My Life Prior to Joining the USAF
I was born in Alhambra, CA, and spent my early years in and around Southern California. My mother was born and raised in San Diego, so we spent a lot of time in the Old Town San Diego and Mission Bay area. I remember during WWII, the barrage balloons over the camouflaged aircraft factories, the sounds of US Navy target practice, and thousands of Navy and Marines lining the highway trying to hitch rides up and down the coast.
I attended Mt San Antonio Jr College and Pasadena City College and graduated with an AA in Forestry before attending Humboldt State College. I didn’t finish my degree work there, as I discovered guitars and girls held my interest more than classes and homework. Therefore, I found myself at the Eureka USAF Recruiting office in December 1960.
My Enlisted Experiences
January 1961 began my enlisted experience at 3706 BMT Squadron, Flight 78, Lackland AFB, TX. Dad, being a former Marine, told me what to expect in Basic Training. USAF BMT was obviously nothing like the USMC. What a cakewalk. In about our 5th week we were herded into the Personnel Lab to do some USAF test validation. A sergeant with a million stripes on his arm walked in and asked if any of us had any college. I raised my hand and he took me into another room to take the IBM Programmer Aptitude Test. The next thing I knew, while my fellow basic trainees were out marching and stuff, I was learning how to run computer equipment.
After about 8 months I was transferred to 33d Communications Squadron, March AFB, CA as a computer operator, but the decision to install computers was delayed so I took on other duties. One day my NCOIC told me I was scheduled to take the OCS Exam. I said, “I don’t want to.” He said, “I didn’t ask if you wanted to.” Hello OCS, Class 63-C.
My Memories of the OCS Experience
I was a cocky, slovenly, semi-interested guy who was prepared for another easy training experience. Whoa! It seemed to me that these 1st Class Trainers didn’t like me, or at least didn’t care if I made it or not. That first day when the door to our room was nearly torn off the hinges by a 1st Classman’s “knock” began an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything… but wouldn’t do again.
For weeks I was unsure if I would stay the course or not. Then, the 2nd Class was given the opportunity to entertain at a formal function at the OCS Club. I borrowed a guitar and got up in front of everyone and sang Mariah, and Be Prepared (The Boy Scout’s Marching Song). All of a sudden I felt I could handle anything.
One of the greatest pleasures of my life was having my mother and father at graduation, pinning on my bars. I hadn’t given my dad much to be proud of to that point, but he was beaming. It made the trip worthwhile.
How My Life Unfolded After OCS
My first assignment was to 544th Aerospace Reconnaissance Technical Wing at Offutt AFB, NB, via Data Processing Officer Course at Sheppard AFB, TX. On my way, I stopped in Fort Worth to visit our classmate Walter Fagg who introduced me to Sharon Marshall, who a year later became my first wife.
At Offutt, I ended up as OIC of a computer department that microfilmed intelligence documents for storage and retrieval. My first daughter, Veronica, was born there in 1965.
Being a 2nd Lieutenant at Offutt AFB was not one of the better assignments in the USAF. With 22 generals and flag officers on base, your arm was nearly worn out on the one-block walk to the O-Club. However, being on the inside of the intelligence community during the Vietnam War at that time was an enlightening experience.
In 1967 we packed up and headed to Tachikawa AB, Japan. I was given the assignment of Base Data Processing Officer working for the Comptroller. His office was on the other side of the base and he neither understood nor cared much about computers. What a deal. My own kingdom. I had 56 employees, enlisted folks, and Japanese nationals who were all experienced and capable. A couple of months after arriving, our second child Erica, was born.
I was able to join several of my data processing peers in PACAF to travel to other bases on audits of base data processing organizations. Osan AB during the Pueblo crisis, and Kadena, Okinawa and Hickam AB were great ways to learn and keep things interesting. However, as 1969 was ending I was finding myself less and less interested in continuing a military career. I had called a friend at Randolph Personnel to see where I was likely to go on my rotation. He said it was almost a sure thing that I would either go back to Offutt or more likely to the Pentagon. Neither held much interest to me. I was used to being in charge and running my own unit and going somewhere to be “just another Captain” wasn’t where I wanted to be. So, I took advantage of an early-out program and in January 1970 headed to Travis AB and separation.
We settled in Fort Worth, TX where I got a job at Texas Electric Service Company. Through the years I held various management positions in Information Technology, ending up as CIO. I also had the opportunity to experience other parts of the business in management of a couple of customer-facing organizations. During this time I returned to college and received a BBA in Management. By 1990 the company had changed dramatically, through mergers and reorganizations becoming Texas Utilities and then TXU. My life also had changed tremendously. The girls were grown, Veronica had a little boy, and Sharon and I divorced.
A year and a half later Linda Burnett and I married. She became a second mom to the girls, a true partner, and remains the most exciting, dynamic, and loving force in my life. She has an MBA in Information Systems Management and is a life member of the American Association of University Women, holding a Texas State Office in the organization.
Where Are We Now?
After 25 years with TXU I took early retirement and went to work for IBM, and currently work for the Software Group – Tivoli as Worldwide Quality Assurance Leader. I get to work out of my home office in Horseshoe Bay, about 50 miles west of Austin. It is beautiful here in the Hill Country of Texas. Right now the Bluebonnets are carpeting the hills. Linda and I have spent the last two years remodeling and redecorating the home we bought in 2001. We have two small dogs, J.J. and Grover who have taken over our lives. Last week, Erica finally got married for the first time. Her mother, Linda and I are throwing a big hoe-down in Fort Worth for them. Life is good.
Our Plans for the Future?
Within the next year or so I will retire so we can begin traveling in our 5th wheel travel trailer. We want to see all of the lower forty-eight.