My 20 years in the U.S. Air Force

Santa Rosa, CA

I joined the United States Air force on 9 July 1959. At that time the draft was after every eligible male in the United States. I had told my parents and high school friends that after graduating I would join the Air Force. That did not happen immediately. I went to work at a gas station tending the pumps (this was when you did not have self service). I learned the mechanical side of the car by doing tune-ups and eventually rebuilding engines. When the Vietnam situation was getting hot, I decided it was time to serve my country. I actually signed up in May 1959 but was deferred until July because of lack of a basic training slot. My basic training was at Lackland Air Force Base, which lasted four weeks. Then I was tested to see what career field I was best suited for. The AF decided it was the mechanic field. I was really excited about this until I found out what mechanical field I was going to be trained in. I was sent to Lowry AFB, Aurora, Colo., to be trained as a nuclear weapons mechanic. I was there four months. After graduating from technical school I got an assignment to Stony Brook AFS MA. It was a satellite station on Westover AFB. I arrived in January 1960, and after just over a year I got orders to RAF Alconbury, U.K. I arrived there in July 1961. In late 1962 I went to the Airman's Club as there was a band playing for dancing. I discovered that buses from the surrounding towns and villages brought girls to the base for the airmen to meet and dance with. There were very few women in the Air Force at that time. I met a lovely young English girl and we got quite friendly. We became engaged in late 1962 and was married on 4 May 1963. My parents flew to England for the wedding. Her parents were not wealthy so I paid for the wedding. I had saved up for several months to cover the costs, which were not enormous at that time. On May 4 this year we will celebrate our 52nd anniversary. Our assignment after England was to Blytheville AFB, AR, arriving in August 1963. It was pretty late evening so I decided not to go to the base until morning to sign in. We got a Best Western hotel in town for the night. The next morning we discovered our car had been broken into and every thing stolen. We had wedding gifts from my family in the United States and from England, but left everything in the car. My briefcase with my orders was also gone. My wife had one set of orders in her handbag. We went to the base to sign in and the First Sergeant did not believe our story about the robbery. We told him to call the hotel and they would verify it, which he did. That is how my wife got welcomed to the USA. About four weeks later we got a call from the hotel that they found our suitcases. It was an employee who broke into several cars and took everything to a room on the second floor to go through them. We did lose some very valuable items but had our clothes. Our first child, a daughter, was born at Blytheville AFB Hospital in August 1964. In 1965 I had to send my wife home to England as her mother was dying of cancer. I requested reassignment back to England due to family hardship and had received orders to RAF Wethersfield, Essex, U.K. However I did not get there before her mother passed away. Our second daughter was born at RAF Mildenhall, U.K., in June 1966. We were stationed at Wethersfield until 1968 when I got orders to Dover AFB, Del. We were at Dover AFB until 1971 when I received orders for a one-year unaccompanied assignment to an AF detachment on a Turkish base in Turkey. At this time RAF Wethersfield AF was closing, so I made contact with their housing office asking if the base housing would be available for families whose spouse was on unaccompanied assignment. I was advised that it was available. Being at Dover AFB, a Military Air Command base, I was able to get a hop for me and my family to Frankfurt AB, Germany, then a commercial flight to England. After getting my family settled in base housing I got a hop to my assignment in Turkey. After six months there I took leave and got a hop to England to spend Easter with my family. What a shock when my daughters did not recognize me. In September 1972 my assignment was to Castle AFB, Calif. I had to fly my family commercial from England to upstate New York where my parents lived. I was flown from Istanbul, Turkey, to JFK Airport, N.Y., then had to make my way to my parents home in Owego, N.Y. We bought a Popup tent camper and drove to California. We stayed with friends while looking for houses to rent; the waiting list on base housing was over two years. Ended up buying a newly constructed house which was not yet finished. We were at Castle AFB until 1975 when we got an assignment to the Netherlands. It was a AF detachment on a Dutch base. This, both my wife and I consider, was the best assignment of our Air Force career. We lived in the town, had very friendly and helpful neighbors. I had taken my family to England while I went to the Netherlands to look for housing and pick up my car. The neighbor was so helpful in getting me items I needed to get the house ready for my family. We had shipped our Dachshund to the Netherlands but it was mis-shipped to Belgium. The girls were devastated when they got there and no dog. (You might know that in the Netherlands at this time, when someone vacated a house they took everything - lights and appliances.) There were only bare wires hanging from the ceilings. When my wife and children arrived the neighbor came knocking on the door with a welcome cake she had baked. Unfortunately for the family, I was promoted to E-8 while in the Netherlands, which put me out of a job. We were only there 15 months. I was transferred to Ramstein AB, Germany. We had to take a third-floor apartment in a four-story base housing complex. We left Germany in 1978 back to Castle AFB, Calif., where on August 1, 1979, I retired from the Air Force.
When I arrived at Castle in 1978 I was to be there for four years. Within four months I had an assignment back to the same base in Turkey that I was at in 1971. I knew four persons, the same rank and Air Force specialty as me, who had never been out of the United States. I really wanted to stay for 30 years, but the girls were in high school and we did not want to move them away. There were things that happened during my 20-year career that I cannot list because of classification. Currently I am a life member of the Non Commissioned Officers Association, The American Legion where I am Scholarship and Boys State Chairman, life member of AMVETS where I am Jr. Past Commander and chairman of Americanism program and scholarship program, Sonoma County CA Color/Honor Guard, volunteer at Sonoma County veterans job fairs and VFW life member.

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