I was stationed at Hahn Air Base, West Germany, in 1978, a 28-year-old Captain. The Air Force wanted me to either go back to the Academy to become a professor or go to the Pentagon to be a staff officer. I did not want to do either. I wanted to keep flying. Maybe eventually I can change my career path, but that is not what I wanted to do right now.
So, my father, who at the time owned Waitte’s Insurance, said he knew the Assistant Adjutant General for the Connecticut Air National Guard, since they were both Shriners – it’s like anything else; it’s who you know. Dad said “Well, if you want, I’ll talk to General Hoar.” Because the Air National Guard was either going to be getting brand new A-10’s (usually the Nation Guard gets the hand-me-downs), or they would be getting the F-4 Phantom, my current airplane.
As far as the F-4 was concerned, I was a king of hill, tip of the spear, king of the pile. The F-4’s had the Maverick missile, and they would need somebody to train the Guard pilots here. I was to be an instructor…and a pilot!
I sent General Hoar my resume and he said “Sure, come on back.” So, my wife, new-borne son, and I came back to Connecticut. I joined the family business and became a Flying Yankee Guard pilot. I told my wife that if the enemy invades the shores of Groton, they’ll call me up. I won’t be going anywhere. That’ll be it.
I became the squadron weapons officer. I would teach the weapons employment, as well as flying tactics.
The Air Force had introduced something called “Total Force Structure” that would integrate National Guard and Reserve pilots with active-duty pilots. That meant that the Guard pilots had to put in the same amount of training as active-duty pilots. They would have to do so many bombing missions; so many navigation missions; so many low levels; so many dogfights. And I just loved it.
So, what happens in 1979? The Iranians took the Americans hostage.
President Carter picked one rapid deployment force unit, and it was us, the 118th Tactical Fighter Squadron. So, the next thing I know, I’m out in the desert, and my wife has no idea where I am. She says “Oh yeah, the shores of Groton. Right.”