military. My dad served in the U. S. Army and the US Army Air Corps. Before that he had served in the CCCs (Civilian Conservation Corp). On Saturday nights, my dad, brother and I would shine our shoes for church on Sunday, and my dad would press our trousers with a sharp crease like he did while he was serving in the military. He taught us close order drill with a broom stick when we were 9 years old and 10 years old.
By the time I finished High School and had 57 hours of college, the Vietnam War was in full force. My buddy, Gary Lane, and I decided to enlist into the USAF in January 1966. We were set to ship out to Lackland AFB in February but an outbreak of meningitis kept us from enlisting until March 9, 1966. A hit tune by Barry Sadler called the Green Berets was playing on the radio, young men were joining the military left and right and I did not want to miss my chance of being in uniform so I joined the USAF as planned.
My dad said he would hate to see me leave home, but I would become a man and learn more in the USAF than in College. He was right!
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.
After Basic Training at Lackland AFB in March – April 1966, I went to Shepard AFB, Wichita Falls, Texas for Basic Air Craft Loadmaster Training. I attended technical school there and learned all about C-124 cargo planes. Upon graduation from Tech School in July 1966, I got orders to reportto the 36th Troop Carrier Squadron at Langley AFB, Virginia. After more ground training, I took my first flight on a C-130E on August 24, 1966.
In October 1966, I was sent to the 37th Tactical Airlift Squadron at Langley and was promoted to A2C. I started airdrop training and by January 1967 I was Combat Ready on the C-130E. I loved flying and my career field and volunteered for every mission. My first cross country was in October 1966 to Lajes Field, Azores. The flight back to Langley took 9 hours because of headwinds all the way home.
In November 1968 I was transferred to the 38th Airlift Squadron and about a few weeks later received order to report to Fairchild AFB, Washington for Combat Survival Training and after that report to the 774th TAS at Clark Field, Philippines.
I arrived at Clark Air Base on February 3, 1969 and went on my first mission to South Vietnam a week later. I rotated in and out of Vietnam until March 1970 and I got out of the USAF and returned to West Virginia.
In September 1971, I joined the West Virginia Air National Guard and became an Aircraft Loadmaster on C-119 cargo planes. In 1975, I graduated from the NCO Academy at Knoxville, Tennessee in May and went to work for the West Virginia Air National Guard as a full-time Technician as an Aircraft Loadmaster. Our unit got C-130s in November 1975 and I thought I had died and went to heaven. I was going to live at home and do the same job I loved in the regular Air Force.
I flew with the 130th Airlift Squadron from 1971 until 25 January 2001. I had become the first Command Chief of the 130th Airlift Wing in August 1996 and to become a State Command Chief, I had to hang up my wings. It was a difficult decision but I was selected to become the State Command Chief of West Virginia and finished my flying career with 11, 1407 hours of flying time. I was truly blessed, having traveled to 77 countries and all 50 states and territories.
IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN COMBAT, PEACEKEEPING OR HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.
I participated in Combat Operations from February 1969 until March 1970 while flying missions on C-130B aircraft out of Clark AB, Philippines. We flew from the DMZ at Dong Ha in the north, to the Mekong Delta in the south and everything in between. We airlifted cannon barrels for artillery pieces, food, ammo, passengers, and body bags of young Americans. We also airdropped 10,000 pound bombs in an operation called Commando Vault. We airdropped Blu-82s to make helicopter landing zones. Photo of a Blue-82 loaded for a mission.
In 1991 we flew combat missions in the Persian Gulf War. After the war had ended, we flew a mission over the battle fields and airdropped 37,000 pounds of clothing to a prisoner of war camp on the border of Kuwait and Iraq. The tracks were still fresh in the sand as we flew to our Drop Zone.
During the War in Bosnia, we flew supply missions to our forces on the ground.
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I was in uniform for 39 years 6 months and 9 days. I have a million memories, some great, and a few sad ones. I remember all the men that guided me in the right direction, gave me bits of information to advance my career. I remember the camaraderie and the brotherhood, from the aircrews, to the maintenance troops, the medical section, supply personnel, all the ground support that keep aircrews going. I am thankful and grateful to all of them. I was fortunate enough toalways be assigned to units that had great morale and great leadership.
When I was stationed at Langley AFB, I was on a mission that carried secret service men ahead of candidates Richard M. Nixon and Spiro Agnew. They would win and go on to become President and Vice-President. We flew all over the United States. Going to Europe, South American and Asia opened my eyes to the poverty in this world. I also got to see the beauty all over this planet.
While serving in the West Virginia Air Guard, we were selected to participate in Operation Bright Star in 1983. We arrived in Egypt two weeks after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had been assassinated. Going to see the Pyramids was a thrill of a lifetime. Being able to be an Instructor Loadmaster and Flight Examiner was so rewarding. I wanted all the troops that I trained to have as many great experiences that I had had.
When I retired in September 2005, State Headquarters gave me a retirement dinner and my Vietnam pilot, Lt. Col. Jerry Wacker, flew in to attend the dinner. It was a big thrill to see him and all the people that attended the dinner.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The Distinguished Flying Cross that I was awarded means a lot to me. I never dreamed when I joined the military that I would get any medals, let alone the DFC.
Another award I received is a beautiful plaque from Lockheed Martin. March 3, 1996 for the 10,000 hours flying time I had on C-130 Aircraft.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
Chief Warrant Officer Four Rembrandt Morgan, my father-in-law. He was a World War II veteran, and later served 32 years in the West Virginia Air National Guard.
I met him in 1972 at the West Virginia Air National Guard and he always encouraged me to strive for success. He had served in the Pacific during World War II and had a lot of experience in the military. He was a tremendous mentor to me and after my dad passed away, I would seek guidance and direction from Mr. Morgan. He always gave me the advice I needed.
I give him a lot of credit for my success in the military.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
I was an A2C at Langley AFB in Sep 1967 and we went to Mildenhall AB UK on a 90 day rotation. We had a crew of 12 and I bought all the flight lunches on the way over. I was paid by everyone except the Navigator. He was single, a Captain, and pockets full of money. He even bought an antique Rolls Royce while we were in England and had it shipped to Virginia.
On the flight from Lajes AB Azores to Langley, The navigator call me and said he wanted his flight lunch. I said, “Sir, you still owe me for the lunch from September and I did not have the money to feed you on the way home.” The Pilot called him a few choice words and told him that maybe he could try his shoe leather. I didn’t get mad… I got even. It was funny then and it is funny now.
I never have been fond of tight wads since the incident.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
I retired at age 60 as the State Command Chief for the State of West Virginia in 2005. I am active with the American Legion Post # 187 in Winfield, West Virginia and served as Post Commander for three years. I am presently serving as Post Historian.
We do History of the Flag presentations to churches, schools, and civic groups. We also visit Veterans homes and work with senior citizens groups. We give power point presentations on different topics to include different nations, and patriotic presentations. We provide military honors on the average of one per week. Serving with my Legion buddies is a new chapter in my life.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
Air Force Association, Air Force Sergeants Association, American Legion,
463rd Airlifters Association, NCO Academy Graduates Association, VFW,
Professional Loadmaster Association, Troop Carrier/ Tactical Airlift Association, Air National Guard Command Chief Master Sergeant Alumni Association, and The Distinguish Flying Cross Society.
I gain a lot of knowledge and up to date information through publications and networking with the different organizations I belong to.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
The military has been my life and my career. Most of my dear friends served in the military. My life has been enriched by the places I have traveled to with the military and the camaraderie is rich and sincere. I am thankful for every day I awake in the land of Liberty and Freedom. I am thankful for our history and the men and women that paid the supreme sacrifice that we may be free.
Only those few in our nation that have served would understand what I am talking about. I would recommend military service to any young man or woman.
Photo is Lt. Col. Jerry Wacker who flew in for my retirement ceremony.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE AIR FORCE?
My advice to those still serving is Service before Self, strive to be the best and you will be the best. Take pride in all your undertakings. Remember where you started, be a mentor to anyone that is willing to accept your mentorship. Step back every so often and reflect on your achievements and short comings.
Keep a positive attitude. Attitude is everything! Do not take anything for granted. Smell the roses and thank God that you can utter those four precious words: “I am an American.”
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
Togetherweserved.com is one of the nicest things to come down the pike. I have caught up with a lot of friends and fellow airman that I had lost contact with.
It is a beautiful way of preserving history of our Armed Forces. My hat is off to the founders and organizers of this service.