Gary E. Fagerberg


Life Prior to the USAF

I was born July 1940 and raised in Wolverton, Minn (about 60 miles south and across the border from Grand Forks AFB). I finished school thru the 9th grade at a small school there. My folks moved to Portland Ore in 1955 where I finished my high school years and graduated from Reynolds High School class of 1958. I had already enlisted in the AF before graduation and left for basic training within the week.

Enlisted Experiences

I completed basic training at Lackland AFB and then was stationed at Keesler AFB for Nav Radio/Radar repairman training. In 1959, I was assigned to Bolling AFB, Washington DC where I worked on the planes used by pentagon staff. The aircraft were used primarily to maintain pentagon officers flight currency. When the aircraft left Bolling AFB, I was reassigned to Andrews AFB Maryland to maintain the radio/radar equipment on the Operation Nightwatch aircraft. In1962, I received orders for Officer Candidate School. Before leaving Andrews AFB for OCS I married Joyce Schmuck August 25, 1962. She is from Grafton/Fairmont, West Virginia area and worked in Washington DC at the IRS agent training school. We had been dating for about a year and I didn’t want to lose her.

OCS Experiences 1962-63

At OCS I just remember long hours, early morning wake ups, lots of harassment, and a counseling session with Capt Pulliam. But in reviewing the Shavetail after all these years the faces bring back fond memories and are still familiar to me.

Air Force Life After OCS

My first assignment as a 2ndLT was to Navigation training at James Connally AFB Tex. We were stationed with a wonderful group of people who seemed to follow us through our lives in the military. We were blessed with the birth of our first daughter, Lora, Jan 4, 1964. Transferred to Mather AFB, CA for Electronic Warfare Officers (EWO) Training. I finished EWO training and was assigned to SAC B-52D’s at Amarillo AFB Tex. I attended Castle AFB Combat Crew Training School and learned there that we were expecting twins. In July 1965, my wife gave birth to twin boys (Brian and Dwain). In September of the same year I attended and completed Survival Training at Stead AFB, NV. In December of 1966, we had our fourth child, a girl, Karen. Once we figured our what was causing all these births we had no more. However all our children are born Texans and proud of it. I left for my first B-52 Arc Lite tour of duty in Viet Nam in January of 1967 at Andersen AFB, Guam, Kadena AFB, Okinowa and Utapao AFB Thailand. Amarillo AFB closed in Dec 1967 and I was reassigned to B-52H’s at Grand Forks AFB ND.

I arrived in Grand Forks in January 1968 in the middle of a blizzard. Grand Forks was then tasked to send crews to support B-52 Arc Lite. The Wing commander asked if I would volunteer to go with the first crew since I already had the experience of one tour under my belt. I talked it over with my wife and we decided that if I went now I probably would never have to go again so – I said OK. I left Grand Forks in a blizzard in May 1968 and returned during a blizzard in October of the same year. Shortly after I returned I was outside in my front lawn and the base Personnel Officer drove past and yelled to me from his car “Hey Fagerberg, I just saw PCS orders sending you to Viet Nam in EC-47’s”. You can imagine how shocked I was and how my sweetheart Joyce reacted !?!#!%!*!!! The best laid out plans tossed out the window…

In June 1969, I relocated my family to Portland, Ore and purchased a new home there so that Joyce and kids would be close to my family. In August 1969 I went to Crew Training at England AFB, LA and then to PhuCat AFB RVN. For this mission they took the old goonie bird (C-47) crammed a couple of million dollars worth of electronic gear in it (now an EC-47) and we went looking for targets, mostly for B−52’s.

My second tour of duty at Mather AFB began in the summer of 1970 with a six-month Instructor Training. I received the highest grade awarded during the last 4 years. I was assigned to teach in the Electronic Warfare Officers Refresher course where we updated returning EWO’s on the latest systems/technology improvements. Later I was selected to be the Training Evaluation Officer which allowed me to visit with graduates and determine how effective their training had been and make suggestions for changes to the curriculum. I enjoyed my assignment and my duties there. I was selected to go to Squadron Officers School, I received a Regular Commission and a promotion to Major while there. I took my entire family with me to SOS, and they all have fond memories of our time there. I received a call from Col Blanchard, Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. He asked if I was interested in an assignment as a Training Manager at WPAFB. With no hesitation I said you bet.

While at Wright Patterson AFB, I set up the contractor and AF training schedules and classes to train AF staff so that they could support the weapons systems during DT&E / IOT&E testing and operate and maintain them when the systems became operational. It is amazing to me now to think that some of the weapons systems were the B-1, B-2, F-16, A-10, etc. One of the programs I was especially pleased with was the EF-111 since I had it from start to finish. While I was stationed here I FINALLY completed my college degree in Business Management from Park College – it had taken me 15 years of night school and many transfers to finish but it now gave me somewhere to go after Air Force. As my tour was approaching its end, I again began coordinating with AF personnel for assignments open to me, but the problem was that my command wouldn’t release me and if I waited another year the only opening for me would be B-52’s. I tried my best to be released because I felt an assignment to 52’s at this point in my career was a dead end. Since I couldn’t get a release for reassignment, I put in my retirement papers and retired July 1, 1978. We went back to the house in Portland, Ore that we had purchased during my Viet Nam tour, and I started some courses at a community college in Engineering Management. I obtained a job with a local school district as purchasing manager, was promoted to Assistant Business Manager then to Business Manager. In 1981, I left the school district for a position with Oregon Health Sciences University as their Facilities Business Manager. I retired from OHSU in August 1997.

Where We Are Now

In the last 40 years, I have never had a bad assignment in the Air Force or a civilian job that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. Joyce, our children, and I have enjoyed good health; however, now that we are older I don’t understand why we can’t do the same things we did 20 years earlier.

I think I have been truly blessed. I am still married to the same great woman (Joyce – 40 years) have 4 successful kids and 8 grandchildren, 3 boys and 5 girls. In 1993 we sold our home in Portland and purchased 20 acres in Battle Ground, Wa which is about 30 miles North of Portland. Joyce and I built our dream home here, we call it “Walk About Acres”. I tried to raise Limousin cattle but found that was it not a money-making concern so I sold them. Joyce went to Esthetician School and ran a business for about 3 years and has now sold it. For something to do for the last 5 years, I have had a contract with a Camas Wa homeowners association maintaining the common grounds for the housing development (mowing, weed control, etc). The contract is coming due for renewal in June of this year but I am not sure I want to renew it.

Our Future Plans

Is there life after retirement? What do we do during our golden years? How do you stay productive during retirement? I think I will get a couple of beef cows for me and our immediate family’s consumption. I have built a large pond on my property that is fed by springs and started to stock it with trout and now plan on increasing its size (fishing for grandkids). We have grandkids staying with us just about every weekend. Joyce and I enjoy going to shows (loved the Broadway production of Les Miserables). We have also taken and enjoyed ocean cruises (the best kind of vacation to take). We recently joined the YMCA and now go three times a week for workouts. Pretty much we would like to take it easy, are considering some volunteer work and if our health holds, continue traveling. We own a 29 ft 5th wheel which we use and have gone up and down the west coast of the US and Canada, I would like to take a month or two and travel around the US. We also try to take our 5th wheel to the Air Races in Reno each Sept. This year the races occur 12-14 Sept. LIFE IS GOOD!!