Personal Service Reflections of USAF Airman:
CMSgt Don Skinner
US Air Force (Ret)
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
I began working as a carpenter after high school but soon realized that I desired something more for a career. In my economic situation, it appeared that the military service was the answer to obtain the training I desired. Most of my male relatives (uncles and older cousins) had served in World War II, so I sought their advice concerning opportunities. Based on their experiences and suggestions, I chose the Air Force as the best place to obtain a career and an education.
Our basic was approximately 4 months long at Lackland AFB. We did not have a flight photo, but rather individual portraits. Although we had been issued OD uniforms, we used a blue blouse and blue tie (over our ODs) for the picture. I requested several technical schools, but was told that with my test scores, I would be sent to radar maintenance school.
BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
I was initially trained in radar maintenance on specialized airborne (B-29) bombing equipment but was sent to a Troop Carrier unit in Japan. After a short time, I realized this was not what I desired, so I asked for a transfer to a B-29 unit where my training could beutilized. With the Korean War starting up, I was sent to a heavy ground radar unit in Korea. There, because I did not know the equipment, I was assigned to a jeep patrol forward air control unit. In the spring of 1951 when the Army assumed this duty, I was assigned to one of the auto-track ground-directed bombing radar sites known as “Tadpoles.” Here, I served as maintenance and assistant controller.
When I returned from Korea in 1952, I was assigned to Keesler AFB, first in the maintenance shop maintaining the ground radar equipment used in school, and later in the maintenance section maintaining the auto-track trainers. While in Korea, my MOS 867 had been converted to 30251 AFSC. At Keesler, it was changed to 30353, Auto-Track Maintenance.
In 1954, I was sent to Patrick AFB, Florida to assist in activating the AF’s second tactical missile unit. The only operational tactical missile at that time, the B-61A “Matador”, unofficially designated a Pilotless Bomber, was later known as the TM-61A. The unit was then deployed to Germany where I served on radar sites used for Matador missile guidance. This was done by a secret guidance system that utilized the radar beam and eliminated radio commands.
From 1956-1959, I was at Eglin AFB, FL, serving as radar maintenance and controller in the range work such as safety-monitoring, bomb drops, intercepts, missile launches, and general range research work. I also was selected to activate a new range for Air Launched Ballistic Missiles at Cape San Blas, Florida, setting up a radar system to track, monitor, and record information concerning missile flight and impact. I later returned to Keesler AFB to attend a school on auto-track radar equipment.
In 1959, I returned to Germany, assigned to the 601st Tactical Control Squadron for more Matador missile guidance, returning in 1962 to Detachment 9, 11th RBS Squadron (Winslow, Arizona,) where I was assigned to the maintenance crew.
We later moved the site to St. George, Utah. I was selected to attend the first class of factory school for a new system Reeves Instrument Company was building for RBS and some months later was selected as maintenance man for the field tests in White Sands, New Mexico.
I was stationed at the St. George site until 1964 when I was sent to 10th RBS Squadron Headquarters at Carswell AFB, and served there as maintenance staff supervisor until 1966.
I attended the SAC NCO Academy at Barksdale in January 1966, graduating as Outstanding Graduate. I was then transferred to 1st Combat Evaluation Group at Barksdale AFB, LA where I became a member of the Staff Inspection Team for all detachments as well as installing and supervising two radar systems (Michigan and Utah) used to train SAC pilots on evading and avoiding SAM-2 missiles. I was selected in the summer of 1966 to assist in re-writing the 5 and 7 level skill tests for the Auto-Track radar maintenance field.
In early 1967, I was requested to take over maintenance supervision of all the ground-directed bombing radars in Vietnam and Thailand which I did until 1968 when our site was attacked during Tet and I was critically wounded.
When I was discharged from the hospital, I was assigned to Aiken AFS, SC (861st Radar Sqdn) where I served as Chief of Maintenance for 5 years.
In 1973, I was sent to Opheim AFS, MT (779th Radar Sqdn) as Chief of Maintenance. I retired at Opheim on May 1, 1974.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
As a forward air controller in Korea, I was exposed to potential combat. The radio equipment used in the jeeps had no facilities for remote operations, so men and equipment were necessarily exposed while observing enemy targets. The unit I was associated with lost several men to small-arms fire.
The radar we used at the ground-directed bombing sites was very short range, and consequently, the sites were positioned near the front. Several of the areas were heavily probed by enemy patrols, so skirmishes occurred, as site personnel were responsible for security.
In Vietnam all of our bombing sites were liable for attack, mainly rocket and mortar fire but occasionally ground action was involved.