Gerald T. (Jerry) Nolan was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and graduated from Washington High School in 1954. After being very successful at football, bridge, and poker at Wisconsin State Teachers College, but not quite as successful at academics, he enlisted in the USAF on the last day before the G. I. Bill expired, January 30, 1955.
Even though Jerry had joined the Marine Reserves in 1953 and enjoyed a visit to Virginia Beach one summer for training, he chose the Air Force because the Marines were only taking six-year enlistees and he knew he didn’t want to spend that long in the military. Jerry completed Basic Training at Lackland AFB, Texas and married Patricia Kinder who was his high school/college sweetheart.
After Basic Training, we moved down the road to Kelly AFB, where Jerry attended the Pre-Foreign Language Training School for six weeks. The rest of the time until August his primary duty was to clean the day room every morning from 8:30 until 11:00 AM and then go to mandatory P.E. at the swimming pool where he had to stay until 3:00 P.M.
We began to think the Air Force was a pretty good living. Our pay, was $90 a month of which they took $40 and added $51.40 and mailed that to Pat. Jerry also received $1 a day for separate rations – a grand total of $171.40 a month. Also, I recall, “A3C Nolan, Gerald T. reporting for pay, Sir!” For about a month, Pat worked at the Lackland BX where she made $.75 an hour for a weekly paycheck of $30. We thought we were in Hog Heaven. Alas, this great life was interrupted in August when we had to leave for Syracuse University for Russian Language Training.
Unfortunately, our pay didn’t go quite as far in a big northern city as it did in 1950s San Antonio. And of all things, not only did Jerry have to go to class for six hours everyday, but he had homework. After graduation the next spring, he was sent to Sembach AB, Germany alone until Pat could sell their car to raise the $310 for an airplane ticket to join me.
In Germany Jerry monitored Russian military communications for nearly four years. Having our two sons, born at Landstuhl Army Hospital, and living with a German family in a small town with only a few other American families helped us grow up quite rapidly.
Something that helped Jerry realize that he was in a real job, in the real world was monitoring the Russian tank communications as they shot and killed Hungarians during the Hungarian Revolution in October, 1956 – the same month our first son, Kevin was born. Later in 1958, two of my classmates from language school were killed when the Soviets shot down a C-130 reconnaissance plane that had strayed into their territory.
During our tour in Germany, Jerry reenlisted in order to buy back all the leave time he had taken in the states and still receive a $750 bonus that financed several years’ worth of trips throughout Europe. In our late teens and early twenties, we visited every country in Western Europe from Italy to Norway and Sweden and made it to Paris six or seven times. We went to several operas with student tickets that cost one mark, if you didn’t mind standing in the back and one time splurged on 12 mark tickets for really good seats.
We bought a 35 mm camera and took hundreds of slides and traveled in our Fiat 1100 that cost $1100 new. I can honestly say that we were different people when we returned to the United States and Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas in early 1960, than we were in 1955 when two kids from Wisconsin started a lifetime in the Air Force.
At Goodfellow AFB, Jerry taught military Russian to new graduates of language school. Promotions were tough and although he was his unit’s number one nominee, for almost two years (7 years total service), he couldn’t get promoted to SSGT.
Then a guy Jerry was working with went to OCS and he experienced that thought, that everyone in 63A thought at sometime, “If he can be an officer, than so can I …” and so on.
In April of 1962 Jerry then found himself being greeted warmly and cheerfully by the first class at the registration table and remembers thinking, “This isn’t going to be as bad as some people have told me, it appears like they treat you as adults.” Well, so much for first impressions.
My first roommate was Marty McDonald and I can remember thinking that he must be a little bit loony. Whoever heard of polishing a gray Formica tabletop with black shoe polish or using a ruler to space the hangars in your closet? I figured he must have washed out the last time because he was compulsive. It took only a short while for me to appreciate what a lucky break I had been given in having him as a roommate. Actually, I had all great roommates.
After OCS, Jerry was sent to pilot training at Williams AFB near Chandler, Arizona with only ten days to enjoy my 2nd Lt. status. Unfortunately, this was a very abbreviated course for me and in January of 1964 I reported to James Connally AFB in Waco, Texas for Navigator Training.
Jerry graduated in December and in January the four of us reported to Electronic Warfare Officers School at Mather AFB in Sacramento, California. Upon graduation in July, I was assigned to the National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, Maryland in August of 1964. There were no B-52s at Ft Meade. While there I worked as an Electronics Signal Collections Officer.
I had the opportunity to see a huge portion of the Northern Hemisphere as I traveled the world looking for the “golden” radar signal. I can say that in addition to a lot of hard work and a lot of travel, I was part of a team that intercepted a Soviet radar signal that was critical in building a jammer that would limit the effectiveness of a Soviet surface-to-air missile system that was causing some problems for the guys flying in and around Vietnam.
Because of some security clearances I held, I couldn’t go to Vietnam and finally left in March of 1970 for Omaha, Nebraska. This had been an eventful tour as I had finally gotten a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Maryland – thirteen years after graduating from high school. In addition to presenting us with our daughter, Julie, Pat got started on her degree.
In Omaha I flew as an Electronic Warfare Officer on RC-135s with the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. This was another great job. During this tour, Pat received her Bachelor’s in Special Education.
Knowing how long it might take me to get a Master’s on my own, I applied for the AFIT Program and in 1973 we left for Lubbock, Texas for Texas Tech University where I spent the next two years obtaining a Master’s in Soviet Area Studies and Political Science. This was followed by six months at Lowry AFB, Colorado as a student in the Air Intelligence Officers School.
January of 1976 found us back in the Washington D.C. area. There I was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency as a Branch Chief for the Soviet Warsaw Pact Command and Control Branch and was promoted to Lt. Col. Four years later we returned to the 55th SRW at Offutt AFB, Nebraska in March 1980.
After a year as Flight Commander for the Combat Sent Program and flying on RC-135s again, I moved up to Directorate of Collections, at HQ SAC as a staff officer and a Branch chief and then to the 544th Strategic Intelligence Wing: first as the Commander of the 544th Intelligence Analysis Squadron and then as Wing Deputy Commander for Operations.
In March 1984 I went Yokota AB, Japan as the Chief of Staff for Intelligence at the 5th Air Force HQs. It was there that I learned that fighter pilots were different. I had another great job and a lot of interaction with the Japanese Air Self Defense Force and was also responsible for Air Force intelligence in Japan and Korea.
Upon completion of that tour in July 1988, I finally received the assignment that I had been asking for, for 20 years – Colorado Springs, Colorado. Here I was assigned to Peterson AFB, Colorado, as Deputy Director of Intelligence for Plans and Programs for USSPACECOM and NORAD.
It was during that last tour that I decided to retire on June 1, 1992 with over 37 years of active duty. Colorado Springs was an extra bonus because our son Steven was here with his family. Pat and I divorced shortly after my retirement. During those 37 years we moved 16 times and had three children.
After retiring I took a few years off and then went back to school for a year and received a Colorado teaching license. I have worked as a middle school Social Studies teacher for six years and this year I started teaching at a Charter High School.
I met Marcia ten years ago and we were married in 1995. We live in Colorado Springs and between us have nine grandchildren ranging in age from three to nineteen. Our favorite hobbies after grandkids are travel, the mountains, and skiing. I have been a Ski Patroller since 1993 at a Colorado ski area. Life is good!