Robert (Bob) Wiltuck

WiltuckI was born July 14, 1938 in Wall, Pennsylvania and spent the first 18 years of my life there. Upon graduation from High School, I enlisted in the United States Air Force and attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas. My next assignment was radio traffic analyst tech school at March Air Force Base in Riverside California. My first true duty assignment was at Misawa Japan where I applied my trade in a covert operation against the Soviet Union. During my tour, I was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant and must say that at this duty station I had the most power I ever had in the military. I had the ability to have a message on the desk of the President of the United States in fifteen seconds.

The summer of 1962 the Squadron Commander called me to his office and instructed me to make application to attend the last Officer Candidate School that the Air Force was having. He assured me that he would have favorable endorsements attached all the way up the chain of command. My application was approved and in January 1963 I joined the last class at USAF OCS.

A note of interest, during the process of making application to OCS I had to complete a physical. All my life I wore glasses and assumed that my eyes were not 20/20. After the physical was completed I was waiting for it to be typed so I could personally submit it to meet the short deadline for the OCS application, when the corpsman advised me that I had passed the physical, but the Flight Surgeon recommended that I never go to pilot training.

I went to see my Squadron Commander (LTC Tyler B. Honeycutt Jr.) and told him my tale of woe, asking what I should do. He advised me that if I really needed help he would be there, but first I should attempt to solve my problems on my own. So I called on the Flight Surgeon to talk with him about the results of my physical. He said that he had recommended that I never go to pilot training because he thought I did not want to go, but if I did, he would be glad to recommend that I be given a pilot training slot. He did, and I was sent to pilot training upon completion of OCS.

I learned a great lesson from Col Honeycutt that still is with me. We have within ourselves the ability to accomplish whatever we desire. Before we look to others for help, first do all we can. In other words “Lead not Follow”.

OCS lasted from January 1, 1963 to June 20, 1963. It was an excellent six months and truly helped build character and prepared us for our future life in the Air Force.

I was sent to pilot training out of OCS and was absolutely flabbergasted. I had never flown a plane before. The first airplane I ever flew was a two-engine jet aircraft. I have to admit that it was great.

My first assignment out of pilot training was to Strategic Air Command as a co-pilot on the KC-135 tanker. Our primary assignment was to in-flight refuel the B-52 Bombers in time of war. We were able to refuel any other aircraft if the need arose. At this time pilots were remaining in the right seat (co-pilot) for eight to ten years. I was more fortunate in that I checked out as aircraft commander in two and one-half years. I was one of the youngest pilots in SAC to be qualified as Aircraft Commander.

In June of 1967, I secured an assignment to Vietnam. One of the members of my outfit was given orders for Vietnam and he damn near went out of his mind. I let him know that I would be glad to take his assignment. We both went to personnel and let it be known that I was a volunteer and he was not. The Air Force turned down our plan. He went to his Congressman and I was on my way to what I wanted.

I was assigned to Tactical Air Command in the F100 single-seat fighter bomber. The only catch to it was that half of my assignment in-country Vietnam was to be as a Forward Air Controller. I became a fully qualified fighter pilot and was in HOG HEAVEN.

Upon arrival in South Vietnam, I was introduced to the O2A. This was a two-engine prop airplane. After a couple of rides in the aircraft I was sent to DaNang as a qualified Forward Air Controller (FAC).

As it turned out this was the best flying assignment I was to have in my thirty-three-year career. As a FAC, I was assigned as the ground Air Liaison Officer to the Marines located in Khe Sanh. This was right after 1968 TET and we were basically surrounded by the NVA regulars. The base was continuously under attack my entire stay at Khe Sanh. When it came time for the Marines to abandon the base, I was advised that I would walk out with the Marines. Being a flyer and not a walker, I radioed my Commander in DaNang of the situation and requested a C130 aircraft be sent in to pick up me, my three airmen, two jeeps, and a conex full of equipment. He told me he would get back to me. We were scheduled to walk out on Saturday. On Thursday, when I still had not heard from my Commander, I sent a radio message that I was ceasing operation at Khe Sanh.

I went up to the flight line and stopped the Marine Major who was in charge of getting the Marine Division and equipment out of Khe Sanh and asked for two lift helicopters to get me and my men and equipment out. He basically told me go pound sand, that he had a whole division to move out. He then walked away from me. The Marine Gunnery Sergeant who did not hear this conversation but had observed me talking to the Major was standing nearby. I must point out that at this time in my career, I am a junior Captain. I walked up to the Gunnery Sergeant and said the Major said the next two choppers are mine. He answered, “Yes, Sir”. That is how I returned to Da Nang.

For the next three months, I flew missions in North Vietnam in my low and slow prop aircraft. I had only completed sixty-five missions when the Squadron Commander called me into his office to advise that he was being reassigned and informed me that he was assigning me as the Air Liaison Officer to the 1ST of the 1ST CAV based in Chu Lai. I completed my tour in Vietnam at Chu Lai. While there I was able to go on a few ground patrols with the Army.& It was actually at night and I went out on a tank. Remember I was Air Force and did not walk. I never did get back in the F-100; the need for FAC’s was too great.

When I departed Vietnam I was bound for Patrick Air Force Base to fly the EC-135 in support of the Apollo Space Mission. I spent one year there and resigned my Regular Commission, became a Reserve Officer, and joined the C124 reserve unit at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. The reason I got off Active Duty was to go to college and get a degree, which I accomplished graduating from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in Business in June 1973.

I stayed in the Reserve Program at Homestead flying the C124, EC121, and finally the F4D.I was in the process of checking out in the F4 when I failed my physical and was grounded. I was given command of an Aerial Port Squadron in Homestead and remained in that position until I was promoted to Full Colonel and was forced to retire in February 1988.

In my civilian career, I worked for the FAA as an Air Carrier Inspector. My entire civil service career was in the Miami Flight Standards District Office. I ended up as the Assistant Office Manager and retired as a GS-15. After my stint in civil service, I worked for an airline, Rich International Airways, with the title of Government Affairs Coordinator. The airline went belly-up, and at that time, I totally retired.

I am happily married, 29 years, to my beautiful wife, Karen, and we have three adult children and two grandchildren. These days I am basically a couch potato except I walk 18 holes of golf two or three times a week.