David Sanderson, III

Life Prior to USAF

Raised in Des Moines, Iowa and attended DSM Tech H.S. (aviation trade) obtaining an FAA A&P mechanics license. Raised lots of hell, overhauled cars, but didn’t chase skirts (yet). Joined the CAP at 16 and enlisted in the ANG at 17. In 1956, attended BMT at Lackland between 11th and 12th grades. One BMT memory vividly sticks out—while pulling KP at the OCS mess hall, I witnessed the inhumane treatment and degradation of something called “OCS cadets”—I swore that I would never put myself through such b/s. At 18, I bought a new ’58 Chev. Impala Convertible, which was quite a p– wagon; however, it didn’t do much good; primarily due to my girlfriend having an immaculate conception. I had a difficult choice: keep the car or get married, honor prevailed.

Enlisted Experiences

After H.S. graduation, I attended an electronic school at Chanute AFB, Ill; then got hired at the ANG (Civil Service) as a mechanic. After 5-years, I was selected for UPT Class 64G; however, there was just one small obstacle in my path—OCS 63C. However, since I wanted it bad enough, I somehow got thru. All this time I dragged my ’58 Impala wife, Karen, and our two boys, all over the country. She was very supportive; I don’t think I would have made it without her encouragement (although we later divorced.) I attained a rank of E-5 and worked for a lot of officer jerks; of course, I vowed that I would never be like that and I would change the Air Force to a kinder, gentler organization!

Memories of the OCS Experience

My immediate OCS impression was, “Just why in the hell am I putting myself through this?” Of course, there was a method to the madness of the hazing, memory work, and peer ratings—survival of the fittest! One flashback was the morning ritual of going down to the First Class Day Room and being forced to watch the infamous car crash on TV while at a brace; of course, the First Classmen were cheering and chanting because they knew what was coming. I suppose every single Second Classman cracked a smile, which is exactly what the First Classmen wanted. What a chewing out: “He might have been hurt, mister, why are you laughing,” “Do you like death, mister?” “Mister, you are sick!” and then, of course, the required, “Give me twenty, mister” plus a few demerits.

How My Life Unfolded After OCS

After OCS, I went to Webb AFB for UPT and on to F-102 and T-33 training. Back at Des Moines ANG, I was trained in the F-89J and defended the Northern US and Canada against the Russian Bear—and we did a real fine job. Later transitioned to the F-84F, F-100, and finally the A-7. All this time, I was an ANG civil servant in Avionics, Supply, Maintenance, Admin, Nuclear Safety, etc. My first Second Lieutenant assignment was as an Avionics Officer supervising these “gruffy, old sergeants” who had earlier taught me everything about aircraft maintenance. They were also my old beer-drinking buddies and personal friends, so they gave me a lot of slack (and training) which was much appreciated. Along the way, I attended Avionics School at Lowery and Kessler; and SOS and ACSC at Maxwell (where I also received my Troy State B.S.)

[Probably the most fortuitous choice in my military career was at ACSC in 1975. My unique thesis topic would later change my life’s path in a new and unexpected direction—more on this later.]

All this military aviation training laid the groundwork for my dual career as a TWA pilot. Time for another lesson of life; “If you have a chance to accomplish something unusual, do it!” As indicated earlier, I attained my A&P license in H.S.; and when I applied to TWA, I had minimum flying time and no college. My TWA interview Captain glossed over the lack of flying time and college, but he zeroed in on the coveted A&P license—he dug it, and I was hired. This was in 1970, and just 2-months after being hired I was furloughed—for 7-years. I was hired back at the Guard, eventually working up to the 124th TFS Cmdr. After six years of intense competition with my peers (and friends), I realized that I was not going to be the next Chief of Staff of the Air Force, so I quit my Guard job again and got recalled to TWA for three years, before being furloughed again in 1980.

This is where my life turned directions. As I stated, my ACSC thesis topic was unique. I had written on Noise and Safety at Civilian and Military Airfields. It was forgotten, at least until 1980. I was going through a divorce (from my OCS wife, Karen), and was just furloughed from TWA; this time my Guard boss said “hell no” to taking me back as a full-timer; however, I did receive a call from a friend at the Pentagon who said, “I hear that you are furloughed from TWA and are getting a divorce—would you like to go to DM in Tucson to ‘assist the Air Force with their noise and safety issue?’” I was apparently the only “resident expert” available for such a problem. Two years earlier in 1978, an Air Force A-7 fighter had crashed at the edge of the Univ. of Arizona, killing two students. Of course, the public outcry was to shutdown DM. State and Federal politicians got involved and, since it was a political hot potato, DOD dumped the project on the Guard. In two months I was suddenly in charge of a project of which I knew little—a real Baptism by Fire; I sincerely credit OCS for the fortitude and tenacity training! I answered to Senators, Congressmen, lots of Generals, and several unidentifiable “government civilians.” I quickly became educated in environmental and interagency politics and my initial 90-day TDY turned into a 6-year PCS move from Iowa to Arizona ANG State HQ. After the “fast track” environmental study was complete the decision was made to construct an auxiliary reliever airfield at Libby AAF, Fort Huachuca (60 nm SE of Tucson). My job was complete, or so I thought. My boss, the Adjutant General of Arizona, wanted me to be the project Contracting Officers Representative; i.e., the on-site construction supervisor. I attended a U.S. Army Contracting school at Fort Lee, VA and became the COR and coordinator with the Army working out of a dusty, snake-infested house trailer in the Fort Huachuca desert. In 1986 the 12,000’ runway project was complete. I eventually retired from the AZ ANG in 1990 as an O-6 with 35 years.

With the runway project completed, I returned to TWA. A second divorce intervened, but I stayed in Sierra Vista and commuted to New York flying TWA international. I eventually worked up to the B-767 and Captain upgrade. I flew many trips to Cairo and fell in love with the middle-east mystique; I even planned a small safari to the Sinai desert and lived with the Bedouins and Coptic Monks for several weeks. After the safari, my Egyptian friend, Amgad, asked me if I would like to meet a Russian girl. Well, what would any recently divorced, red-blooded fighter pilot with lagging testosterone say? After our formal, chaperoned meeting drinking Egyptian tea, I told Amgad, “I’ll take it from here.” Seven months later Olga and I got married in Cairo.

Where Am I Now?

Olga and her son, Misha, came to Sierra Vista, AZ in 1996 and Olga worked at the local UofA language department on a Russian E-Learning project for the Army. She also attended the UofA and just received her B.S. in business. In March 2003, Olga received an appointment for her MBA at E.M. Lyon, France, so we are moving there in June 2003. She is now a U.S. citizen and is taking French; along with her Russian, Arabic, and English—I feel pretty stupid. Her son, Misha, came to America 6-years ago speaking only Russian and Arabic; now he speaks neither, thanks to his PS2 and television. (I could write another personal experience page about the positive benefits of “total emersion” vs. the politically correct “bi-lingual education.”)

Our Plans for the Future?

I plan on living somewhere in Europe, supporting my wife’s career in International Marketing; perhaps she will open a Wal-Mart in Sevastopol, Ukraine. Meanwhile, I will be sipping cappuccino and relearning my memory work—in Russian, of course.