In 1955 I graduated from high school and joined the Hawaii Air National Guard. I was sent to Lackland AFB for basic training then to Keesler AFB for training as an Aircraft Control and Warning Radar Operator. I returned home to Honolulu and soon learned that the US DoD had tasked certain Air National Guard units to assist USAF in providing air defense for the nation. In Hawaii, this meant a fighter squadron and initially one air defense direction center; a year later a second would be activated. We were under the direct control of an Air Defense Control Center manned by the 326th Air Division, a USAF unit.

Unlike the pilots who were put on active duty, we in the ADDC were air technicians, civilian employees of the Air National Guard, with limited federal benefits. In 1969 all National Guard Technicians were made government employees under the GS or WB pay system. On July 1, 1956, I started working for the Hawaii Air Guard as a GS-5 radar operator. While working, we dressed in USAF uniforms and followed all customs and courtesies. In March of 1961 the radar site was moved from Oahu to Kauai for better radar coverage. By this time, I had been promoted as an intercept technician and later to crew chief. I was then an E4 with a GS-7 rating. In August of 1962, I was selected to attend OCS.

After graduation, I looked back and realized I had thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In fact, I felt a little lost not having my classmates around for support. There are so many good—and some not so good—memories, but I wouldn’t change a single one.

The “African Pizza Party” is a great example. A couple of classmates and I went to Trinity University to research that African paper. There we met up with some coeds and opted to have some pizza. (This was the very first time I tried this food item!) Well, we ran out of time to do our own research, so we all looked up one topic each, then passed that reference book to the next person. TEAMWORK? Well, we all wrote our own papers with no other help. However, the Honor Council investigation sure had me scared.

Remember that aircraft parked next to the administrative building? I believe it was an experimental P-51 with twin fuselages. Anyway, as a second classman, I was given the “honor” of keeping its props in their proper position: straight up and down. Funny, whenever I was in a panic to get something important done—which was probably all the time as a second classman—those damned props would be askew. I would have to drop whatever I was doing, get dressed, rush over to the aircraft, salute it, and then ask permission to touch. I’d straighten the props and salute it again—probably under the watchful and amused eye of some unseen, hidden first classman. I never gave a thought to the individual who moved those props, but I sure hated that aircraft!

After graduation I went to Tyndal AFB and trained as an intercept controller. I then returned to Hawaii and worked as a GCI controller at my previous station. The biggest challenge was going to a base that I had left as an enlisted man and returning as a commissioned officer. During the next five years I attained the highest skill rating possible in USAF as an intercept controller and logged thousands of intercepts. Besides our own ANG fighter squadron, all branches of the military had aircraft stationed on Oahu. Intercept work was constant and heavy.

In December of 1969 I left my full time position as a Senior Weapons Director in the Air National Guard and transferred to the Federal Aviation Administration in Honolulu to work as an air traffic controller. This was made possible because eight months earlier Congress had made all guard technicians full government employees. I was then a captain (GS-11). In January of 1981, I retired from the ANG with the rank of major, and my wife and two daughters and I moved to Houston where I took a position at the Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center.

While working for the FAA I held positions as air traffic controller, training specialist, evaluation and procedural developmental specialist, traffic management specialist, and finally as an area supervisor. The biggest challenge and accomplishment in working for the FAA was in rebuilding the controller workforce and trust in the FAA after the devastating controller strike in 1981.

In January of 1996, I retired again from government service. I was credited with a total of 51 years of government service, 11 in which I served both the FAA and ANG simultaneously. I had journeyed from airman basic to major, GS-5 to GS-15, all because of six unforgettable months I spent in Texas with 64 other officer candidates.

I got married in 1964 to Jackie Summers of Muncie, Indiana. We have two daughters, both graduates of Texas universities. My wife retired after 30 years teaching and immediately started a second career as a licensed mental health therapist. She recently completed her Ph.D. at Texas A&M University where she is finishing a three-year project as assistant director of the Program for the Reduction of Rural Family Violence.

I, on the other hand, have retired completely. Life revolves around supporting the family in their endeavors, working out at the local athletic club, visiting our daughters in north Texas, and traveling abroad with my wife.

 

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