PRESERVING A MILITARY LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The following Reflections represents 1stSgt James Closs’s legacy of his military service from 1969 to 1994. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on Togetherweserved.com (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The following Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life. Start recording your own Military Memories HERE.
Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Air Force.
As a child, I lived in northeastern Buffalo, NY. The USAF Reserves at Niagara Falls AFB flew C-119 cargo planes over our neighborhood the first weekend of every month, often in three-ship formations. I relished the sight every month, and I was hooked!
This memory is strongest of me as a pre-teen and teen, cooking steaks and burgers/dogs in the backyard and watching the C-119s flying overhead. We must have been in the flight path because the planes were always in the same place in relation to our home. When not already outside, the sound of the planes would see me running out to watch them, much as I do with helicopters today (yes, I still go out to see them, especially when the Army is flying several and sometimes – but rarely – in formation).
Once I enlisted in that same USAF Reserves 914th Tactical Airlift Group in February 1970, I got the pleasure to fly on one of those C-119s from Niagara Falls AFB to Griffiss AFB, NY, to pick up the paychecks for the 914th civilian personnel. There was a strike by baggage handlers at that time, directly leading to a lack of paycheck delivery. The pilot was Major (later Brig General) Eugene Galley. A very interesting item about this trip was that Griffiss AFB was a SAC base. While this recent Basic Training graduate (1 month earlier) was wandering around, I stopped in front of the Clothing Sales Store, watching what was happening with all the sirens blowing on base. I stood there agog, watching the launching of B-52 after B-52 along with KC-135s. Suddenly, a Security Police Officer approached, and with tremendous trepidation, I answered his questions and learned I was experiencing a Strategic Air Command (SAC) Alert Exercise, and NO personnel was allowed on any of the streets of Griffiss AFB during those exercises; thus, forcing me to spend some time in the Clothing Sales Store, all the while fretting this alert would cause me to miss the return flight. I didn’t miss it, and en route back to Niagara Falls, I was permitted to fly in the cockpit. This time of year was migration season for Canadian Geese, we encountered a flock or two, but we were advised in advance of their whereabouts so we could avoid a collision, but still enjoyed observing them flying by in V-formation: it was a unique experience for this new flyer. Mission success in all manners and indoctrination into the odd world of SAC for a new basic training graduate assigned to Tactical Air Command (TAC): I was assigned to SAC about three years later.
Whether you were in the service for several years or as a career, please describe the direction or path you took. What was your reason for leaving?
After high school graduation in 1968, I enrolled in a local community college but didn’t even remotely enjoy the experience. During the 1969 Fall Semester, my entire class lost its 2E college draft deferment, and I chose to enlist rather than join my classmates in fighting the classification error.
In November 1969, I began my 25-year career as a member of the 914th Tactical Airlift Group, Niagara Falls AFB, NY as an Administrative Clerk (70250). In late February 1972, my first wife and I lost a baby. We decided on March 2, 1972, since I had been enjoying the experience so much, I would enlist in the active duty USAF as an Automatic Tracking Radar Technician (30370), assigned to Detachment 8, 1st Combat Evaluation Group (SAC), Richmond, KY. In mid-1978, I began applying to AFTAC as a Scientific Analysis Technician (99106-059), specifically as a Forward Area Technician, stationed at McClellan AFB, CA; Patrick AFB, FL; Lindsey AS, W. Germany; and Wheeler AFB, HI. After about eight years, the organization restructured the career fields, and I became a 99104-059 for the last of my nine-year stay; I changed career to become an NCO Academy Instructor (99605) at Robins AFB, GA, and in 1991 I became a First Sergeant (10090/8F000) with the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron (as the organization’s first diamond wearing First Sergeant). After two years, I began volunteering for overseas short tour assignments to most anywhere in the world. The Air Force apparently saw no need for me to move and never approved a reassignment for me despite my overseas return date being over 20 years old. I retired!
For most of 1974, during my time in the 1st Combat Evaluation Group, I was deployed TDY to Detachment 23, Udorn Royal Thai AFB, in support of Operation Skyspot and the Vietnam Ceasefire Campaign; then, while a First Sergeant, in 1992, I was assigned (again TDY) as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Area Commander at Riyadh AB, Eskan Village, Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm supporting Operation Southern Watch.
My decision to retire on October 1, 1994, was preferred to having the USAF retire me at the port when I reached high-year of tenure – I wanted to control my own retirement.
If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which made a lasting impact on you and, if life-changing, in what way?
Vietnam War: Operation Combat Skyspot and the Vietnam Ceasefire Campaign, during a TDY (179-day SAC Special) deployment to Udorn RTAFB, Thailand, in 1974, where my unit operated and controlled Ground Directed Bombing over Laos and Vietnam. Specifically, I served as Maintenance, Operations, and Maintenance Control. Early in my assignment, our Administrative Specialist rotated back to the states with a two – three-week gap before his replacement arrived. Since I had Administrative experience, I volunteered to man the position in addition to my other duties. The prior clerk had failed to deliver any of the Technical Orders, Manuals, or other publications to their proper destination in our small 19-person unit. He had simply stacked it all up in the typewriter compartment of his desk. Additionally, none of the file disposition documentation had been completed at the beginning of the year (an annual task). I brought everything up to date!
Desert Storm and Southern Watch: Again, TDY (90 days) was assigned at Riyadh AB, Eskan Village, Saudi Arabia, in 1992. This assignment saw me in charge of over 3000 enlisted personnel in the USAF, USA, and USMC. While there, I discovered many cargo containers with sheets, blankets, and care packages from “home” that had never been delivered to the front lines as designed. I arranged for them to be forwarded to the troops in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Many of the packages were from schoolchildren who had written cards and letters. Also in the containers was a huge number of boxes from different veteran organizations. I specifically recall the largest quantity of packages coming from the VFW.
Did you encounter any situation during your military service when you believed there was a possibility you might not survive? If so, please describe what happened and what was the outcome.
Thank God, no such event! Not directly, anyway.
Rather than a typical career, from 1969 to 1979 was the only time frame where I was assigned to regular career fields (AFSCs), first as an Administrative Specialist (70250) and then as an Automatic Tracking Radar Technician (30373). The bulk of my career (1979-1994) saw me assigned to special duty fields (RIs, and SDIs) as a Scientific Laboratory Technician (99106-059-7), Systems Repair Technician (99104-059-9), NCO PME Instructor (99605), and First Sergeant (10090/8F000). The two 9910x fields were in Intelligence, and I was deployed individually, often to countries where there was a terror threat, placing me in potential danger. This potential individual danger was viewed as significant enough to justify assignment to the Special Operations School for the Dynamics of International Terrorism Course. The course taught a lot of excellent information, including precautionary steps that prevented me from ever becoming said target; however, in 2016, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation came to my home (on behalf of the FBI) to inform my wife and me that I was one of about 200 ex-USAF military members who the Cyber Caliphate Army was actively targeting: I was on their assassination hit list. The result was many alterations to everyday living where I have had to take many extra precautions, including complete extraction from all social media platforms (I don’t miss them at all anyway). The strange part of this incident is that, as logic would dictate, I was targeted due to my involvement in Intelligence. Not so! It turns out that I personally know about 15 of the 200 on the list, and we served in the same organization during the Vietnam War: strange mentality for those creating and executing the Cyber Caliphate Army hit list.
Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which was your least favorite?
Every single one of my assignments had far more positives than negatives; however, I would say my assignments as a Forward Area Technician for the Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) were by far my favorite. I was afforded the opportunity to travel much of the world and experience many different cultures. During that period of my career, I was in 65 countries, on 6 Continents, and in all five oceans. I’ve been to the northernmost point of Continental North America (Point Barrow, Alaska), the southernmost point of Continental North America (Panama City, Panama), and the northernmost point of Continental South America (again, Panama City, Panama): crossing the “Bridge of the Americas” connects North and South America while transiting the Panama Canal.
I’ve also been to the western and easternmost points of Continental North America when I visited Attu and Agattu Islands, Alaska (this is according to some geological reports; however, I’ve also read other reports that counter that claim by naming different islands). Another significant place I’ve been is on one of three bridges (I don’t know which one) connecting Europe and Asia in Istanbul, Turkey. Point Barrow was the northernmost point on earth that I have visited, while Wellington, North Island, New Zealand, is the southernmost point I’ve been on the planet. Once, while vacationing in Cairo, Egypt, my third ex-wife, our daughter, and I were riding camels around the pyramids. There was a C-130 and an F-15 (I think that is the aircraft type) flying overhead. As it turns out, the crew in the C-130 was taking photos of the fighter for recruiting or other promotional posters. I have one, and it shows us in the photo – my daughter Lisa is in a red top and can be clearly seen, albeit as a blur., but I have photos from the ground looking in the other direction. This vacation was during my PCS trip from Lindsey AS, W. Germany, to Wheeler AFB, Hawaii. Rather than travel via the USAF-chosen route, we traveled circuitously, visiting Amsterdam, Cairo, Bangkok, Singapore, and Hong Kong. There are many fond memories from each stop. The Cairo visit was made especially memorable by our staying with my friend MSgt Larry Watters and his wife, Shirley. They were wonderful hosts – I knew Larry from his assignment to Islamabad, Pakistan, where I visited several times.
I guess the very least favorite of my assignments was Lindsey AS, W. Germany. The problem here was not the assignment itself but rather with a specific individual: Major Steven Stone. The location and travels were fantastic, but his micro-management made daily work miserable, resulting in constant friction among the maintenance section staff. It got to a point where my supervisor and I could hardly stand each other. Later, Peter (Strawn) followed me to Hawaii (a fact I dreaded), but while there, we became friends – what a difference upper-management styles can have on individuals. Under Major Stone, it was so bad that simply stepping out of the office was greeted with a shout from his office of: “Where are you going?” The one thing I most regret about my entire career came while working for Major Stone. I was dispatched to complete a site survey for an equipment installation. I concluded the location was not suitable. The Major disagreed (brown-nosing) based entirely on HQ’s suggestion of this location. My immediate prior assignment was at our HQ, where I dealt with decisions about where to consider equipment installations and resultant site surveys. I was very familiar with their desires when such a survey was ordered and completed. His perspective was that they suggested it; therefore, we must agree and support the location. I regret that I didn’t disobey his order to change my conclusion. I caved into his direction (I was an SSgt at the time) and submitted a survey supporting installation versus my true conclusion. After the equipment was sent and installed, the mission completely failed despite a visit by our Commander (Lt Col Ron Couch). My original conclusion was very accurate, but micro-management, coupled with brown-nosing and a reluctant SSgt, cost the USAF millions of dollars. This is a case where an officer didn’t trust his NCOs, particularly me.
Another of my least favorite assignments was as an Administrative Specialist at Niagara Falls AFB. I was never a good typist and was far from successful. The assignment was not the faulty part: it was me. I was promoted to Sgt, and assigned as the NCOIC of the Base Publications Distribution Office, keeping me away from the dreaded typewriter; I enjoyed the job.
Included in the favorites, I must say, was my assignment as a First Sergeant with the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron, Robins AFB, GA. The people I worked with were great; again, the experiences were also notable. My Commander, Major (later Lt. Colonel or Colonel) Daniel W. Henkel, and I made a good team. We had some wonderful times and only a few negative experiences. I wish I could reconnect with him – the last time I saw Colonel Henkel was when he visited one day while I was in Law School. I only wish I had more time to visit with him that day. He was, soon thereafter, assigned to the Pentagon, and we lost contact.
At Robins AFB, I was also an NCO Academy Instructor. The assignment included completion of Academic Instructor School at Maxwell AFB, AL. Apparently, I had a knack for teaching, evidenced in my selection as Air Force Logistics Command NCO Academy Instructor of the Year for 1990. This experience laid the foundation for my later career choice as an Adjunct Political Science Professor; I could not get a full-time position in the Social Sciences lacking a Ph.D. I pursued said degree, but as already mentioned, a complete memory loss in 2017 has kept me from completing the challenge. The hope still burns despite my advancing age.
From your entire military service, describe any memories you still reflect back on to this day.
Of all my military experiences, I would say the one that served me well while still in the service and since retirement has been the ability to troubleshoot. Granted, this is a skill taught for the physical electronics world, but it easily translates into human interactions as well. The skill was cemented while I was a 303×3 Automatic Tracking Radar Technician, but it carried forward into the Intelligence fields, the NCO Academy Instructor assignment, and as a First Sergeant. Being a College Professor, a manager of different entities, and my interactions with fellow veterans have also relied on these same skill sets.
Aside from the internalized experience, there were some very memorable events that I experienced, but because of the locations where I was and the classified nature of my job, I cannot reveal many of them until I am 104 years old; however, there are still many that I can relate.
As mentioned, while assigned at Richmond Radar Bombing Site KY, I gained some fantastic troubleshooting skills that would prove exceptional later in my career. Gaining these skills was led by three of the best NCO supervisors I encountered during my entire career: MSgt Ron Diemer, TSgt (later MSgt) Gene Sherman, and SSgt (later MSgt) Frank Rathjens. These skills I learned from them later specifically translated into my finding an equipment problem supposedly only detectable during depot-level repairs because the fault was located in a very small component, in the bottom of a vacuum-sealed part not accessible in the field. The aforementioned Major Steve Stone told me I could not find that problem, based on information the depot had provided to him, basically stating my finding was a total impossibility. When the part was replaced and examined at the depot, they agreed that I had indeed found the exact problem despite it being “only discoverable ” at the depot. Another incident I mentioned before in another section, dealing with the Major, was when I was dispatched to conduct a Site Survey to determine if the HQ suggested location was suitable for equipment installation. I concluded it was not, yet, I was ordered to alter my findings to support installation: I succumbed to his direction. The installation lasted about six months before it had to be removed. This remains the most significant and negative incident of my entire career. I regret my decision (other than retiring a few years before I had to). I should have disobeyed the Major’s order rather than allow the submission of a dishonest site survey. My survey report should have stated the site was not compatible with our mission.
On yet a third occasion dealing with this Major, I was deployed to a tropical island, where I completed a depot-level rehabilitation of a piece of equipment: it took me 19 days. The Major was livid, claiming I was “vacationing.” He confronted me, almost yelling, and I simply told him to follow me to the Commander’s office. I HAD PICTURES! Out of my sight, the Commander put him in his place (Yee Haw!). I sure wish I knew what the repercussions were for Major Stone based on these three incidents; apparently, not much since he was later promoted to Lt. Colonel (his highest level of incompetence).
As a prime example of the rigid environment Major Stone created, simply leaving the carpeted maintenance office, one immediately enters a tiled hallway. When my footsteps were heard by the Major, he immediately looked up and yelled, “Where are you going, Closs?” More often than not, I was headed to the men’s room – what pure aggravation! Major Stone was an extreme micro-manager; whose management style caused tremendous strife in our Maintenance Department, leading individuals to dislike each other. One such individual was MSgt Peter Strawn (my supervisor); we did not like each other much at all. Much to my chagrin, he followed me to Hawaii a few years later and again was my supervisor. Out from under the undue pressures of Major Stone’s micromanagement, Pete and I became friends. In addition to being a micromanager, Major Stone also had no trust in his NCO staff. What a shame since we had a lot of knowledge he didn’t have, yet, he presented himself as though he had said knowledge. The shame is that friendships were prevented or ruined, and dread reigned over simple things such as even going to work – it was that tense an environment.
As an NCO Academy Instructor, I found my love for teaching. After retirement, I finished a BS degree in Criminal Justice and earned a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree with concentrations in Political Science and Criminal Justice. The MPA allowed me to teach Political Science courses at a local college. Being that I only possessed a Master’s degree prevented me from obtaining a full-time position; thus, I enrolled in Ph.D. studies in Public Policy and Public Administration with specializations in Nonprofit Management and in Policy Analysis. I never finished my Ph.D. despite having completed all of the classroom work and most of the dissertation. I suffered a complete memory loss in the summer of 2017 and have not recovered sufficient memory of my studies nor dissertation research to justify attempting to complete that mission.
As the Senior Enlisted Advisor in Saudi Arabia, in addition to advising the Commander on enlisted issues, I was also responsible for enlisted morale and discipline. US Forces in Saudi Arabia, during Desert Storm, lived under General Order #1, which, among other things, prohibited the consumption of alcoholic beverages of any form in-country. Six (out of over 3000) personnel formed a fleeting friendship with members of the British contingent stationed at the British Embassy in Riyadh. General Order #1 did not apply to anyone other than the US military. These Airmen decided it would be okay to take a government vehicle to the British Embassy, consume alcohol, and even bring a case of beer back to the US compound: they were caught, and several were drunk. I had the chore of leading the effort toward prosecution for their violations. As I recall, all except one were administered Article 15 (“Non-Judicial” – administrative rather than a court) punishment. The remaining one, the leader of the pack, was returned stateside, taken to trial, and dishonorably discharged. She also had an infringement in that she was still under an order to remain at the stateside base assignment. How the Personnel Department allowed her to have an off-base assignment is also questionable. A year or so later, one of those involved (an SSgt) had rehabilitated herself and was a graduate of the NCO Leadership School at Robins AFB. I was an attendee since some of my own Airmen were also graduating – I went out of my way to personally congratulate her on her accomplishments: to this day, I still hold that SSgt in high regard for overcoming a temporary setback.
My stay in Riyadh was under the leadership of Col. Charles Pettijohn and Lt Col. Steve Humphrey. What a great pair for that short assignment. My role, in addition to the above, was moral. I befriended the enlisted personnel, primarily the guys at the Chapel who worked under the restrictive hand of Lt Col Jon Wuerffel, father of 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel. Col Wuerffel did not favor his Chaplain’s Assistants traveling off base. I suspect he had difficulties being in a Muslim nation and potentially exposing his Christian personnel to potential threats (purely my theory). The Chaplain’s Assistants and I bonded to a point where I remained friends with their NCOIC: TSgt Phil Pendergrass. I had access to an automobile, so we forayed to town, shopping in the local mall and sightseeing in the surrounding desert. I also took others on such trips, including my secretary (I forget the SrA’s name), but I also arranged for her to get a refueling flight on a KC-135: I also took advantage of that incentive flight. On another occasion, I commanded a morale trip from Riyadh AB to Dhahran AB for overnight stays to accommodate a day trip to Manama, Bahrain. The crew I commanded was composed of the Riyadh base fire department. While staying at Dhahran, the local Dhahran fire department was called to rescue the Riyadh fire department, which had overloaded an elevator causing it to get stuck. Hilarity abounded, but it was a dangerous situation never-the-less.
What professional achievements are you most proud of from your military career?
In 1976, I volunteered to attend the 8th AF NCO Leadership School, despite such attendance not being in vogue at that time; nevertheless, I proudly attended and graduated. Then in 1986, I attended the NCO Academy. This attendance came with some unique (at that time) authorizations I needed to obtain. The eleven personnel in my sub-specialty were exempt (with limitations) from the USAF grooming and dress standards – we wore civilian clothing and could wear beards – this exemption was documented on a card we carried with a Major General’s signature. Anyway, I had to obtain permission to get back into uniform standards. Just— an interesting twist within my career. Finally, I was very proud to complete the SNCO Academy correspondence course in 1990.
In 1974, while at Udorn RTAFB, Thailand, during the Vietnam War, our site had just completely refurbished (depot-level maintenance) the AN/TSQ-96 radar, specifically on the wire nest running between the radar and the antenna (mounted atop a 75-foot concrete tower to avoid ground-clutter). There was 19 personnel assigned to this location, and most were off duty when we received a FRAG order requesting we direct bombs onto a specific target, reportedly where some Army troops were being attacked by NVA personnel. There was a requirement for an officer to direct all bombing missions: there were none on site, and none could arrive in time. At that specific time, a couple of SNCOs were there, but they refused to accept the responsibility, so here I am, a young Sgt, and I told them I could handle it. I directed the bombs on target. There is nothing in any record marking this deviation from standard operating procedures because, as I already mentioned, there must be an officer who directs the bombing. An officer certified the activity and scored a “shack” in the BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment) conducted by reconnaissance afterward – the bombs landed directly on the target.
There are specific accomplishments during my assignment to AFTAC that happened in various parts of the world that I cannot mention, but nevertheless, I am proud of what I did. Along the line of the innocuous achievements (and memories), on one occasion, I acted as a Diplomatic Courier for Embassy materials transported from the US Consulate in Cape Town to the US Embassy in Johannesburg, South Africa. There were many encounters with high-ranking State Department personnel, including Ambassadors. I also worked with diplomatic-level and high-ranking military personnel from various foreign nations, none of which can be mentioned here. A highlight on a more humorous note came during a visit to the American Embassy in London, England, where I met up with my CIA counterpart. We had a prearranged meeting with our MI-6 counterparts (MI-6 is the UK equivalent of the CIA). After that meeting concluded, we walked over to the MI-5 (FBI) offices for yet another meeting, traveling along an exterior hallway not open to the public and only accessible to MI-5 and MI-6 personnel. This hallway was lined with beautiful Royal portraits, many of King Henry VIII, whose castle (White Hall) was now home to these agencies, among others. The humorous part came when we exited the building and walked down some granite stairs. About halfway down, we stopped as the other guy (whose name is intentionally omitted here) began laughing. Being inquisitive, I asked what had brought him such joy: he motioned to a gentleman seated on a park bench across the street, asking if I saw him. When I asked about the significance, he stated he had just taken my photo. Again, continuing with my questioning, I asked how he knew that, receiving a reply that he was the local KGB (Russian CIA) agent and he already had my companion’s photo, so now mine was taken, and I now had a KGB file. Fast forward a few years, and in a totally different nation in a completely different region of the world; while seated in my hotel room in mid-day, a gentleman walked into my room and, upon spotting me, turned and made a beeline down the hall. I caught sight of his leg as he completed turning the corner about ten rooms away. I brought this issue up with some of my local contacts and learned this person was Russian. The following day, I completed a report at the Embassy, and upon returning to home base, I again completed a report with the USAF Office of Special Investigations. Several weeks later, I was summoned again to the OSI office, where I was informed my report was deeply appreciated as the person turned out to be a different KGB agent.
My assignment to Saudi Arabia during Operations Desert Storm and Southern Watch gave me an opportunity to help my fellow service members in Kuwait City. When I arrived, I discovered many sea vans (Seagoing Cargo Containers) containing items initially destined for the front lines but never made it past the Riyadh, AB area. My efforts resulted in the shipment of sheets and blankets where none had been before. Additionally, several sea vans were loaded with care packages from home, again never delivered to the troops. That also happened on my watch, increasing morale for the forward stationed troops of the USAF, USA, and USMC. I am exceptionally proud to have helped my combat associates.
Aside from the military work in Saudi Arabia, I had the pleasure of teaching some courses to local Boy Scouts of America leaders. One time it involved an encampment on the Queen Mother’s estate: a date farm. A fascinating element was the many roads on the estate, frequented by the young Princesses testing their driving skills. What distinguishes these driving escapades is that Saudi women are prohibited from driving. While they were exercising this freedom granted by the Queen Mother herself, they had also removed all of the cumbersome attire required of Arabic females. Interesting!
Another Saudi custom unfamiliar to Americans, except when sensationalized by our media, was the administration of Islamic Law. On two different occasions, I was a first-hand witness. The first event was removing the right hand of an individual convicted of theft. In Islamic Law, theft is punished by removal of the right hand specifically because the left hand is reserved for cleansing after bodily functions. When the hand had been severed, a police officer held it up for the crowd to see, maintaining it in the air until the ambulance had disappeared from the square. Once punished, individuals are free from their crime, but since there is a prohibition from doing anything in public using the left hand, these individuals are never seen again. The second event saw two individuals punished for murder, with one of them also being convicted of drug trafficking; the punishment here is death. Each of these events happens in the town square right next to the central mosque. The convicts are brought out to the square in a van, allowed to face the mosque (facing toward Mecca) and pray the mid-day prayers. In the case of the death sentences, the individuals completed their prayers, and the executioner summarily walked from one to the other, quickly dispatching their heads. One of those individuals was a rather rotund man. His head did not cooperate, and the executioner had to make a couple of extra attempts to ensure the head had been completely severed from the body – he had died on the initial pass, but the head remained attached a bit. In Saudi Arabia, manual labor is completed by other than Saudis. In the case of the executions, it was Filipino men who, by nature, are relatively small-boned (skinny) individuals, short in stature. Well, the comedy ensued when they began the task of removing the bodies. They had stretchers at their disposal (the kind seen in the TV series M*A*S*H), and they picked up the bodies, laid them on the stretchers, and placed them into an ambulance. Not quite true for the rotund individual! He was more than this four-man crew could handle, so after some discussion among themselves, they decided to wedge the stretcher under the body while a couple of their number pushed the body up. Then, when they lifted the body, the head was still attached and suddenly departed from their plan for it to remain with the main body, suddenly falling to where it hung over the end of the stretcher, much to the surprise of the four-man crew. In the end, they succeeded and then proceeded to clean up the square. In preparation for the event, the square had been lined (in the appropriate places) with thick plastic, making clean-up a bit easier. They needed a break after the preceding few moments in their lives, and then they proceeded to finish the clean-up by hosing down the plastic before rolling it up to reuse at the next occasion. Ah, but the experiences in interacting with different cultures.
Throughout my entire career, I volunteered with different civilian nonprofit organizations, primarily the BSA. During assignments at Lowry AFB, CO; McClellan AFB, CA; Patrick AFB, FL; Lindsey AS, W. Germany; Wheeler AFB, HI; and Robins AFB, GA, I served as either Scouting Liaison Officer or Assistant. At Robins, I organized and scheduled encampments for over 3000 Scouting visitors from the BSA, GSA, and Campfire Girls. In that capacity, at Wheeler AFB, HI, I became a Girl Scout Leader: the first and only time I had such a pleasure.
I mapped out a career path around 1979 when assigned to the Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC), McClellan Central Laboratory. I got some great advice from Lt Col. Warren Hayden, Captain Al Torigian, and SMSgt Ben Franklin. They advised me to plan a career with specific accomplishments. The plan was generic regarding specific dates for the accomplishments, but it helped me keep focus along my career path. I had chosen to complete my time with AFTAC, become an NCO Academy Instructor, First Sergeant, and eventually CMSAF. The last goal fell to the wayside when I was not promoted beyond MSgt, but I still had a goal in front of me. Later, around 1980, still during that same assignment, Captain Torigian took me into Colonel Hayden’s office, where the two of them tried hard to persuade me to become an officer. I took their advice seriously and completed all of the prerequisite steps necessary to accomplish that feat. I was accepted into the University of California and its USAF ROTC program and passed the Officer Qualification Test. After long contemplation, I withdrew my application because of all the politics remaining in the officer corps from the Vietnam War. Ultimately, I am very happy with that decision, specifically because of all the travel I enjoyed that would not have been possible had I been commissioned.
Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or other memorabilia, which one is the most meaningful to you and why?
Of the several personal decorations I received, I am most proud of the Air Force Achievement Medal (1st Oak Leaf Cluster) I received as a volunteer Superintendent of the Robins AFB Base Honor Guard. My NCO Preparatory School students piqued my interest. Each student must deliver a short speech during that training course, most often focusing on some element of their career field or extra duty assignments. I was surprised by the number who spoke fondly of their involvement on the Base Honor Guard. Finally, I had to check it out myself and instantly recognized a nook for me, becoming its Superintendent. I developed operating procedure manuals, obtained audio-visual materials to assist in training, developed a Base Honor Guard Booster Club, which included authoring the Charter & By-Laws, and, most importantly, led and conducted several funeral services in the absence of an officer. I believe that is the foundation that has finally led to my becoming an Ordained Minister with a mission of assisting any veteran in need, specifically focusing on visits to home-bound vets, those in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, along with conducting funerals, marriages, and baptisms as needed. I am not totally limiting my mission to veterans, but that is my calling.
I was selected as the Air Force Logistics Command NCO Academy Instructor of the Year for 1990. It was a great reflection on my attempts to provide quality education to my students. During that assignment, I was the Director of the Communicative Skills Department. In that capacity, I re-wrote the curriculum materials for the NCO Leadership School and the NCO Academy. When I was “finished,” two fellow MSgts (both of whom had already earned Master’s degrees) previewed the content and told me the courses should be tailored to an Associate Degree level because those I had written were of a Master’s degree level (I did not hold any degrees at the time). I am extremely proud of the NCO Academy Instructor of the Year award, which placed me in competition with the NCO Academy Instructors of the Year from all of the other major commands for USAF NCO Academy Instructor of the Year: I did not win that award, but it was quite an honor being considered.
A few other highlights include: while stationed at Richmond Radar Bomb Scoring Site, KY, I was selected as the “Pride Airman of the Quarter” for January-March 1975: the equivalent of Airman of the Quarter for Detachment 8, 1st Combat Evaluation Group (1CEVG), SAC. I don’t recall if this award led to my nomination in some higher-level competition, but it was a proud moment for me as a young member of the USAF (promoted to E-4 in 1974). Then while assigned to Wheeler AFB, HI, I was selected as NCO of the Quarter for tenant-unit HQ Pacific Technical Operations Area (HQ PACTOA) and was a competitor for the Base NCO of the Quarter award. The day of the Base NCO of the Quarter interviews was when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded – January 28, 1986 – a most memorable day for more than one reason. Unfortunately, my interview was mid-morning, and I had been allowed to proceed directly to the interview rather than going to the office first. The newscasts were completely dominated by this sad news and were at the forefront of my mind while sitting for the interviews. In hindsight, I am convinced had my interview been earlier in the morning, I would not have been as distracted as I was, resulting in the interview having many twists and turns with commentaries about the disaster. I didn’t win!
As an NCO Academy Instructor, and NCO Preparatory Course Manager, I was nominated for the NCO PME Achievement Award, and in 1991 I was a nominee for the Ten Outstanding Young Americans Award.
Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?
As mentioned in another section, I had three enlisted supervisors who shaped my career in several ways: MSgt Ron Diemer, TSgt (later MSgt) Gene Sherman, and SSgt (later MSgt) Frank Rathjens. They were my supervisors early in my career, and I explained how they shaped my troubleshooting skills, but I also vividly recall when I was charged with writing my first Airman Performance Report. Frank Rathjens was my supervisor and directed my path toward a successful evaluation of my subordinate. At the time, performance reports were wordy and used flowery rather than pointed and concise comments, as employed later in my career when the report was drastically changed from a rating of 1-9 to 1-5 and renamed Enlisted Performance Reports. After I had written an early draft of the evaluation, Frank and I sat in a secluded office and nitpicked the wording. His guidance was inspirational as well as comical. We employed a Dictionary and Thesaurus in an attempt to write the most flowery and flamboyant report possible. In the end, we looked over the final product and laughingly concluded that the readers at HQ would need to resort to using a Thesaurus to understand what I had written. What a wonderful experience and memory, but what a wonderful change to the new system where the reports were more succinct and to the point where everyone could understand them on first reading. I prefer the EPR to the APR in that regard, but I very fondly recall that joyous time with Frank Rathjens.
There were so many memorable people with whom I crossed paths during my career, so many that it is impossible to list them without leaving an important person out; thus, the limit to these three. I highlighted these three specific and superior NCOs because of their early impact, which would resonate throughout my career. For example, the troubleshooting skills I learned under their tutelage led me to successfully diagnose problems that were supposedly impossible to determine in the field rather than in a depot-level maintenance setting. What were the physical troubleshooting skills, but they transcended to human troubleshooting as well, allowing the detection of personal problems with personnel, particularly while an NCO Academy Instructor and First Sergeant. Frank Rathjens’ writing techniques led to many successfully written evaluations and brought a chuckle each time I was writing a performance report and reminiscing about: that particular day; in that secluded office; at Richmond Radar Bomb Scoring Site in KY so many years earlier. I honestly, and often, vocally laughed at that memory, even while writing EPRs!
I would be remiss if I did not include my interactions with the Chief Master Sergeants of the Air Force. I met many of the original CMSAFs, and have many of their signatures. Of them all, CMSAF Gary Pfingston and I knew each other well enough that upon spotting each other, the Chief would yell out a greeting, greeting me by first name. What an honor! Additionally, I dealt with CMSAF Arthur “Bud” Andrews because he sold athletic clothing to the staff at the NCO PME Center. CMSAFs James McCoy, Sam Parish, and I often crossed paths in dealing with Air Force Sergeants Association issues and activities. Of the first ten CMSAFs, I met nine, with CMSAF Richard D. Kisling being the exception. As 1Sgt of the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron, in coordination with the Commander (Major Dan Henkel), we created a program to recognize the most junior member of the Squadron by hosting them at some major AF social activity. On one such occasion, I escorted an Amn to an Order of the Sword ceremony for Lt Gen Chuck Horner. At the ceremony, there was a receiving table where the General (select at the time) sat to receive individuals. I introduced this Amn and proceeded down the table eventually to the end where stood CMSAF Gary Pfingston. Upon seeing me, he blurted out some greeting recognizing me by name. You should have seen the eyes of this young Amn and then his pride as I introduced him to “THE Chief.” I certainly hope that young man retains that memory to this date.
List the names of old friends you served with, at which locations, and recount what you remember most about them. Indicate those you are already in touch with and those you would like to make contact with.
914th Tactical Airlift Group, Niagara Falls AFB, NY:
MSgt Don Hindeliter: great first supervisor. He taught me all of the 70230 functions, many of which I still employ.
SMSgt Louis Lacatra, Unit Reserve Recruiter: got me into the USAF Reserves and later enlisted my brother-in-law, who a year or so later became a civil servant Air Reserve Technician, later retiring when he reached age 60.
Major (later Brig General) Eugene Gally: piloted my one and only flight on a C-119. He was a frequent visitor to the Admin Office, so I was already familiar with him. He made the flight personal for me and left quite a positive impression, especially since I had only graduated from Basic Training one month earlier.
Strategic Air Command, 1st Combat Evaluation Group:
Detachment 8, Richmond Radar Bomb Scoring Site, Richmond, KY:
MSgt Ron Diemer (Richmond RBS and Udorn RTAFB): one of the best Enlisted supervisors I ever had in the USAF.
TSgt (later MSgt) Gene Sherman: another of the best enlisted supervisors.
SSgt (later MSgt) Frank Rathjens: the third of the best enlisted supervisors trio. They indoctrinated me into the Airman Performance Report writing world at the culmination of my first year as a supervisor.
SSgt (later MSgt) John “JC” Crouch: good friend and peer.
SSgt Dave Barkley: another good friend and peer.
Major George Jackson [Richmond RBS and Udorn RTAFB (Commander)]: fantastic person and “friend.” When I first divorced, he invited me to his home for Thanksgiving dinner. He introduced me to his family as “Captain” Closs when I arrived. At work the next day, I asked where the “Captain” came from and was told that his children know that a Major outranks a Captain, but they had no idea how an SSgt fit into the picture.
MSgt Carl Carman: a great example of an NCO.
TSgt Paul Cooper: a friend with whom I had a serious disagreement, but after time it turned out, to both of our surprises, as a huge favor.
MSgt Joe Goff
MSgt Henry Kelly
TSgt (later MSgt) Jerry Murdock
TSgt Carl McDaniel
TSgt Howard Morgan (former Army 1st Lt)
TSgt Leonard Morris
MSgt(?) Adrien Whitehair
CMSgt Charles Brock
CMSgt Harry Bucknam
MSgt Jim Speller
1LT Douglas Cook
SSgt Henry Chandler
SSgt (later attorney) Michael Runyon
So many others – there were 179 personnel assigned there at one time.
Detachment 23, Udorn RTAFB, Thailand: Combat Skyspot/Vietnam Ceasefire Campaign:
SMSgt Jerry Finney: a very close friend in Thailand. We played racquetball many, many evenings. I had a propensity to “play” with the cobras that inhabited part of our detachment property and on the hike to and from the base bus stop. Jerry stopped me when I was about to crawl down the embankment of a concrete drainage ditch. He stated I could slip, and since I was only a couple of days from returning stateside, he suggested I forgo the fun. He was right, and I accepted his advice. I arrived home safe and sound!
SSgt John Kimsey: good hootch mate and friend.
Major (later Lt Col) Ned Kerr: Operations Officer in Thailand; good table tennis player. On one occasion, he and the other two Operations Officers took me to the Officer’s Club. My protestations were ignored, and I was told I could easily pass as a 2nd Lieutenant. As it would go, soon after sitting at the bar, a Brigadier General sat beside me and engaged me in conversation, opening with, “Hi Lieutenant, how are things going?” The three officers I was with began a huge bout of laughter after the General left, and then they proceeded to have a bit too much to drink and decided to kidnap one of the two large teakwood elephants from the main entrance to the Officer’s Club. It wasn’t too long before the base police were called to the scene, and the elephant was returned to its proper place. Another bit of fun!
Many others – there were 19 slots with constantly rotating personnel.
Detachment 35 Mobile, 1Combat Evaluation Group (SAC), Burns, Kansas; January 22, 1976, to April 9, 1976
1Lt Jerome Helton
Detachment 35 Mobile, 1 Combat Evaluation Group (SAC), LeFors, TX; October 2, 1978, to December 15, 1978:
Major Ronald Livingston Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC):
1155th Technical Operations Squadron (TCHOS) later: Technical Operations Division (TOD), McClellan AFB, CA:
TSgt Dave Stancl: good supervisor in the depot maintenance shop.
TSgt (later MSgt) Jim Burge (TOD and EURTOA): associate in the depot maintenance shop, and later my supervisor in Germany.
SMSgt Ben Franklin: supervisor in the Item Management Office. He taught me a tremendous amount about assent management.
Capt Al Torigian: very encouraging officer. This is the gentleman who encouraged me to become an officer.
Lt Col Chris Trytten: Logistics Division Chief.
Lt Col Warren Hayden: Logistics Division Chief who, in coordination with Capt Torigian, prompted the officer endeavor.
SSgt Gene Yancey: good friend while in California. No clue where he went, and we lost complete contact.
HQ AFTAC, Patrick AFB, FL:
MSgt Dennis Claus: supervisor in the Systems Management Office. He taught me much of the “big picture” about the three systems we managed. This included much of the extremely detailed insight into the systems, their deployment around the world, the logistics channels necessary to maintain their operational capability, and future perspectives about where additional sites may be located. We also evaluated improvement suggestions from the entire command.
MSgt (later SMSgt) Coy Renfroe: very similar and complimentary to MSgt Claus
MSgt Fred Huston: Logistics Division Administrative Chief.
Lt Col Charles Aplin: another encouraging officer.
Colonel Franklin Hall: Director of Logistics
Colonel Thomas Chambrone: very personable Vice Commander
Colonel (later Lt General & DNI) James Clapper (HQ AFTAC Commander)
Colonel Robert Meisenheimer (HQ AFTAC Commander): exceptionally personable Commander. Many interactions include weekly command briefings (Top Secret briefings), at off-duty activities, visits to Germany, and others. One time, I was driving south on highway A1A when I passed the Col. We were visiting from Germany and had just picked up my oldest two children from KY. When we saw each other a day or so later, he asked: “Jim, just how many kids do you have?” This was prompted because he knew my youngest daughter from our many interactions.
Colonel (later Brig General) Richard O’Lear (HQ AFTAC Commander)
Colonel Billy Bingham (HQ AFTAC Commander)
So many, many others – this was a Command HQ assignment.
1157 Technical Operations Squadron, later: HQ European Technical Operations Area (HQ EURTOA), Lindsey AS, Wiesbaden, W, Germany, focusing almost entirely on the Forward Area Technicians:
Capt Dudley Townsley: good officer to work for.
Colonel Thomas Niquette (1157 TCHOS Commander): strict, but you knew where you stood with him.
MSgt Jim Burge: former peer at the depot repair facility, now my supervisor.
TSgt Peter Strawn, EURTOA and PACTOA: my supervisor in both Germany and Hawaii. Good friend!
TSgt Jack Kyle: initial supervisor in Germany.
Lt Col Ron Couch (HQ EURTOA Commander): one of the top three commanders I ever worked for.
SSgt Bob Barnes: good peer and the brunt of many jokes from me. One such event was when Bob was dispatched to the remote location where I was working, specifically to bring a large replacement part I needed, but also on a mission to verify I had some clue about what I was doing. He concluded my troubleshooting had very accurately identified the problem. Still, when we were returning to Germany from this English-speaking nation, Bob placed this large container on the overhead shelf on a train, and it slipped. I yelled something to the extent of: “Bob, be careful; that is where the little girl’s head is!” He turned and had a few choice words for me, after which we thoroughly enjoyed quite a laugh.
SSgt (later TSgt) Wes Caldwell: great peer.
SSgt Ron Hatton: roommate when I first arrived in Germany. We did many things together until my wife and daughter arrived. Ron married a Finnish lady, got out of the USAF, and was never heard from again.
HQ Pacific Technical Operations Division (HQ PACTOA), Wheeler AFB, HI:
MSgt Danny Kelley: first supervisor in Hawaii. Great person and an effective leader. When he left HI, I assumed the role of NCOIC until my friend Pete Strawn arrived.
MSgt Peter Strawn (PACTOA and earlier EURTOA): see above.
Lt Col Tim Heenan: Maintenance Officer – very good at his job. He was unfortunately replaced by the dreaded micromanager Maj Steven Stone.
Colonel Mike Heenan (Wheeler AFB Commander – no relation to Tim Heenan): very good guy. I worked for him as the Wheeler AFB Scouting Liaison Officer.
Colonel Don Whitney (HQ PACTOA Commander)
Colonel Charles McBrearty (HQ PACTOA Commander)
Air Force Logistics Command NCO Academy, Robins AFB, GA:
MSgt Donna Ault: Director of Education (or something like that). Great person to work with.
MSgt Ron Rudd: fantastic peer and friend. We attended Academic Instructor School (AIS) together. Ron was also an officemate and held a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice.
SMSgt (later CMSgt) Gilbert Duenas: Director of Operations (I think that was his title).
MSgt Oliver Love: fun peer.
CMSgt Kenneth Nielson (Commandant): best of the three Commandants I served under.
CMSgt William Lindsey (Commandant): least of the three Commandants.
MSgt Duane Hopkins
CMSgt James Roeder (Commandant): first of my Commandants. Very likable leader and very helpful to new staff. I was teaching a lesson in a relatively large auditorium to a class of about 80 students. Physically, the auditorium was at one end of the hall, and Chief Roeder’s office was at the other end. Once the lesson was completed, he approached me to let me know he had enjoyed my lesson, a subtle way of saying I was a bit loud. In AIS, we were taught to be loud enough that the student in the furthest seat had no difficulty hearing the lesson and kept them all awake. Mission accomplished! The Chief never suggested I change my approach.
MSgt Jeffrey Fewell: my sponsor at the Academy. Jeff became a friend, and we eventually learned that my sister had been one of his and his twin brother’s elementary school teachers. What a small world!
TSgt Chris Strausbough: great officemate. He held a Master’s degree in engineering.
TSgt MaryJo Wheeler (nee Dudney): third office mate and a great person.
CMSgt Glenn White (Commandant, USAF SNCO Academy): we became “friends” with our many path crossings. I saw him many years later at a Maxwell AFB conference and hered me.
52nd Combat Communications Squadron (52CCS), 5th Combat Communications Group (5CCG), Air Combat Command (ACC):
Major Daniel Henkel (Commander): one of the best commanders I served.
Colonel Michael Moehlenkamp (5CCG Commander): Another of the great commanders.
SSgt Rob Hyde: Administrative Specialist and friend. Rob arranged all of the promotion ceremonies for the Squadron and was extremely disappointed when he was not on the list for SSgt. Little did he know he was on the list, but I had conveniently arranged for him to see the list I had created minus his name. At the ceremony, the Commander and I announced all of the promotees, giving each a set of their new stripes. When we were “finished,” one set of stripes remained and popped the surprise on Rob. This is yet another event I hope will never be forgotten by the member of my Squadron.
There were over 300 enlisted personnel; unfortunately, I can’t recall many of their names.
4409 Organizational Support Group (Provisional), Air Combat Command, Riyadh AB, Saudi Arabia; September 4, 1992, to December 11, 1992: Operations Desert Storm and Southern Watch:
Colonel Charles Pettijohn, 4409 OSG(P) Commander: Area Commander in Riyadh, SA. My immediate boss. Great time in Saudi during Desert Storm.
Lt Col Stephen Humphrey: the officer I worked most with. He was a B-1B pilot. We crossed paths again shortly after my retirement when he attended a conference hosted at the Robins AFB Museum of Aviation while I was the Assistant Operations Manager. We had some shared good times in the desert.
TSgt Phil Pendergrass: NCOIC of the Base Chapel. I befriended him and his two subordinates, and we took many trips into the desert and to the local mall. Phil and I remain in contact today.
Major James Walker
Lt Col Jon Wuerffel (Chief Chaplain): father of 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel.
Major Leonard Zeller
Capt James Walker
SrA Marc Simon
Amn Mark Leonhard
Honestly, I cannot list so many, so I have opted to stop while I’m ahead.
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 dispatched from Lindsey AS, W. Germany, to a remote location to repair a piece of critical National Security equipment. I determined the fault (a depot-level repair job), ordered a replacement part, dismantled the equipment, and prepared it for return shipment to the depot at McClellan AFB, CA.
In the meantime, a replacement component was sent via courier to SSgt Bob Barnes, a fellow technician from my own office. The equipment was packaged in a container approximately three feet wide, two feet tall, and five feet long. When we were returning to our home station, we boarded a train (this was in an English-speaking country), and Bob proceeded to place the component in an overhead compartment, but it slipped. Intentionally boisterous way: “Bob, I said, said, don’t drop it that way; that is the end where the baby’s head is located,” or something to that extent. If Bob could have killed me, he would have on the spot, but instead, after he passed his point of massive embarrassment, we got quite a laugh out of the ordeal.
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?
After retirement, I followed a course in education, both obtaining and providing, and I continue today.
In one year, I finished a BS degree in Criminal Justice with minors in Psychology and Sociology (1995-1996). However, because it only took me one year, I did not officially earn the minors – I didn’t meet Mercer University’s residency requirements. The same held true for graduating with honors because, despite a 3.79 GPA, I didn’t meet the minimum residency criteria to qualify.
I then spent a year (1996-1997) in Law School at Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University; however, I dropped out at the end of the first year ($37,000.00 per year was unrealistic for a 49-year-old graduate).
Upon leaving Law School, I began studying for a Master’s degree at Georgia College and State University (1997-1998). Here I had two concentrations: Criminal Justice and Political Science, but again I didn’t spend enough time at the University to be officially awarded the concentrations. Also, I didn’t qualify for graduation with honors despite maintaining a 3.81 GPA.
With the Master’s in hand, I began a career teaching college courses in Political Science. Gordon State College offered four Political Science courses: POLS 1101, Introduction to American Government; POLS 2201, State and Local Government; POLS 2301, Comparative Politics; and POLS 2401, Global Issues. I taught all four of them. My favorite of the four is POLS 1101. Here I tailored my lessons for a concentration on the US Constitution, spending a full half semester discussing every word and determining the meaning, keeping away from a study of Constitutional Law, where the concentration is on how attorneys and judges have altered the Constitution in its meaning and application, some for the better and some for the worse.
I continued my educational pursuit by enrolling in Walden University for a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Public Administration with specializations in Policy Analysis and in Nonprofit Management. At the end of the Fall 2016 semester, I dropped out because of an onset of mental disorganization resulting in complete memory loss and hospitalization in 2017. The cause was determined to be exceptionally low Potassium concentrations coupled with dangerously low blood pressure and vertigo. Much memory has returned, but not quite enough to justify another attempt at completing the Ph.D.. I have seven earned Academic Degrees; I can name the title of each but cannot name anything I studied to earn those degrees.
I have since “retired” from teaching in the Economics and Social Sciences Division at Gordon State College: I say “retired” in quotes because I was only a part-time Adjunct Professor. In 2013, the University System of Georgia implemented its 2012 plan to reorganize and rename many colleges and universities. Gordon College became Gordon State College; students now needed specific high school GPA scores or SAT/ACT scores for admission, and the divisions were redesignated departments with new departments created. As a result, the student population dropped in half from slightly over 6000 to slightly under 3000. All part-time faculty were put on hold pending a rebound of the student population – that rebound was never realized. Since that fateful date, Gordon State College no longer has a History and Political Science Department, and no Political Science classes are now offered. As I said, I “retired!”
My most recent educational pursuit has been in the ministerial direction. I’m not a biblical scholar, Preacher, or Pastor; at present, I have no calling in either of those directions. I am an Ordained Minister with a calling and mission of catering to veterans wherever I may find them. My specializations are ministering to the home-bound, those in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or hospitals, furnishing funeral services as needed, performing marriages, and, if requested, baptisms. I’ve found a lot of solace in this role.
What military associations are you a member of, if any? What specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?
From the following veteran’s associations/organizations, I mostly enjoy the benefit of camaraderie. Still, there are some tangible benefits as well, including discounts on different products and small life insurance policies:
Air Force Association
Air Force Sergeant’s Association
American Military Society
Disabled American Veterans
Georgia Vietnam Veterans Alliance
National Association for Uniformed Services
Non-Commissioned Officers Association
The Retired Enlisted Association
Veterans of Foreign Wars
Veterans of Foreign Wars National Home for Children
Veterans of Foreign Wars Military Order of the Cootie, Honor Society
Detachment 8, 1st Combat Evaluation Group Alumni Association
1st Combat Evaluation Group Alumni Association
Long Range Detection Group Alumni Association
American Association of University Professors
American Society for Public Administration
Academy of Political Science
Alpha Phi Sigma, National Criminal Justice Honor Society
Pi Sigma Aloha, National Political Science Honor Society
Pi Alpha Alpha, National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration
Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, International
In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career? What do you miss most about your time in the service?
The military bestows many traits upon us that carry forward for the remainder of our lives. Among those, I found driving my way of life and career, including these in the forefront including:
Discipline. The military certainly develops external- and self-discipline in each person, and that discipline has carried through well into my retirement. As a Professor, time can easily slip into oblivion within each lesson. Self-discipline counters that to a great extent (I’ll admit to periodic slips when discussions have gotten overly interesting).
Supervision. Early and long-term development of supervisory skills stayed with me throughout my military and well into my retirement career. After retirement, I held several different managerial positions while attending college and always enjoyed supervising my subordinates. That supervision included teaching different skills of technical, supervisory, and personnel iterations.
Brotherhood. Relying on one’s associates (superiors, peers, and subordinates) enriches one’s life and allows for smoother progress through the tasks. This brotherhood is not as prevalent in civilian life as it was in the military, and the nature of employment is also drastically different. This has encouraged me to belong to many veteran groups, including active participation and leadership in many of them. I garner continued brotherhood through these associations.
Structure. The military provides structure to any individual’s life. The structure should permeate our marriages, relationships with others, business dealings, educational endeavors, and general home life, on top of our professional careers.
Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Air Force?
From outside observations, I am not sure I could give any sound advice. The military has drastically changed, and I don’t believe I would even fit in today. The observed changes are not necessarily for the better. I recently had an ill experience when entering Robins AFB, GA. On the day this occurred, the flags were flying at half-staff, and I questioned the SrA at the gate as to the reasoning: he did not know, and what is significantly more disturbing is that he did not know what I meant by “half-staff.” This is a significant indictment of our current leadership. How can an individual enlist, complete basic training, and be assigned as a Security Policeman without knowing what is meant by “Half Staff?” What is particularly disturbing here is that the Security Police are charged with raising and lowering the base flags, including placing them at half-staff. I would truly struggle to suggest anyone enter the military under the present situation if this is any reflection on the status of USAF 2023.
Aside from the above, from a more generalized position, I would advise new military members to learn as much as possible and thoroughly enjoy their time in service, be it short or long. Always find the good in every situation, good or bad. Go to all of the Professional Military Education courses as soon as eligible and when they are offered. Deeply learn your specialization and become THE expert in that field.
Carry all of the skills learned in the military into civilian life, no matter if you did or didn’t enjoy your military experience. There are significant lessons one learns in the military that transcend the military-veteran gap. These are not solely technical skills but also life skills, and everyone should capitalize on them all.
In what ways has togetherweserved.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.
TWS prompts all members to record their experiences and memories. Writing my experiences has prompted a recall of many memories, both good and bad. I had a great career, encountering many fantastic people along the way, entirely too many to actually recall. There is also a recall of experiences beyond those based solely on the military itself.
For example, while stationed at Richmond Radar Bomb Site in KY, I became a Volunteer Deputy Sheriff. On one occasion, in that capacity, I was charged with assisting in producing the annual Independence Day Celebration, specifically with launching the fireworks. Well, all was going well until it wasn’t! We were positioned on the far side of a knoll launching over the attendees (not a safe approach). We had successfully launched some of the display when the fireworks remaining in the back of a pick-up suddenly caught fire. I baled out, diving over the knoll’s crest into the upper-level crowd. A friend of mine and his family were in attendance (SSgt John Crouch), and still, today, he reminds me of his vision, seeing me flailing my arms as I boogied to safety.
He reminded me of this event while at a reunion of the Detachment veterans, but it illustrates just how powerful reuniting with your memories can be. TWS provides another such platform for these sorts of recollections.