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It must have been fate that I was born the same year as the Air Force was born, 1947.  I was born and raised in South Bend Indiana.  My family was very poor. We never owned a home or had a car.  My dad served in the Army from 1926-1929.  He was a cook at the famous Army Boxing School in Scholfield Barracks Hawaii.  Growing up I always enjoyed playing with WWII airplane models and always knew that someday I wanted to be around airplanes and electronics.  My dad said that the best thing for me to do was to go into the Service to get away from our very poor home and to get an education and travel in the Service.  So I enlisted in the US Air Force on June 25, 1965.  I almost went into the Navy as they came out to our house to recruit me.  I told the Air Force recruiter that I definitely wanted electronics.  I took the ASVAB tests and aced the electronics test with a perfect score of 95, and I did so well with the other 3 fields I had my pick of any career field, my lowest score was an 80 in Administrative.  I was only 17 so my parents had to sign my enlistment papers.

I went off to Basic Training in Lackland AFB, Texas during the hottest months, June, July and August.  The summer there was miserable, hot and humid.  There was a warning flag system in place to prevent trainees from doing physical training during dangerous weather conditions.  I swear the TI’s always put out the lower level of flags. Yellow meant reduced physical activities and red meant none.  We only saw the red flag for about a half day.  I didn’t smoke, but guess what my duty was in Basic?  I was the “butt can man.”  I had to clean out and polish the coffee can butt cans every day!  Because Vietnam was building up rapidly, we had a record number of recruits in Basic.  When I received my orders in Basic for my tech school I thought they made a big mistake.  It said “Fire Control Systems” Lowry AFB.  I thought, “Oh crap; they’re sending me to a firefighter’s school?”  I immediately asked around and found out that the Air Force was sending me to the “cream of the crop” of radar schools for 33 weeks on the F106 Fighter Interceptor aircraft.  I felt better then.  When I got to Lowry AFB in Denver, it was beautiful there.  I became the class leader and did extremely well.  I ate up the electronics training, it was top notch.  I’ll never forget the 10-14 guys (4 guys flunked out) in my class at Lowry, I still keep in touch with 4 or 5 of them.  When we got our orders for our first permanent base most of our class got assigned to Selfridge AFB, Michigan.

When we arrived at Selfridge our training wasn’t over.  We went to another 6 months of MA-1 radar & weapon control systems classes.  1967 was quite an eventful year at Selfridge. The Base was celebrating its 50th anniversary, as one of the oldest Bases in the US.  I volunteered and was selected for the Base Honor Guard.  It was extracurricular and during the big celebration we greeted over 50 generals, which was some kind of record for a non-Pentagon event.  Later that summer the Detroit riots happened.  I was one of many young airmen chosen to beef up the base security.  I wasn’t very good with rifles, but they threw an M2 at me and I went on patrol around the Base.  One night near the Joy Road back gate at around 3 AM, we heard someone approaching us and I already had a round in my chamber with my safety off, which is a no-no!  When the riots really got bad they flew in 5000 Army troops.  I’ll never forget the sight; C130’s landing every 5 minutes and dropping off troops from the 101st Airborne.  It was “tent city” on the south side of Selfridge.  Selfridge was a staging area where they bused the troops in to downtown Detroit.

During the 60s Vietnam was really heating up, but so was the Cold War in Korea.  The North Koreans captured the USS Pueblo on January 23, 1968.  I’ll never forget that day as I was attending Macomb County Community College part time.  The Base Security came out to the College and got us to get back to Selfridge immediately.  The IFF codes were compromised and we had to change the codes in every aircraft immediately.  We went on 24 hour “hot alert” for quite a long time afterwards, like the next 2 years.  On April 15, 1969 the North Koreans shot down one of our EC121s.  The F106 was an all-weather interceptor, air to air only.  The F106’s had just received IFR, In Flight Refueling modifications, so they started rotating F106’s to Korea for 6 months.

Our Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (1st CAMS), was combined into the 94th FIS (Fighter Interceptor Squadron) so we could go TDY (Temporary Duty) as a group to Korea.  We practiced for 6 weeks down at Tyndall AFB Florida doing air to air combat tactics.  It was a lot of long hours down there.  One funny thing happened while I was there; we had to qualify on the M16 rifle.  I never had earned the Expert badge before.  While at the firing range qualifying we went to count the bullet holes in our targets.  We only fired 60 rounds, but as I counted mine I counted over 70 holes!  The guy next to me obviously was shooting at my target too.  They awarded me the Expert Ribbon anyway!

Our maintenance people  left Selfridge, on May 14, 1969, on C141’s for Korea via Elmendorf AFB,  Alaska and then on to Osan Air Base Korea, just south of Seoul.  Our 18 F106 aircraft flew over in groups of 6.  Our maintenance people flew over in C141’s and arrived at Osan at 3 AM.  I remember how happy the guys from the 71st FIS on the ground at Osan greeting us and were so happy to see us as we were relieving them.  Osan was a very busy Base, with quite a few Army and ROK soldiers.  Chicol Village was right outside the Base entrance.  We did frequent the village to get a lot of handmade stuff, like a 3 piece suit for $29.  It reminded me of watching MASH.  The main road in Chicol Village was still dirt, most of the stores had dirt floors and there were WWII vintage jeeps everywhere.  There was a nightly curfew because the infiltration by the North Koreans was rampant around the area.  They still had “Benjo ditches” everywhere to piss in.

The primary reason we were there was to guard the skies of South Korea from the North Koreans and the Russians.  We were on 24/7 Alert.  We averaged scrambling 2-3 times every day.  Most often it would be Russian bombers and reconnaissance aircraft (Bears, Bisons and Badgers).  They would test us to see our reaction times.  One time a Russian Bear was 300 miles inland over South Korea before it was detected.  We would just go up to intercept their aircraft and escort them back out towards Russia (Vladivostok).  I saw lots of interesting close-up photos showing their flight crews waving at our F106s.  At the time we weren’t allowed to keep any copies of the classified photos.

One interesting story we heard was the main maintenance hangar where we did major maintenance in was the site where during the Korean War there were 50 American maintenance people hung. Another creepy experience was one night while we were listening to our favorite North Korean radio station from our barracks (because they played some good American songs), we heard them broadcast some of our names!  There was a cholera outbreak and in order to go off Base you had to show your shot record.  I couldn’t believe some guys actually would have to get another cholera shot at the main gate because they had forgotten their shot record!

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll never forget the day before we were to return home we had a huge squadron party and the Russians must have known it because we had to scramble 8 times during the party!  We found out that we would be reassigned to Wurtsmith AFB, Oscoda, Michigan.  We would leave our F106’s in Korea and swap our aircraft with the unit replacing us.

I did get a “Dear John” letter while I was in Korea.  Things happen for a reason; right after I returned back to the States I met my wonderful wife to be Sharon.  I was sent on an immediate TDY to Phelps Collins Airport, Alpena after Korea.  The week I was there I met Sharon, the day after Thanksgiving, 1969.  I actually dated her best friend first and she ended up being our maid of honor the following year!  We were married in 1970.  I really thought that I would be getting orders for AK130 Gunships because it was our AFSC (322X) that maintained the fire control system on it.  Several of my buddies did get orders.  We decided to leave the Air Force after 7 ½ years.  I took a job immediately with Hughes Aircraft Company at Otis ANGB, Massachusetts as a Tech Rep on the F106 MA-1 system.  I only stayed with them for 18 months before I took on a full time position with the Michigan Air National Guard at Selfridge.

While in the Michigan Air National Guard I continued to work on the weapon control systems on the F106, A7D and F16 aircraft full time for 8 years.  While transitioning to the F16 aircraft the first Persian Gulf War broke out.  We quickly were elevated to get qualified to take our turn to go over to Iraq, but the War ended before we needed to go.  Since then the 127th TFW has been to Iraq 6 times!  I had a 9 year break in military service during which time I worked for General Motors.   During this 9 year break I pursued my college education, working afternoon shift as a technician, and commuted to downtown Detroit, while raising 3 kids.  I graduated from Wayne State University in 1983 with a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.  GM promoted me to Engineer shortly after I graduated.

In 1987 I decided to return to the Air National Guard to finish out my military retirement of 20 years total military service.  My last 3 years in the Air Guard was a nice change of pace, working in the Base Career and Education Office as a career advisor.  I really enjoyed helping young people out.  I finally fully retired from the MIANG in 1993.

I went to Ford Motor Company in 1989 as a Powertrain Electronics Engineer.  After 4 years I transferred to Advanced Automotive Collision Warning Systems.  I was really able to utilize my Air Force radar and electronics training in this area.  I was promoted to Technical Expert and also was one of five US Experts in ISO and Intelligent Transportation Systems; there were only 45 worldwide experts in this area.  I was often called the “Father of US Parking Aid Systems.”  Ford was the first US Company to put parking aids on cars in 1997.  Eventually I was granted six US patents, I could have had many more but didn’t take the time to submit them.  I retired from Ford Motor Company in 2007.  I did dabble in selling cars at Briarwood Ford for 2 years.  My wife Sharon and I are fully retired now enjoying life: our 3 kids, 2 grandchildren, Florida in the winter, Notre Dame Football, many veterans activities keep me busy.  I’m active in the VVA Chapter 310, American Legion Post 322, VFW Post 423, Washtenaw County Veterans Honor Guard, Knights of Columbus and more…

The best 3 things that happened in my lifetime were:  1) Married to my wife Sharon, 2.)Family of 3 children and 3) My Air Force career, where it gave me my electronics education, my wife and my children!

By the way, our son Matt, right, has also pursued a career in the Navy, where he has been ironically working in the Fire Control Systems on submarines, similar to my Air Force career!

 Aim High!

Ski

 
Note:  Bob and Sharon moved to Vero Beach Florida. Bob transfered his
membership to VVA Chapter 1038.  He is currently 1038's 1st VP