David J. Mason


The Early Years

I was born and raised on a small farm near Corning, N.Y. My father worked for Ingersoll Rand Corp in Painted Post and ran a small farm. I was the youngest of eight (8) children and essentially was an only child (read spoiled brat) as my surviving brothers and sisters were in WW II.

I graduated from High School in 1954. I went to Morrisville Ag and Tech Institute in 1955 and 1956, graduating with an Associates Degree in Automotive Mechanics. I worked for the Steuben Motor Company in Hornell, N.Y. upon graduation. I soon got sick of cars dripping water, oil, and whatever on my head, and getting the short end of the stick when it came to work assignments. Therefore, when the recruiter strutted his stuff, it fell on receptive ears.

Enlisted Experiences

The recruiter’s initial sales pitch was for pilot training, but the physical exam identified a less-than- perfect heart and a lack of depth perception. This didn’t discourage the recruiter, so eventually, I succumbed to his promises of glory and fame and enlisted on Feb 5, 1957. The saga of good fortune and blind luck started very early. There was a shortage of training money and after initially being identified for aircraft maintenance school at Sheppard AFB, the majority of technical training assignments were canceled and I got to spend eight additional weeks at Lackland. Upon completion of basic training, I was sent “directed duty” as a clerk typist to March AFB, Calif. I was assigned to the Civil Engineering Squadron for one day, when the 1st Sergeant called me in and said I was to report to the Personnel Office. This was the beginning of a career in Personnel Management that extended over 30 years. I had spent a little over a year at March AFB, when my boss asked me if I wanted to go to England. I could barely spell England or find it on a map, but to RAF Greenham Common I went. I was there about five months when we reorganized and I went to RAF Mildenhall for the next 3 plus years. By this time I had located a train schedule and was able to get to London most weekends. I soon met a young lady who caused me to lose all sense of direction and whatever good judgment I had. She has now completed over forty years of dedicated service as my better half. Marriage leads to children and the need for more pay. Somewhere in there, thanks to the encouragement of several NCOs – and my wide-eyed astonishment at the amount of money officers made each month – I got motivated to apply for OCS. I remember the infamous members of the Upper Class who said “If money was your reason for coming to OCS, you wouldn’t make it.” They lied.


At RAF Mildenhall, we had two young officers who were OCS graduates. They stood out from the other young officers and I certainly was drawn by their stature. However, when I attempted to talk to them about OCS, they were not very forthcoming except for one issue. Make sure you have at least $500.00 in the bank. In 1962 that was a mighty sum, but I accepted their advice and somehow scraped together the money. Looking back on that first trip to Kel Lacs, that was probably the best advice I could have ever received.

I need to regress for a second. My wife was pregnant with our second child and stayed with my parents when I came to OCS. Thus, I was one of the OCS orphans and I will be forever grateful to Mrs. French (OC Bill French’s wife) for being my “mother.” The hours the wives devoted to our uniforms were unbelievable.

Memories of OCS: the shock came fast and furious starting with grabbing your bag and trying to keep up with the upperclassman who was trying to see if you could run with a B-4 bag and other clothes on your back. The day room, what a stimulating place to stand for the first week. Saturday morning inspections are some of the fondest memories. I only survived because after about Week Three, I decided this was fun. No matter what I did, they tore the room apart, thus I would write my reply-by-endorsement the night before and have it ready to take downstairs as soon as they finished destroying my room. Golden Opportunities for Leadership (GOLs). Another fun time. Somewhere, I came upon a trick question; on what foot do you give the command to the rear march? I believe the answer is “consecutive right feet”. This stupid question got me from the duds to a military genius in two weeks. Lunch with Vernon Farmer and Richard Wolf making announcements was always a fun time.

After OCS

The flight physical problems continued to haunt me, so I found myself back doing personnel work. My first assignment was to a small squadron at Warner Robins AFB that trained Navigators for the AF Reserve. What a shock; going from a normal base personnel function to being the Unit Historian, Budget Officer, Administrative Officer, and anything that didn’t say Navigator. I was as far out of the mainstream as you could be. I did however become acquainted with the second love of my life—golf. Several people in the office played golf and I quickly figured that I was going to be the permanent Charge of Quarters or play golf. After three years in the squadron, I moved over to the AF Reserve headquarters where they had a combination Major Command personnel function and Consolidated Base Personnel Office (CBPO) that served all the active-duty personnel in AF Reserve. This was hardly your typical situation, but at least I was back in a familiar environment. By this time I had been at Warner Robins for six years and couldn’t see a way out. Again fate stepped in. I had attended the initial planning conferences for developing and implementing the new enlisted promotion system (WAPS) in 1968. One of the participants was a Lt. Col. Jack England. Didn’t have a lot of contact with him at the time, but in 1970 he was looking for an Executive Officer in the Airman Promotion shop at the Air Force Personnel Center and he asked if I was interested in coming to Randolph AFB. Thus, I was rescued from the backwoods to the main road. The rest is almost a fairy tale. After four years at Air Force Military Personnel Center, I made Major and was promptly sent to Korat AB in Thailand as the Chief of the Consolidated Base Personnel Office (CBPO). Next, I went to Nellis AFB and then to the Tactical Air Command (TAC) Inspector General (IG) team. At Nellis, I lived through the infamous controlled Officer Effectiveness Report (OER) system, so everything after that was downhill. This gets me up to 1980. I then went to the Pentagon to work in Officer Accessions and in about a year became the Separation Branch Chief. This was the necessary stepping stone to making Colonel. I then went to Eglin AFB as the Director of Personnel and in 1986 to Stuttgart, Germany as the Deputy J-1 at HQ European Command (EUCOM). I lost my sense of humor in this job and as my youngest daughter was finishing High School, I decided that retirement was the right decision.

During my various assignments, I managed to finish my Undergraduate Degree in San Antonio and a Masters Program while I was at Nellis. After retirement, we returned to Washington D.C. My job search essentially involved looking for a place where I could make a few bucks without driving to D.C. every day. I had a teaching certificate from Texas in History and Government but felt that I would prefer the lower grades. This sent me back to school again to get certified in Middle School education. I taught 6th Grade at Godwin Middle School in Dale City, Va. from 1990 until 1998, primarily working in Math and Social Studies, and also coached the baseball team for a few years. In 1998, my wife was not real happy where she was working and the school system was making some changes. She had a job offer in Myrtle Beach, SC so here we are. Margaret continues to work part-time and I recently took over a High School General Education Diploma (GED) class that runs three hours a day, three days a week. Keeps me off the golf course.

The Future

Other than the usual problems with old age, we enjoy good health and plan on living another 25 years, play a lot of golf and travel. Our two daughters live in Washington D.C. and our son lives here in N.C. where he can look after the old folks—that’s funny I think we do more of the looking-out-for than he does. One of these days we will make a trip to South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.