In 1961 my high school classmate entered West Point and I enlisted in the Air Force. There was no fanfare about my enlistment, I served my four years as an Intelligence Analyst. After 9 months training at Goodfellow AFB I was assigned to the Northern Tip of Japan at Wakkanai for a 15 month tour. After that I worked at the National Security Agency until I received an early release to attend college. I had three nominations to the Air Force Academy but an old injury put me in an Air Force hospital instead of the Academy. After 18 days and a surgery I was fixed but too late to enter the Academy. The next year I was too old.
While in the Air Force I attended night school at the University of Maryland and tested out of all Freshman Courses. I also volunteered as an announcer on the Far East Network and played basketball on an undefeated team. I traveled and enjoyed myself but I was serious about improving myself. While others were just hanging out, I managed to obtain 90 semester hours of college credit. After a semester on the outside I was awarded an AA Degree. That was enough to be considered for pilot training in the Air National Guard. With a 95 on the pilot aptitude test and a private pilot’s license I managed to be accepted.
While attending undergraduate pilot training at Vance AFB I finished Squadron Officer School by correspondence. Just before graduation I was offered my choice of assignments if I would volunteer for 24 months active duty. Because I knew I would be flying fighters at my Guard Unit I never worried about class standing. I finished 6th out of 74 anyway. I volunteered and flew the C-141 Starlifter. As far as I can tell, I upgraded to Global Qualified Aircraft Commander in record time with only 1,200 hours of flying time. Normally 2,000 hours would be required. In order to upgrade I had to have recommendations from two Flight Examiners and my Squadron Commander. After a check ride which included a five day mission to Vietnam, I was required to fly with an Aircraft Commander Copilot for 100 hours. Because of my performance on the check ride that requirement was waived. My first trip as an Aircraft Commander was with a Second Lieutenant Copilot who was rated as a Second Pilot, I didn’t even have a First Pilot. I was the only First Lieutenant Aircraft Commander in my Wing and the only known First Lieutenant qualified to fly Air Evacuation Missions which I flew many times.
After my 24 months I returned to the Air National Guard and learned I was selected to be the first pilot checked out in the F-101 Voodoo which was scheduled to be assigned in a year. I attended a nine month checkout at Little Rock AFB and became the first Combat Ready F-101 pilot in my unit. While still a First Lieutenant I upgraded to Flight Instructor in the 101, the only person of that rank to ever become a F-101 instructor.
Then I was promoted to Captain in minimum time. As a Captain I finished both Air Command and Staff College and the Air War College. I was working for the government as a GS-13, otherwise I would not have been allowed to take the War College. I was also selected to be a Flight Commander, the only Captain to serve as Flight Commander in the unit or probably anyplace else. I attended training at the University of Southern California, Arizona State University and night school at Southeastern Oklahoma State University where I received a BS in Professional Aviation in 1980.
I was promoted to Major and Lieutenant Colonel before my West Point graduate high school classmate. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. After I was promoted to Full Colonel I was the first and only Air National Guard Colonel selected to command the premier joint force Provisional Wing, “Cope Thunder” now “Red Flag Alaska”. With six billion dollars worth of Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Canadian Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard assets in today’s dollars. After I retired, a group of Legislators urged me to run for Governor. I refused but eventually agreed knowing nobody was going to beat the incumbent. Some of my ideas resonated with the people and eventually became law.
I am posting this to make the point that should you play the hand you are dealt. I grew up in a one room house. Nobody pushed me to excel. I wanted a better life for myself and my family. The harder you work, the luckier you get. If you don’t have a rich uncle it does not mean you can’t make something out of yourself. My daughter is a Chemical Engineer, a General Surgeon and a Pediatric Surgeon. I didn’t have to push her, it was her idea. She told me she would study Engineering so she would be an Engineer if she didn’t get into Medical School. My motto is not lean forward, it is Reach for the Stars.
Read my book: “Top Gun Management” and please follow me on Twitter: @genemcvay and LIKE my Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/VbddpO