Joseph R. Scarlett


Life Prior to Joining the USAF

Born in Detroit, MI in 1938. There were two kids, myself and an older sister. Never participated in many school activities and quit high school after the 11th grade. Enlisted in the USAF in May 1956, two months after my 18th birthday.

Enlisted Experiences

After basic training at Lackland AFB went to drafting school at Ft Belvoir, VA, got assigned to the civil engineering sq. on Hickam AFB HI in Dec 1956. Got promoted to A/2C after 2 years and in April 1958 was assigned to the 67th Reconnaissance Tech Sq. Yokota AB in Japan. Met my future wife there, got married in 1959 and returned to the States in Feb 1961. I was assigned to Holloman AFB, NM and it was cultural shock for my wife who never saw anything but the lush foliage of Japan. I was assigned to the Test Track where a few years prior Col Stapp rode the rocket sled to test the feasibility of ejecting from a jet aircraft. In May of 1962 I left Holloman AFB for the rendezvous with fate at OCS. After reading the brochure on OCS, I was scared, so I took Takako and our 3 children to stay with my mother in Detroit.

Your Memories of the OCS Experience

My days at OCS were focused on survival, unlike my classmates who seemed to thrive on the challenge. I remember Victory at Sea, Air Power, being captured in 2nd Squadron by first class and making up poems to survive the chow hall.

“I am an Officer Candidate a member of the Thundering Third I intend to cooperate, and not be a Tweety Bird….”

And I would like to thank my “OCS Mom” Mrs Donald Reese to whom I owe a great debt.

How Life Unfolded After OCS

I reported to Keesler AFB, MS for Comm School.

Dec 1963–Jan 1967: My first assignment as a new Second Lieutenant was as a Comm Ops officer in the 1908 Comm Sq. on England AFB, LA. This was a TAC base flying F100s. Not very exciting, biggest problem was complaints about the manual switchboard. Lesson Learned: Central Louisiana is hot and humid, but Mardi Gras is great.

Feb 1967–July 1967: I returned to Keesler AFB to go to Computer Maint School where I once again saw a former classmate, Lew Goodall who was an instructor there. While at Keesler I made Capt and in July 1967 we left for Hq TAC Comm Area on Langley AFB.

Aug 1967–Feb 1970: The Tidewater area was a great area that we loved and bought our first home in Poquoson, VA. While there I recall another classmate, Tom Hanson was also there flying C130s. I was on the maintenance staff where the priority was keeping the Navaids operating at the TAC bases. By this time we had six children and moving became a real challenge. I left Langley AFB in March 1970 for Vietnam. Lesson Learned: When in the Tidewater area in VA visit the historic sites, the cradle of our Government.

Mar 1970–Dec 1971: I was assigned to the 1876 Comm Sq at Tan Son Nhut AB near Saigon. The most memorable day was one Sunday when OCS classmate Tom Hansen came through from CCK and gave me a C130 ride throughout the country. I flopped around that plane as Tom took us to exotic places like Cam Rahn Bay, Phan Thiet, and numerous bases delivering critical supplies like Styrofoam cups and picking up oil trucks. My last flight on a C 130. Upon returning to the States in March 1971, we once again returned to Keesler AFB for Comm Staff Officers Crse. We then headed to Ent AFB, CO. Lesson Learned: A flight with Tom Hansen can be scary.

Dec 1971–Aug 1975: I was assigned to Hq ADC ordering circuits for the SAGE system. On one project, Southern Air Defense, I visited Luke AFB where I ran into Lew Goodall for the first time since 1967. The University of Colorado has a branch in Colorado Springs and during this assignment I was finally able to patch together enough credits at night school to get a bachelors degree in Finance. Two months after getting the bachelors degree a slot to AFITs school of Systems and Logistics Masters Degree program opened up and I left for AFIT at Wright-Patterson AFB in August 1974. Upon completion of the masters program I left AFIT for the Pentagon and an assignment to the Air Staff. Lesson Learned: Beware friends offering Rocky Mountain oysters.

Sep 1975–Jul 1979: Four years on the air staff in the Command, Control & Communications Directorate. General Herres of USAA fame was in charge of the Directorate for a couple of those years. I saw Paul Ledford of Class 63B toward the end of the tour. He was in Hq AFSC and was planning on retiring and going to work with Westinghouse. The Pentagon wasn’t all bad as I got promoted to LC while there. Lesson Learned: the Pentagon is a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Aug 1979–Aug 1980: I returned to Hq ADC. After six months on the Hq Staff, I was assigned to Cheyenne Mountain as Deputy Cmdr of the 47th Comm Group. In 1980 ADC was in turmoil as they were transferring the Air Defense mission to TAC and the early warning radars to SAC. ADC was anticipating there could be a RIF and allowed Martin Marietta in Denver to come down to recruit for the MX Missile (Peacekeeper) program Martin had recently won. I believed I was overdue for an overseas assignment and decided that Denver was better than the Philippines and retired at the end of August 1980. Lesson Learned: Don’t wait for opportunity to beat the door down.

Where Am I Now?

We have stayed in Colorado Springs. I commuted to Martin Marietta for a little over four years when I got a job with TRW who had the activation contract for the Consolidated Space Operations Center, now Schriever AFB. In November 2000 I retired from TRW after 16 years and since then I have been working for a small defense contractor, Spectrum Astro based in Gilbert AZ.

What Are Your Plans for the Future?

I always thought I would like to travel around the country running marathons. I realize that is a pipe dream since I have a tough time running a half-marathon once a year. Maybe I will sit in a rocking chair and drink microbrews. Colorado is a hotbed for microbrews, the home of Fat Tire for those of you who may have tried it.

But I have learned a few lessons:

  • My wife is always right (even when she is wrong).
  • Never walk when you can run.
  • When first class says “I’ll have one, Mister” offer them only one; they are greedy and will take all you have.