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!