Air Force Reflections

Service Reflections of Sgt Thomas Hewell, U.S. Air Force (1972-1976)

Service Reflections of Sgt Thomas Hewell, U.S. Air Force (1972-1976)

In June of 1971, I graduated from Oconee County High School, and a friend of mine helped me get a job as a Laboratory Technician in Plant Pathology and Genetics at the University of Georgia starting in July of that year. It sounded like a neat job at first, but after a few months of looking through a microscope in a small room, I quickly realized that was not what I wanted to do long-term. I had always thought about serving in the military because of the men in my family who had served in the different military branches and some friends of mine from High School who had immediately enlisted right after graduation. The Vietnam War was on the news constantly, and I just felt the need to serve. Although the draft was still in place, my draft number was 340, so I probably would never have been drafted, but I wanted to do my part to serve my country.

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Service Reflections of SMSgt Theodore Fafinski, U.S. Air Force (1958-1980)

Service Reflections of SMSgt Theodore Fafinski, U.S. Air Force (1958-1980)

I always wanted to join the Military. My high school friend joined the Naval Reserve while in school. I joined the local Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Composite Squadron while in High School. In the summer of my Junior year, I went to the NY Wing CAP Encampment at Plattsburgh AFB.

I enjoyed the military discipline and military training. While there, I participated in an actual Search and Rescue Mission when a KC-97 crashed near Lake Champlain. The adventure happened because of the opportunity to travel without worrying about a place to stay, food, medical care, and a paycheck. I made up my mind to enlist after High School. The following year after graduating, as many of my classmates left for college in September, I left for Lackland AFB in mid-September for basic training.

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Service Reflections of 1stSgt James Closs, U.S. Air Force (1969-1994)

Service Reflections of 1stSgt James Closs, U.S. Air Force (1969-1994)

In July 1955, the day after my 17th birthday, a long-time friend, Mac Viars, and I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, and before the day was over, we were on a train headed for Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas.

Our original plan was to enlist in the Navy, but the Navy recruiter told us we couldn’t go until later. The Air Force recruiter said we could leave “today,” so that was decided. We needed a parent’s signature on an Air Force form when we enlisted. At that time, my mother was living in Baxter Springs, Kansas. So, Mac’s mother signed my mother’s name on my form.

After completing a physical exam, swearing in, and some paperwork, we boarded a train at Union Station in St. Louis wearing jeans, white T-shirts, “throw-away” shoes, and a few packs of cigarettes. We counted on getting all new clothes when we got there, and that did come true.

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Service Reflections of A2C Charles Jones, U.S. Air Force (1955-1959)

Service Reflections of A2C Charles Jones, U.S. Air Force (1955-1959)

In July 1955, the day after my 17th birthday, a long-time friend, Mac Viars, and I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, and before the day was over, we were on a train headed for Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas.

Our original plan was to enlist in the Navy, but the Navy recruiter told us we couldn’t go until later. The Air Force recruiter said we could leave “today,” so that was decided. We needed a parent’s signature on an Air Force form when we enlisted. At that time, my mother was living in Baxter Springs, Kansas. So, Mac’s mother signed my mother’s name on my form.

After completing a physical exam, swearing in, and some paperwork, we boarded a train at Union Station in St. Louis wearing jeans, white T-shirts, “throw-away” shoes, and a few packs of cigarettes. We counted on getting all new clothes when we got there, and that did come true.

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Service Reflections of SSgt Charles Stringer, U.S. Air Force (1966-1972)

Service Reflections of SSgt Charles Stringer, U.S. Air Force (1966-1972)

I was not able to attend college immediately after graduating from high school and began working as a carpenter for local construction companies. Many of my friends were in similar situations and were considering the military or had already joined. The more I thought about it, the more sensible it became. My lifelong love of airplanes and my private pilot training gravitated me toward the Air Force.

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Service Reflections of CMSgt Jerry Ball, U.S. Air Force (1961-1991)

Service Reflections of CMSgt Jerry Ball, U.S. Air Force (1961-1991)

I was born and raised in Myra, West Virginia. It was known for being the hometown of Brig. General Chuck Yeager. Yeager was a role model and hero to many in our local community. I joined the Chuck Yeager Civil Air Patrol Flight from 1957-1958 and was exposed to the drill and flight time in an L-17 aircraft. I had the opportunity to attend the CAP Summer Camp in 1957 at Clinton County AFB, Ohio, and experienced a flight in a C-119 Flying Boxcar. I left the summer camp with several hours of exposure to the Air Force Crash Fire Rescue Program, which steered me towards wanting to pursue crash-fire rescue. I took the Air Force entrance exam before graduating from high school. At that time, I was also working for $5 a day as a helper at an International Harvest Dealership, mostly attending to engine rebuilds and preparing vehicles for paint.

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Service Reflections of TSgt Marion Cochran, Jr., U.S. Air Force (1970-1981)

Service Reflections of TSgt Marion Cochran, Jr., U.S. Air Force (1970-1981)

I was graduating from high school in 1968, and the conflict in Vietnam was going on. I had a fairly low number in the lottery and knew I would get drafted. I didn’t want to go to Vietnam, so I picked the Air Force instead of the Army and began talking to an Air Force recruiter. My Dad was an MP in the Army in WW2, and I thought I’d like to get into the Security Police field. Every time the recruiter would get a slot, I’d put him off because I was working my 1st job out of high school and was enjoying it. Then one day, while I was at work, my Brother, who is 10 years younger than me, called and said I had a letter. I asked what it said, and he started out, stumbling over a couple of words since he was learning to read, “Greetings, you are hereby ordered…” I said that’s enough. I told my boss I had to get off. Drove up to the Air Force recruiter’s office and said, ” Please, please, get me in.” I joined the AF 2 days before I was supposed to go into the Army.

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Service Reflections of Maj Robert Hayden, U.S. Air Force (1964-1985)

Service Reflections of Maj Robert Hayden, U.S. Air Force (1964-1985)

Two different reasons or experiences. While I was a small lad, we lived about 90 miles from Wichita, where my grandmother and great-grandmother lived. Immediately after WWII, when I was about four years old, we would drive up to visit them and would drive by the line after line of B-29’s, huge and shiny, that the Boeing company had built but not delivered to the military for the war. I still remember thinking how neat it would be to get to fly one of those airplanes.

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Service Reflections of SSgt Rob Matlock, U.S. Air Force (1979-1999)

Service Reflections of SSgt Rob Matlock, U.S. Air Force (1979-1999)

My father was in Korea, and he regretted not reenlisting and making the USAF a career. He told us stories of his time in the Air Force with such enthusiasm that I wanted to experience what he described. My uncle on my mom’s side learned to fly helicopters in the AF and talked to me about the training that I could receive in the military and how it could help me get a job if I got out. My girlfriend and I talked to an AF Guard recruiter, and I joined ANG at 17 1/2. I went to Basic, and she decided she did not want to go. She married someone else while I was in photographer training.

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Service Reflections of Maj James Webber, U.S. Air Force (1972-1992)

Service Reflections of Maj James Webber, U.S. Air Force (1972-1992)

Interestingly, back in August of 1968, when I first walked around the sign-up tables in the Washburn University gym, I decided on a whim to join the Air Force ROTC unit. The sales pitch was it was really easy for the first two years, plus you could take military science classes (which were espoused to be easier than most). It sounded good to this Kansas country boy who was just trying to stay out of the draft. I never dreamed that quick decisions would turn into a wonderful and rewarding career! That one decision formed and still rewards my life to this day!

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