I was born in 1936 in Ayr, Scotland, and lived and went to school there until 1953. In junior secondary school (middle school) I participated in football (soccer). In senior secondary school (junior and senior high) I played cricket, rugby, but switched to cross-country running after getting knocked out at rugby. I was involved in several school or church activities and played table tennis for one of their teams.
In 1953, at the ripe old age of 17, a classmate and I emigrated to Canada at the expense of the Bank of Toronto which was trying to attract Scots boys and had placed an ad in a local paper, to which we responded and were accepted.
During my two years, I advanced to the position of “Chief Teller” in the Union Station Branch of the bank in Ottawa, Ontario, but after several trips to the U.S. we both decided to move to the States. We moved south at the end of our two year “contract”. We settled in Greenwich, CT.
In February 1956, I decided I would rather have a wrench than a rifle and enlisted in the Air Force at Stamford CT, took my physical there and went to San Antonio (Lackland) for Basic Training. After taking the usual battery of aptitude tests and initially being earmarked for Instructor (TI) School, I was given several bypass specialist tests and passed one in Accounting because I understood the terminology. I, therefore, got to spend 12 glorious weeks in Basic at Lackland instead of the usual 6 weeks, with the other 6 weeks of basic being completed at a Tech School.
First assignment was to HQ 4th Air Force (CONAC) at Hamilton AFB, just north of San Francisco. Working in the HQ, I managed to get on the list for overseas assignments and got one to England in December 1956.
After three assignment changes en route, I finally got to RAF Station Cranage, near Liverpool, England, just 200 miles from home, and drawing overseas pay for being there. This is where I met Mickey, who worked in the Accounting Office on the base. We would later get married. This small support base closed just 6 months after I got there.
I then moved to RAF Station Wethersfield, about 50 miles outside London, home of the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing. I made SSgt there after winning two Airman-of-the-Month Awards; trips to Lisbon and Paris. I played soccer for the base team and we were Runners-Up in the UK Championship, and we also played an exhibition game for an Open House day. Our opponents were a UK Showbiz Team which included Sean Connery – Mr 007 himself.
After five years in the UK, my wife Mickey, daughter Wendy, and I returned to the States in January 1962 to Wright Patterson AFB, OH. The Deputy Accounting & Finance Officer at WPAFB was a former Marine who had gone through the AF OCS Program and it was he, with a great deal of help from a great many people, up to and including the base Commanding General, I got my citizenship, passed all the tests, and once again headed for Lackland and a full head of “no hair”.
Memories of the OCS Experience
The “I’ll have one’s”, the “no hair” – again, the ‘smuggling”, the “ramp time”, the “monster control officer” duty, the “burials at sea”, watching “air power” or “sea power”, the times I had to stand in the Upper Class day room while those “gentlemen” watched the “Bette dips” on TV, then ran across the carpet to electrocute me with static power while I tried to keep a straight face and tell the time, then the day the last class showed up and my first TI from basic was in the group but quit after only one or two days, and finally that glorious day in March when we gathered together for graduation and ran for our “confidence cars”.
Life After OCS
1963–1966: After Budget Officer school at Shepard AFB, TX, my first assignment was to Chanute Technical Training Center in IL. Had a good three-year tour there as Budget Officer and I had the dubious honor, on one occasion, of displaying my OCS skills as Parade Adjutant. While there, I made the Regular Force in May 1966.
1966–1970: From Chanute TTC, I went to HQ PACAF in Hawaii as a Staff Budget Officer. I was there for most of the Southeast Asia build-up, and the Pueblo Incident. Had quite a few TDY trips, primarily as a member of the Command Financial Management Team to the Pentagon, the Far East, and Southeast Asia.
1970–1971: From Hawaii, went for the obligatory one year tour to Vietnam, to HQ 7AF at Tan Son Nhut AB as Deputy Director of Budget. While there, things were starting to wind down a little and I played a key roll in matching the 7AF Financial Requirements to the changing missions.
1971–1973: From Southeast Asia to HQ USAF at the Pentagon where I was initially the staff budget analyst for Strategic Forces. I had a few months off to attend the DOD Comptroller Course at Maxwell AFB, AL, but when I got back I had been reassigned to the Procurement Appropriations area and became staff budget analyst for a few selected weapon and other systems, e.g. F-5 and Flight Simulators.
1974–1975: Went to Maxwell AFB, AL again, to attend the Air Command and Staff College. 1975 – 1978: After graduation from Command and Staff, I went back to the Air Staff at the Pentagon. This time I started in the Financial Control Section, but soon became Branch Chief for all Logistical Forces and the associated Air Force Stock and Industrial Funds. That was a real challenge, but in 1977 I got quite ill. I had an aortic aneurysm and had to have open-heart surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. After the surgery in December 1977, I was involuntarily separated on a disability and formally retired in 1978.
1979–2000: After several attempts to find work at age 42, I was finally hired as a Financial Manager by the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. I worked up to Election Administrator, with considerable responsibility in both administrative and operational areas. In November 1996 I had to go back to Walter Reed hospital for replacement of a heart valve, a triple bypass, and repair of the old surgical area of the aorta. I underwent a total of 29 hours of surgery for these items and the effects of a massive yeast infection, the latter requiring a combined effort by plastic surgeons and thoracic surgeons to devise a muscle/plastic flap to protect the open chest cavity. I spent over four months in the hospital and had to have both physical and speech therapy. I finally retired for good in 2000. While I am able to do most of the usual chores associated with owning a home, I still have to be extremely careful. So far, so good.