I was born and raised in Flatbush and Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn, NY. After a couple of years of college I was “looking for a change of venue” as the saying goes, and decided to join the Air Force. I originally enlisted for Aviation Cadets, at the (in)famous 39 Whitehall Street in Manhattan, the main recruiting office for all services in NY. When I got to Lackland (after a three-day train trip) and took a flight physical, they “discovered” I was colorblind. I never could see those numbers in the circles! I said “okay, just send me home”. They said, “Boy, you don’t understand – you’ve enlisted for four years; then you can go home!” After Intel tech school at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, TX, my initial assignment was at HQ SAC, Offutt AFB, Omaha, NE. Lucky for me in all respects and led to the two most important changes ever in my life.
The first was that I met Linda, a “townie” and a typical story. We were married in Elk Point, SD in January 1962, and after 41 years are still in love. The second is that I went to work for 1LT Ben Halstead, a 1957 OC grad. He suggested and endorsed my application to OCS. Our paths crossed many times over the years both in and after the Air Force and we became good friends. Things I remember about those early days are having to get written permission from the Squadron Commander to get married, that it was both common and okay to retire as a captain, that our NCOIC, a MSGT, retired and came back the next day as a colonel (had been a bomb wing commander in WW II), and that $77.10 Class Q allowance made us feel rich.
We left for San Antonio in September 1962 with virtually everything we owned in or on our car, a 1951 “straight-8” Pontiac Catalina. Looked like real hicks with our Nebraska plates. Linda moved into Billy Mitchell Village during second class, then she and Pete Campbell’s wife Judy shared a house when we were first class. OCS itself was/is a blur. So much to do, so little time.
I still carry the equivalent of a wheel-book. Each day when we were first class Jamie (Bob Jamieson) would ask me “care for a cuppa?” and I’ve been drinking tea ever since. We left OCS with a new car (of course), and Carl Conger and I went to Sheppard for Data Processing Officer tech school. While we were there David, our first son, was born at the base hospital. A run down, WW II “temporary” facility that was staffed by absolutely the nicest people. After tech school we were off to HQ USAFE in Wiesbaden, Germany, to work in Intelligence Systems.
I spent almost my entire Air Force career in this same functional area. We loved Germany even though we were broke; $314 a month was much better than the $222 but still not quite affluent! Marc, our second son, was born at the Wiesbaden hospital. (To diverge: there was always a question about whether kids born overseas like Marc, even though they had an American Consulate birth certificate, were full fledged citizens. Several years later, while at Langley AFB, Marc became a naturalized citizen. Only difference on his naturalization certificate is that the date of eligibility is his date of birth.) This period was at the height of the Cold War. I was at a Dining In when President Kennedy was shot. We didn’t know if this was a nut or the start of WW III so lots of folks went to work in their mess dress. No phones living on the economy. When I got home and told Linda and our neighbors what happened, they thought I was joking until we turned on Armed Forces Radio.
We departed Germany in July 1966 for HQ NORAD, Colorado Springs, where I worked at Ent AFB (now the Olympic Training Center) and Cheyenne Mountain. We bought our first house. Linda had said there were only two things she wanted: a phone and to have the mail delivered to the house rather than the base post office. The subdivision was so new and the Springs was growing so quickly that it took nearly a month to get a phone and for several weeks the mail was delivered to a rural route mailbox a mile from the house. NORAD was supposed to be a “stabilized” four year tour but after 16 months I shipped over to 7AF, Saigon, Vietnam in January 1968. Trice Lawrence (63B) was in the same compound, in USAF Security Service. Linda and the boys went back to Omaha to be near her family. One neat thing was that an Omaha TV reporter came over during the holidays to do “messages back home”. Unbeknownst to me, I was the commercial so was on TV many times each day. It was great for the family. From Vietnam it was 30 days stateside and back to Wiesbaden, from Mar 69 to Jul 73. We were now a lot more savvy, a bit better off (had made O-3 and Regular), and had a great tour. The work was satisfying, we were able to travel, etc. At the end of our tour we felt it was time to go home, however, reassigned now to HQ TAC in Hampton, VA. Somehow we didn’t realize how “deep South” Hampton was, which took some adjustment. In the end, Hampton was the first place we really regretted leaving when, in Sep 1977, we moved to northern Virginia for a Pentagon tour. I was one of those few people who really enjoyed working on the Air Staff. Lots of TDY, made O-5, got asked to PCS to Korea, said enough of this and retired in May 1981. Our 22 years in Air Force was a truly wonderful life and now I embarked on a second career. I took the weekend off and joined TRW, a defense contractor, where I spent the next 21 years.
For the first several years I worked on programs for the Army, Navy and Intelligence Community but never the Air Force. I then worked several civilian programs such as automated fingerprint identification systems, 9-1-1 command centers and dispatch systems, culminating with running the operations for the 2000 Census. Like the Air Force, TRW was a wonderful place to work. When the company was to be acquired by Northrop Grumman, I decided I didn’t want to be part of that, so I retired from TRW in June 2002. The company was in its 102nd year and it was a shame to see it disappear.
Being city people, we also moved from Virginia into DC as soon as the kids were grown and gone. (1987). In the meantime, Linda had gone back to work for pay (as opposed to volunteering) when we moved North and spent 17 years at the National Association of Social Workers, concluding with being the Associate Executive Director for Communications. After three years with her own company, she joined the American Psychological Association as Senior Director for PsycINFO (electronic publishing and databases). Linda has become quite well known in the world of scholarly publishing and gets to travel a fair amount. I’ve been lucky to go (though not enough) as the “accompanying spouse”.
The thought of being idle was not the least bit appealing. I immediately went to work for AT&T Government Solutions, where today I’m the VP for Homeland Security.
So, it’s been an action-packed, rewarding, mostly fun-filled forty years since OCS. Perhaps the best part is that we have friends with whom we share the memories of all those times. The OCS Reunion is an opportunity to do so once again.