A brief essay on Ancient History

My enlistment on 15 June, 1951 took me to Lackland for processing and then to Shepherd for basic training, but basic was cut short to send a lot of us to tech school at Keesler. Therefore I made that first stripe with only four weeks time in grade! Thought heavens, I will for sure be Staff Sergeant by Christmas. Ha. Many, many months later I made A/2C. To much moving around (7 bases + TDY’s that first four years). So anyway, I re-enlisted, Pam and I got married in Sept. 55, and later I applied for, was accepted, and went to OCS--in 58B no less!

After OCS, I was assigned to Pease as was Hal Reddish, both in the same squadron. Now keep in mind that as an airman, I had been trained in electronics and aircraft gun laying systems, B-36’s and B-47’s. This history naturally led to my being assigned as an Armament Officer. I wanted to be an Aircraft Maintenance Officer, so I got myself scheduled to go to aircraft maintenance school, but someone caught on and canceled it. In August 59, I went to Lowry AFB, CO to the proper school for an avionics type. Please note that somewhere along my career, we changed from Armament and Electronics to that newfangled word, Avionics.

As soon as I finished at Lowry in spring 1960, I was assigned to Shaw AFB, SC as an armament (avionics?) officer on RF-101’s and RB-66’s, which was actually a rather uneventful tour until spring of 1962, except when the photoflash bomb started ticking in the bomb bay of an RB-66. The young troop that was on top of it came straight down between the racks, and may still be running. There isn’t room for a person to come down between those bomb racks! The bomb did not detonate. Thinking about Sumter, SC reminded of one winter it snowed about two inches. They shut the town down for a holiday. Banks, schools, everything. When Pam and I returned from leave late that spring, I was on orders to go TDY to Incirlik AB in Turkey (from which Gary Powers launched). Now I want to point out that I was not the most eligible to go. And here is the lesson: You must be there to protect yourself. The temporary duty was to be with an F-100 fighter outfit from Cannon AFB. I believe someone from 58-A or B was sitting in the right seat of the C-130 that took me from Cannon to France on that trip. Can’t remember who it was, but they had a 2Lt for a navigator. Poor boy, it was his first trip over water by himself. The whole trip was a mystery to him. He got a fair amount of razzing.

While in Turkey, I saw recon aircraft return from missions with bullet holes in them. Weren’t we at peace then? I surely must have seen James Haynes at Incirlik while there, but guess we did not know each other as OC’s. When it was time to rotate home from that trip, the Cuban missile crisis was getting hot, all the 20mm ammo in the middle east had been shipped back to the U.S. The Cannon fighter squadron was diverted to Tennessee but I was sent home to Shaw, where virtually all the people had gone to Florida. That made me the Squadron Commander as a 1Lt, my very first command. Less than a dozen people, but a Command!

With the Cuban thing settled down, orders came for Titan II ICBM Missile Operations training at Shepherd and from there to McConnell and five years of missile combat crew duty. Missile crew duty was about every third day on, the next day off and the following day was for training. Crew duty, for those of you not indoctrinated, was hours and hours of boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror.

I accepted my Regular commission when offered in 1964. Then in early Jan. 1969, I donned the oak leaves and was transferred to Vandenberg, instructing Titan II crew training. After a year plus there, I volunteered to go back to aircraft. This action led to my subsequent assignment as Commander of the Airborne Missile Maintenance Squadron at Seymour-Johnson. After straightening out the mess my predecessor left, it became a Great Job, probably the best of my career.

In January 1972, I was ordered to Vietnam as a supply advisor to VNAF. While at Bien Hoa, I spent a good deal of my off-duty time working at the MARS station patching calls back home, which allowed me to talk to my wife most every day. When I was ready to return home, I stopped by the Air Police and asked for a list of the rocket attacks on Bien Hoa during my visit. They handed me a list which contained two instances of 105 mm. My query resulted in the information that those were "friendly fire". Thanks US Army. Oh yes, you wondered about my having time off to work the radio station? The VNAF depot worked at least six hours a day while we stupid advisors worked eight. War or not, VNAF took a two hour siesta every day. Half the afternoon, we Americans were in the building by ourselves. Upon my return from Vietnam, I was directed back to Seymour-Johnson as commander of the Avionics Squadron. I retired June 30, 1973.

As an unemployed civilian type person, whom no one would salute, (how to deal with this??) I thought it would be useful to find something I could do. I spent the bulk of the last twenty six years as General Manager of Donrey Outdoor Advertising in Wichita. No long TDY’s, no short notice transfers, just several executive meetings at Incline Village, NV. (Lake Tahoe is hard to take!) After nearly twenty-two years in the Air Force and twenty-five at Donrey, I said enough is enough, and I retired once more and finally on September 30, 1998. I think with enough practice, I may be get the hang of this retired thing.

Russ Ross

OC, First Squadron




Ollie, I did not sign in until after lunch. Not that I had any inkling of what the future held for all of us, but since it was Sunday, I saw no need for hurrying. I also did not foresee that that lunch would be my last meal for three months, no wonder we lost two or three or four waist sizes. (I could do with some of that today)

Oh yes, I wanted to remind everybody that OC School, Class 58B, started on Monday, 30 December 1957, not on December twenty-ninth. Anyone believe that?

I think that I was able to accept a lot of that training because I was able to rationalize a reason for each episode, however I may have shut out a lot of the training, as I do not remember much of it. One memory that does remain is the Dusty Ramp and sore feet. I spent at least my share of time there. One little episode may be worth reporting. I stepped out of the living quarters into the sidewalk formation, covering precisely as I exited the building. A First Class type person advised me that I had my cap on backward. In the true fashion of an overconfident OC, I argued with him--No Sir. After about three times of telling me about the cap he asked permission to touch. Yes Sir. He lifted my cap, gave me about face, set the cap down, and another about face. Now I was no longer out of uniform. And NO white one!

Someone reported that we cleaned our teeth with Tide and then cleaned the razor with the same toothbrush. Is that true? Nah, now come on, please. Surely no civilized person would do anything like that would they? Well why not, if we cleaned the floor with our hands? One of my downfalls was that I did not know how far it was to the nearest banana tree. Does anyone remember where that banana tree was?

I do recall that on our first day with our second class, one of our First Squadron members had to get a chair and stand on it in order to speak face to face with a trainee. That episode sort of disrupted training for awhile as the rest of First Class retreated upstairs to laugh. Don’t any of you dare tell Joe I told you.

I wish I could remember who did it, but during one of our communication classes, someone was handed a piece of paper with the word "grass" on it. That was to be the subject of his speech for three minutes. He stood and looked out the window for a minute or so, then launched into the most hilarious diatribe I believe I have ever heard. The instructor and all the students were "rolling in the aisles" and the speech went on for eight or ten minutes.

20 June 1958 was indeed a fine day.


Russ Ross

OC, First Sq.