H! REDTAGS.Well it's the middle of June and I've had a good Father's Day. We put another Shuttle in orbit and we have another one scheduled in July. The family enjoyed a trip to Universal Studios and Epcot Center in Orlando on Memorial Day. I got a letter in March from Al JACKSON, writing from Saudi Arabia. Here goes:
"How is this for a voice out of the past from way, way back. I think the last time our paths crossed was at Moody in 1963. I have known that you were in the Cocoa Beach area and have tried to call several times when I visited there. My father lived there and I did get to Cocoa Beach several times. Whenever I was there for more than a day I would call you but each time it seemed you were out of town. "From the address you can see that even though retired, I am back overseas. Not many jobs available in the States when I hung up the uniform so I came to Saudi Arabia in Oct 1989.1 work for a local unit of Lear Seigler which is affiliated with a Saudi company on contract with the Royal Saudi Air Force. The job is like being a staff officer at a Majcom or the Pentagon, but without the responsibility. We work on any project the RSAF gives us from writing briefings to doing a study. The job is OK, the pay is good, and the tax advantage is great. "Just to catch you up on how we have been, until Jan 17th, other than a lot more people in uniform here, there were almost no changes for us. Then came the big night. One of the guys got a call just after the announcement was made in the U.S. that the war had started and called us all. Then, in about 15 minutes our daughter called us to see if we were coming home. We assured her we were in no danger and would stay here for a while longer. One big help was that the American forces set up a low-powered radio station here that we can pick up. We were up the rest of the night, starting at 3 a.m., listening to the news. About 5 a.m. one of the two Saudi TV channels started broadcasting live feeds from CNN.
Needless to say we all (eight families) got together throughout the next two days and discussed the war. We went to work as normal on Saturday - our first work day of the week. In the Moslem world, their holy day is Friday so we work Saturday through Wednesday. "Our biggest threat was the Scuds because lraq had nothing else which could reach us. Otherwise, we were not really worried because there were 300-400,000 troops between us and the border. Really, the Scuds were not much of a specific threat since they are so inaccurate and they started with only 700-800 of them. Our chances of being hit in traffic were worse than being hit with a Scud. The big fear was putting chemical warheads on them, as was much discussed in the news. That threat was more of the unknown than anything else. We finally got our company to get us gas masks after about a week and at least we felt we had a little more protection.
"Just prior to Jan 17th, all airlines had stopped flying into Riyadh because of the threat. After the 17th, the U.S. Embassy made available military flights out of here for those who felt threatened and wanted to leave, particularly the wives and those with kids. (The flights were not free; you had to sign a promissory note to repay the bill and they would only take the people to somewhere in Europe to catch a flight to the U.S.) There were only five wives here at the time-- two of the wives were in the U.S. for other reasons. Three of the wives here decided to leave as they were quite nervous about the Scud attacks. My wife and one other wife did slay. However, if the Scud attacks which were occurring every night had continued for two more nights, my wife would have left also. Then the attacks dropped off to one every three nights or so. We slept through three of them and did not hear the alerts.
"When the sirens do go off, all the guys rush outside to see the fireworks. Some of them have been quite spectacular. So far, in Riyadh, there have been only three people killed and 40-50 injured. Traffic accidents do more than that. The injuries and deaths seem to have been caused by the falling debris rather than a Scud explosion. At least that is what the authorities say. "It was terrible about the one Scud that landed in Dhahran. It shows they were a threat even if not a well-aimed one. That was the only military facility that any of the Scuds hit. It was unfortunate that the warhead was still intact. Those that hit here in Riyadh were scattered over a radius of about 10 miles so none were close together. One hit across the street from an airbase but it hit one mile from anything of importance. Also, the Patriots did a super job of destroying the Scuds. They were far more effective than had been expected. "Most of the people I know and/or work with are retired military. We are so proud of all the military forces, particularly the Air Force and the job it did. The whole effort was such a professional job when they were finally released to go into action. The planning, execution, and skill of all involved was outstanding. It makes you proud to be an American. From the Saudis I work with, I have heard nothing but praise." Thanks for that nice long letter and the kind words, Al. Write again soon.
I got an invitation to a Valentine's Day party at Chuck CHEESEMAN's house in Daytona Beach. I was judging a science fair so I couldn't go. I called him two months later to tell him that I couldn't make it. He's building a new house in a new subdivision 15 miles south of Daytona; it's called Spruce Creek Fly In. It has a golf course, country club and private airfield with 400 planes. Many of the residents are pilots. The house should be ready by late summer. Chuck helped Ralph CONLAN this year with the Daytona Sky Fest air show. Ralph has been doing part of the show for several years since his Air Force days. They had to provide support for 40 aircraft and 150 air crew members. I hope to make it up to Daytona later this year for a visit.
Got a letter from Jack SWONSON a few weeks ago. I quote "Just a quick note to let you know I got to play golf last month with Bill KNIPP at MacDill AFB, FL (see photo). Polly and I went down there for a weekend to visit with Jack (son) and his family before he finished up F-16 training. Jack had met Bill earlier on the golf course when Butch VICCELLIO had been down to visit. So Bill, Jack, Polly and I played. Scores were terrible but nobody cared -- we got to see a terrific air show. It was MacDill's Open House and we watched the Thunderbirds do their thing. Very enjoyable. Bill is general manager for a large Peterbilt truck dealership in Tampa, doing very well. Jack and his family are now at Hill AFB, UT. They're looking to buy a house and stay put for a while. After six moves in seven years, he says they deserve it. Sounds so familiar. All the best to you and Caroline. Cheers!" Thanks Jack. Write again when you have a chance.
Got a call from Doug TICE a few weeks ago. He was trying to find out about the date for our reunion. He has to bid on vacation days several months in advance. Since I hadn't heard anything, he called Jon STAPLES. After telecons with Jon and the AOG, Doug found out that the reunion would be on October 24, the Hawaii game. After that, Doug called back and updated me on himself. After separation from the Air Force, he flew for Braniff. They were bought by Piedmont and then by U.S. Air. He's a simulator instructor working in Tampa but spending a lot of time on a lake outside Roanoke, VA, where he enjoys boating and fishing. Daughter Traci (23), graduated from North Texas State Univ. in business administration and is working in Colliersville, TX. Son Richard (25), is a firefighter/paramedic and has his private pilot's license. He also lives in Colliersville. Thanks for the call Doug. Keep in touch.
I got a letter from Jim MACK just the other day. It seems we missed each other. I quote, "I'm working for a small company called Private Jet Expeditions. Last Friday (June 7) we landed our 727 at the Cape Canaveral Skid Strip to pick up a group of Shuttle employees connected with the current Shuttle mission. The airplane was then going to Edwards with this group, but I got off (crew change) and dutifully tried to call you. Where the hell are you? I tried 494-4340 and got some guy named Bailey, who'd never heard of you." [I interrupt here to state that that phone number is at least six years old. If anyone else is carrying that number for me, pitch it. See the numbers at the beginning of this column.] "When I described you (ugly, bald and old, with Red Tag idiosyncrasies) his secretary thought you sounded vaguely familiar, but as you know I couldn't track you down. Actually I didn't have much time as I had to catch a TWA flight out of Orlando that afternoon. Anyhow, I tried and next time I'll take the numbers from Checkpoints. "Our company flies a 727 on a supplemental part 121 operation. We have extra tanks and long-range navs in the bird and can (and do) go almost anywhere. It's fun and a challenge, but ! spend uncomfortably long periods away from home-cooking. I know: bitch, bitch, bitch! The only Redtag I hook up with on a regular basis is Tim GILMARTIN. Talk about an upbeat guy. I ran into Ken NEDHAM in the Wichita terminal a couple of months ago; he's doing well and looks just the same as on graduation day. I see George THOMPSON ran into Needham as well. Ken must hang around airports. Truly sorry I missed you. 'Your' people liked our airplane; perhaps they will use us again and I can get to see you. Cheers!" Thanks Jim for a funny letter. I also hope you get a chance to fly in here again.
Fred and Arlene HENDRYX came to town to visit Fred's parents in April. We had a drink at the Patrick Officers Club and then went out for dinner. It was a great evening. We reminisced as usual and managed to recall some other events we had long forgotten. Lots of laughs.
Saw a notice in Air Force Magazine that Butch Viccellio has been reassigned from DCS/Logistics, HQ USAF to Dir Joint Staff, JCS, Wash, DC. Congratulations, Butch, that looks like another step forward.
That's it for now. Keep the letters coming. It only takes four or five to help me fill tip this column. See you all at the 30th reunion. Go REDTAGS!