I’m heading back where it really all began for Doctor Aviation: The United States Air Force Academy. USAFA Class of 1984 is gathering for a reunion. It will be #35
I wonder who I will see at the place where I first tasted of aviation. My T-41 ride during Basic Cadet Training. My T-43 ride as a 3 degree. Bob McDonald soloing me as a 2 degree in the glider. Then the Fall of 1983, when I first soloed…in the T-41 Mescalero.
I wonder if Phil will be there. Phil and I sat next to one another in statistics as 3 degrees, taught by one of the funniest captains I ever had. I don’t remember his name, but I remember that he had a “pocket rocket.” He told us that if you saw a missile you could get a pocket rocket. He also told us it was hard to type on a beach, a feat he apparently tried while getting his master’s degree.
Back to Phil, he, like me, went off to pilot training. He, like me, probably never expected to be at war. When we graduated on May 30, 1984 the only foreseeable foe was the USSR and that situation seemed to be at a relatively safe standoff. Yet, Phil and I and so many of our other classmates found ourselves as the bulk of the fighting Air Force in the First Gulf War. Phil flew one of the very first missions of Desert Storm. He ended up on the cover on the LA Times as his crew chief reached for his helmet after that first successful mission. It was one of the most satisfying smiles I ever saw.
I wonder if Arnie will be there. Arnie and I served as young lieutenants at Fairchild AFB. I was in the MIGHTY KC-135 while Arnie was in the BUFF. Arnie was already somewhat of a legend. He had done well in pilot training and requested an FB-111. He told the board that he wanted to “fly low and drop bombs”. Well they gave him his wish, but not in the plane he desired.
Arnie did not let it get him down or bitter. He set off to do his very best in the B-52. His talent and hard work were recognized by the 92nd Bomb Wing Deputy Commander for Operations: Colonel Leo “The DO” Turner. Turner tapped Arnie and set out to help make his star rise. It certainly did, Arnie recently pinned on his 4th Star as the head of Air Force Material Command – a well deserved honor I might add.
I wonder if Jeff will be there. We went to Reese together for pilot training. He in Class 85-06, me in Class 85-08. I bunked at this house for a few nights while I awaited my accommodations. Jeff was “Faiped” and flew T-38s for three years at Reese. He recovered from a horrific car accident and the Lord was gracious to allow him to earn back his flying status.
From there he went to A-10s at Myrtle Beach, a “cush” assignment, unless a war starts. Jeff had to get mission qualified before his commander would allow him to come and be in my wedding—he informed me on Monday. Jeff called on a Tuesday to say he was mission qualified and would be out. He called Wednesday to say he would not be out. His commander informed him he was “going to the sandbox”. The was slang for Saudi Arabia. It was August 1990; Desert Shield was underway.
The next time I saw Jeff was on World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. Jeff was flying wing for his squadron commander in the A-10. The squadron commander was featured as this was his second war, the first was in Vietnam, where he had been shot down. Thankfully Jeff came back safely. We talked it over at Christmas of 1991. “War is an ugly thing” he shared with me.
So, I return, I return to where it really began for this aviator. Back to see my friends and classmates, many of whom served this country nobly as the Class of 1984. The United States Air Force Academy. USAFA Class of 1984 is gathering for a reunion. It will be #35
Great blog, Doctor Aviation.
I found this entry doing research to fact check a book I was reading. K.T. McFarland’ s book, Revolution – Trump, Washington, and “We the People”, relayed a story about your ’84 graduation. It was an example of American exceptionalism that President Reagan chose to salute and shake hands with every graduate. But, I watched the video. He saluted and shook hands with the top 10%, then shook hands only with the remaining ~900. Still an awesome day and experience for the class of 1984.
Thanks for your service and for the great blog entries.
You are correct, I am glad that you found the video! President Ronald Reagan shook hands and saluted the Distinguished Graduates (we called them DG’s, roughly the top 10%) that beautiful May 30th day, nearly 36 years ago. My squadron mate and friend, Keith Heien was the Number 1 graduate that day and was the first to meet and greet Regan. As fate would have it, I was 992 out of 997 as I was in 40th squadron (the last) and with S for my last name.
One other noteworthy mention from that day. It was very sunny, and not a cloud in the sky. You could fact check this, but I believe it was well over 80 degrees during the ceremony. I noted that President Reagan wore a light wool suit as I shook his hand and spoke briefly with him. During the diploma portion of the ceremony, we stopped every ten squadrons for a break. President Reagan would sit for a moment and get a sip of water, but that man, in his 70’s stood back up in the hot sun the entire time in order to help make our day extra special. He, indeed, was a great man.
Thanks for your kind words re: The Doctor Aviation blog.
PS: Here is another blog entry that may be of interest/help to you: https://doctoraviation.com/air-force-academy-class-of-1984-enters-june-23-1980/
I enjoyed the video. The second distinguished grad to salute and shake hands with President Reagan was Timothy Sakulich, although the announcer pronounced his name, Sukalich. Sakulich is an Senior Executive here at WPAFB where I work. I’ve heard him speak numerous times over the years. He is bright and respected.
And then later, as the DGs were done, the 1st squadron was announced. Lucky for me, it allowed me to see Arnold Bunch introduced, salute the Super, get his diploma, and then shake the Presidents hand. You call him Arnie, he likes to be called Arnie; but, I call him sir. As you point out, he’s the commander here at Air Force Materiel Command. I’m a program analyst working downstairs from Gen Bunch. I have had numerous opportunities to be in the room with him over the last ten months. He’s a tremendous leader and a delightful man. It’s an honor to work under his command.
One more fact check. The video did not show all grads. In the McFarland book the story said the female grads were so “overcome by emotion” that they hugged President Reagan. I doubted that, so I ask you, did that happen?
Thanks for the link. I read that blog entry previously, but will read it again. It was a nice recap of your four years at the academy.
Thank you for your reply, it was interesting to gain your perspective.
I am so happy for Arnie, AKA General Bunch (if I were you, that is how I would also prefer to refer to him). He was good friends with one of my good friends, Jeff Wesley. So that is how I originally met Arnie. Jeff went on to fly A-10s and now flies for Southwest. I have heard others praise Arnie’s leadership and decency and it does not surprise me a bit. General Loren Reno at Cedarville University also speaks highly of him.
As for the female graduates and hugs, I honestly do not remember. It may have happened, and it may not, it is a possibility. I do distinctly remember a big guy in my class (it seems that it was around Cadet Squadron 30) give Ronald Reagan a big bear hug. I wonder if the Secret Service got anxious over that one.
I can tell you that later, when George Bush (41) was president, a female grad, Heather Pringle asked permission to kiss him on the cheek and it was granted. It must have worked as Heather is currently a Brigadier General. Over the years, I was in attendance when Presidents Clinton and Bush (43) came. I did see some female grads hug them, especially George Bush. Increasingly in the past decades the graduates have become more informal with the Presidents and that has, frankly, made me a bit uncomfortable. I feel they are the Commander in Chief, not your friend, and deserve a respectful approach.
Tim and I were in 4th Group together where Tim was on Group Staff (a high cadet position) as a 2 degree (i.e. junior). I did not know him well, but he had a reputation as an extremely bright cadet. It cheers me, and does not surprise me, to find he has done so well at WPAFB.
Quite a coincidence that it was Gen Pringle. One year ago, she was the Director, Strat Plans, Programs, Requirements, and Analyses, which is the Directorate I work in. She’s been at HAF the past year and, next month, will take command of the Air Force Research Lab here at WPAFB.
I started reading your blog articles from the beginning. I am almost halfway and really enjoying reading your words and links to other articles and videos. Great stuff, Doctor Aviation. I especially appreciate your consistent expression of faith in our Savior. Thank you.
You’re welcomed. “My pleasure” as they say. I do my best to put out truth. Thank you for your kind words, encouragement and kindred spirit.
Gen Pringle was my director June 2018 to June 2019. Coincidentally, she led a web meeting this morning for 2-Star Planners and I was listening in. Next month she is taking over command of Air Force Research Lab here at WPAFB.
Thanks for all your blog postings. I have been reading from the start. Enjoy our thoughts, plus great links to other stuff and videos.
Thanks for expressing your faith!