Brian Tilbury


Enlisted Life

I joined the USAF in 1956 shortly after arriving in the US from the UK (it was that or be drafted into the Army of the UK or the US!). Five years later, as a S/Sgt, I applied for OCS and was accepted.

OCS Memories

What a shock to arrive at Lackland AFB and land on the OCS campus! The biggest early memory was trying to get a decent meal in the mess hall. But why repeat the story of what we all experienced? I’m sure a few words will bring similar memories to everyone—air power/sea power on ‘TV’, the MSgt who quit after about two days at OCS by throwing his Mess Hall tray in the air and walking out, drilling in the miserable heat, sneaking out for pizza at night, the Admiral’s son and follow-up investigations, ‘confidence cars’ #mine was a Sunbeam Alpine#, late night seminars before exams, and spending a lot of ramp time!

Life After OCS

After graduation, I went to supply officer school and then Mountain Home AFB. After a year there, I ended up at Hq 15th Air Force at March AFB on the Staff Inspection Team. Feeling full of myself for having been selected for a Numbered Air Force Hq Staff as a 2nd Lt, I found out when I arrived at March AFB that the two-star Director of Materiel ate briefing officers for breakfast, but treated junior officers reasonably well, so senior staff officers were looking for ‘fresh meat’ like me to throw into the lion’s den so they didn’t have to brief!

After a year of that fun, I married an Air Force nurse (Lea) and we applied and went to a Military Assistance job attached to the Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. First, though, we spent six months at the Defense Language Institute in Washington, DC, learning Spanish. Three years in South America was followed by a year assigned to Hq 7th Air Force in Saigon in a job that took me all over Vietnam.

Returning to the US, I wangled six months at the University of Maryland to finish my BA, then on to the University of Alabama to get a Masters degree in History/ International Affairs. From there I went to Intelligence School and Survival School and eventually arrived in the Pentagon on the Air Staff (DCS/Intelligence) where I spent almost seven years, ending up as Chief of Latin American and Middle East Intelligence. There I played in the national intelligence arena, representing the Air Force on National Intelligence Estimate preparation groups and briefing the Air Staff. The highlight of that tour was the fall of the Shah of Iran and the hostage crisis, which caused me a lot of 4am – 9pm days. It was in the Pentagon that I learned that Intelligence at that level is a lickspittle of the policy makers, and that the best political analysis can be found in good newspapers and magazines like the LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, The Economist, Times of London, etc. Many is the intelligence briefing I prepared for the Senior Staff that was out of one of those sources with ‘SECRET’ stamped on it! It was also in the Pentagon that I learned to be very skeptical of anything I hear coming out of Washington!

Deciding to retire, I went to law school in the evenings and graduated from Catholic University Law School in 1979, retired in 1981 as soon as my promotion obligation was served out. I then started a law firm in Fairfax County, VA, and finally retired again in 2001.

Life Today

Lea and I then moved to the Cheasapeake Bay area of Virginia, where I ‘mess around in boats’ and indulge my hobby of collecting, buying, and selling rare books and first editions (look us up (‘TransAtlantic Books’) on the Web at Advanced Book Exchange.) We manage to get to Europe every year on book-buying trips, and spend as much of the winter as possible in the British Virgin Islands.