Edwin A. Sanford

SanfordI was born and raised in Houston, TX. My Dad was a machinist who converted over to being a watchmaker after WWII. I learned a lot about doing and repairing from him, and have always been a ‘techie’.

I graduated High School in 1953 and started at the University of Houston in Mechanical Engineering. I was a musician, and had several music scholarships but I didn’t like what I saw of the musicians lifestyle, hence the engineering. I enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard in January of ’54. But I was still a musician, and played in the marching band, and sat in with the ‘Clinic Dance Band’, playing big band stuff. I spent way too much time doing music, so flunked out my freshman year.

My HS buddy (I was best man at their wedding) and I enlisted in the Air Force in August 1954, he going to A&E school and I going to Guided Missile school (after Basic, of course). I married my HS sweetheart, Sweet Ol’ Carole, in 1955 and took her back to Lowry AFB where the school was. I stayed there as an instructor, a position I held during my enlisted tenure.

Our first child (Lori) was born at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Aurora (same place Ike went for his heart therapy). From there we went to Orlando AFB and the Field Training Detachment. Our first son (Rick) was born there in 1959 and then we were off to Germany and the MTD at Hahn AB. We were there about a year, then moved to Bitburg AB when the Matador stood down at Hahn, and I put in for OCS from there. We rotated back to an assignment at Lowry (home of the Matador and Mace cruise missile tech training).

While on leave before reporting to Lowry, I drove from Houston to Lackland to check on my application, and found I wasn’t qualified! My original physical from Germany said, since one of my eyes was 20/200 unaided, that I was 20/200 bi-laterally. No, OMS said that bi-laterally meant with both eyes, hence the rejection.

Now the good news – USAF had just changed the requirements so that, basically, your seeing-eye dog could have one glass eye and you could get in! Hallelujah! All I needed to do was re-apply, which I did as soon as we got to Lowry. This was in mid ’61. I found out that I had been selected for OCS when a chum called me and said that my name was in the AF Times (along with a bunch of others) as being accepted for OCS. Sweet Ol’ Carole was ensconced in Billy Mitchell Village, where she served as ‘mother’ to several classmates and took care of two pre-schoolers.

What a time, including the infamous ‘A-Locker Drill’ w/Jim Test, John Piowaty, seaman Smith, and others! I won the marksmanship award at OCS, and Gen. Bell asked me, as he presented me with my trophy, if I wanted to stay at Lackland to get into the newly formed marksmanship unit. I declined his offer as I had my assignment to attend the Computer Maintenance school along with buddy Bill Dlugos. I kept with the marksmanship effort though becoming Distinguished, member of the President’s Hundred, winning state championships in several states several times, firing on the SAC and AFLC teams, as well as the USAF pick-up team when the AF was winding down its involvement in the marksmanship effort. We didn’t win the National Trophy Team Match (one of our shooters was high individual, winning the MP Trophy), coming in second to the Army but at least we beat our perennial foes, the Marines…

On to Barksdale and 465-L (It’s Swell! Made by Mattel!) and computer maintenance duties. As usual, USAF overstaffed a new effort – there were 4 maintenance guys and one slot – after a while I was asked if I wanted to become a Comm Controller on Achieve, the 2nd AF part of Looking Glass. It meant flight pay, and it was more fun than being low man on the computer totem pole, so I flew for a couple years. Our second son (Jim) was born there – I was on alert when Sweetie went into labor. Then to SEA. I was on the second plane to land at U-Tapao, Thailand, in ’66 – had to buzz the field to clear the runway. Watched them build the base, saw the first BUFF land, made Captain, &cetera, and left there summer of ’67. Before I left, my boss told me that I could write myself up for any award up to and including a Bronze Star… My uncle Donald won a Bronze Star in WWII… for charging and taking out a machine gun nest… I couldn’t see a Bronze Star just for doing my job, so I passed on the offer…

On to Staff School At Keesler. On completing the school, I wanted to get back into computers, so requested a change of command to ADC. They lived with computers in their blockhouses. Great. I got assigned to 31AD at Oklahoma City, the only manual air division in the command! Criminy. Oh well. I was Maintenance Control for the AD until the division closed down. I worked a deal, and got transferred laterally to AFCS Det 10 on Tinker. Det 10, later the Communication Computer Programming Center, developed and maintained software for all the communications efforts in the AF (except for SAC – you know how those guys are). When I retired, I was branch chief for the Base Switching branch, handling on-base communications and Autodin interface for the AMA depots – we handled more traffic than Western Union, and that was back when Western Union handled traffic. While there, I ran the group that tested out the Arpanet, designing the test system and writing most of the code. I also availed myself of local schools and garnered a BS and MEd in Psych.

We had made a camping trip out west a couple years before retirement and were impressed with Tucson (VA Hospital, DMAFB, good U, good climate). I inquired as to getting into a program in Clinical Psych, and was turned down flat (since I wasn’t a resident at the time), but it was suggested that I apply to the Counseling and Guidance folks. They were receptive, so in August of ’74 we caravanned from Tinker to Tucson, Sweetie driving the Buick (W/AC), Lori (daughter) driving the Toyota (W/AC), and Ed driving the Corvair (WO/AC). Got the second MEd in C&G, then went into a doctoral program in EdPsych. After several years in the program, I had had it with them and they had it with me – they didn’t want to hear my ideas and I couldn’t stand some of theirs. So I went into the workforce and taught Statistics, Psych, MIS, Quality, and Management at the local community college and University of Phoenix. Also, I worked at Charter (psychiatric) Hospital and couldn’t stand it (too much recidivism and not enough results – all process, no product).

One of my doctoral classes had been in QC Statistics (EdPsych lives with statistics) and I was impressed with W.E. Deming’s stuff, so I got into the Quality field. Did some QC consulting, then earned a ticket in ISO9000 Quality System auditing. I went to work for an international management consulting firm, working all over the US & parts of Canada, from Prudhoe Bay to Ft. Lauderdale and many points in between which brings us up-to-date.

As an aside, my National Guard time counted for fogies, so I was always getting my fogy 6 months before my peers. Then when I received my commission, my 2 weeks summer camp time counted toward my active duty date, and it was backdated into July. So, I spent (actually) less than 20 years in the USAF and draw retired pay based on 21 years…

Now, I’m retired. Sweet Ol’ Carole retired as a Licensed Dispensing Optician a couple years ago. She has been my complete helpmate through these 47 years – wherever I succeeded, I was better because of her. We have lived here in Tucson in the same house since 1974. All three kids have degrees from the University of Arizona: Lori in Accounting & Finance, Rick in Music, and Jim in Aerospace & Mechanical Eng. Lori and our two granddaughters live here in Tucson, so we get our granddaughter fixes on a fairly regular basis.

I start soon as a volunteer docent at the Pima Air Museum, fly my RC airplanes, and maybe I’ll re-enter the shooting sports. (I’m too old and ugly to really be a competitive pistol shooter anymore, although I usually compete in the Senior Olympics and Old-Timer’s matches with old shooting chums). I’m very successfully fighting off anorexia, and life is good.