Posts Tagged ‘U.S. AIr Force’

CALL Goes to Robbins AFB Museum of Aviation

February 22, 2012

As promised, here’s a post on the Saturday Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning (CALL) trip to the Robbins U.S. Air Force Base Museum of Aviation..

I have been wanting to go to the aviation museum for years, but never got around to until CALL folks decided to go.  I’m really glad I got to see it.

When you first walk in you are really impressed with a display of one of the world’s greatest jet fighters, an F-18.

The Stearman World War II trainer hanging above the F-18, though, was the one that really resonated with me. That’s because I flew in the front cockpit of one as it did aerobatics for a TV news feature many years ago. It was a hoot. .

If I remember what Chief Anderson, the original flight instructor at Tuskegee University, who trained Red Tail pilots, told me, the bi-plane was used for early training of the Tuskegee Airman,  but the trainer shown below replaced the bi-planes.  This display honors the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.

There are so many great aircraft to see, but no doubt one of the most impressive is a B-29 like the one that dropped atom bombs on Japan to end World War II.  Sitting in front of it is the casing of an A-bomb.

If you like airplanes, especially military airplanes, you’ll really enjoy a visit to the Robbins Air Force Base  Museum of Aviation.

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A Graduation Ceremony Worth Flying Almost a Thousand Miles to Attend

October 10, 2011

Brand new Airman Ben McMichael standing in front of the Alamo at San Antonio, TX. We had just left a small theater that showed a movie about the history of the Alamo. During the introduction the volunteer docent looked at Ben and thanked him for his service to his country which caused everyone in the audience to applaud. Then, on the way to the van a man walked up to Ben, shook his hand, and thanked him for his service.

It is always moving to see families coming from all over the United  States to see their progeny graduating from basic training at Fort Benning. Not just  the ceremonies, but in the restaurants and shopping malls around Columbus.  I got a taste of what  it means to those families and their military service members last weekend when I went to San Antonio, TX to see my grandson Ben graduate from U.S. Air Force basic training at Lackland Air  Force Base.  I was there with my son Rick, daughter-in-law Marian, grandson Christopher and his wife Kristen.

Not only did Ben go through the basic training course, but on top of that, he played first trumpet in the 323rd Training Squadron Drum and Bugle Corps.  When he introduced me to the lt. colonel commanding the 323rd,  he told him, “That’s my granddad. He was a drum major of an Army Band.” The colonel said, “Well, this must be really special for you, even if he only did it for 8 weeks.” Indeed it was.  I was a full-time bandsman,  but, even if he was only in an Air Force band for 8 weeks, we can both say we were in American military bands.  Ben is now at  Sheppard Air Force Base at Wichita Falls, TX, where he is in training to  be an ordnance supply and maintenance technician.

The 323rd Training Squadron Drum and Bugle Corps marching and playing for the 323rd graduation ceremony, Lackland U.S. Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX..

For someone who was a young boy during World War II, the graduation ceremony was quite impressive.  Surrounding the graduation pareade grounds were the  great fighters and bombers of that time.  Among those historic war birds was a P-51 “Mustang” – Ben’s training squadron is called the Mustangs, and there is a mural of a Mustang on his barrack’s wall – and there was a P-38 fighter, and a B-29 bomber, a B-17 “Flying Fortress,” a B-24 “Liberator,”  and the transport work horse of World War II, the C-47.

P-51 "Mustang" World War II fighter.

You take all of that, add the 323rd Drum and Bugle Corps playing “The Air Force Anthem,” you know, the one that starts with “Off we go into the wild blue  yonder,” and “America the Beautiful,”  an Air Force general welcoming the new Airmen into the “most powerful air force in history,” and the 600 graduates and their instructors passing in review, and you get a lot of cheering in the stands from moms and dads, sisters and brothers, granddads and grandmothers, and even aunts and uncles. (I met a lady from California who had come to see her nephew graduate.) You also get a lot of moist eyes, including mine.

Me and Ben following the 323rd Training Squadron Retreat and Coin Ceremony. Even though family were allowed to come over and talk with the graduating airmen, the drum and bugle corps members had to stay in formation. Why? Don't ask me.

After the Retreat and Coin ceremony was over, we went to a base store where Ben bought a coin just like the one he was given by the Mustang association, put it in the palm of his hand, and shook hands with me leaving the coin in my hand. It's the most valuable coin I will ever have.

Ben and his proud dad, my son Rick.

Off He Goes into the Wild Blue Yonder

August 1, 2011

This is a personal blog, the most common type .  And today I’m getting really personal.

Ben McMichael, my grandson, who took time out from his going-away party at his parent's home in Cumming to pose for this picture..

The wars America is fighting right now have lost their abstractness. I am a member of a very small percentage of our country’s population, people who have a relative in the armed forces. My really fine (yes, when it comes to my progeny, I am biased) grandson Benjamin McMichael heads for San Antonio, Texas tomorrow to begin his United States Air Force basic training.

Just as I told my step-granddaughter Caitlin Champion, when she joined the U.S. Army, that her life would  never be the same, I know that the same is true for Benjamin, and for anyone who goes into the military.  Life in the barracks is definitely different from being at home with mom and dad, as anyone who has ever been in the service can tell you.  I wasn’t in for very long myself since I was a two-year draftee, but that was long enough to have some understanding of the military experience. It does , to different degrees for different people, toughen one, but it also gives insight into what the term “band of brothers” means.  My late brother Elbert, a World War II draftee, loved the Army. As we were standing in line at a cafeteria one day, we noticed a group of young soldiers in the line talking  and laughing with one another, and Elbert said, “The Army is the world’s biggest fraternity.”

There is a lot fo truth to that, I believe. On most of my trips to see some of the great European cities, places like Venice, Rome, Naples, Isle of Capri, Lucerne, Zürich, Augsburg, I went with some of my Munich, Germany Army buddies.  However, I decided to go to Paris by myself.  But, I wasn’t by myself for long.  When I got on the train, I sat in the compartment with three other young soldiers who I had never seen before in my life. By the time we got to Paris, we were all friends and did most things together. They were really fine young men. We had a great  time. Paris lived up to its party-town reputation.  Every now and then I then I reflect on how the three of them, all in the same unit, accepted me, who was not only not in the same unit, but not even in the same town.  But, we were in the same wonderful fraternity. Of course, people are people, and even fraternity brothers don’t always get along. That’s true anywhere.  However, for me, the good experiences outweighed the bad.

Now, it is my grandson’s turn.  Like those three Airborne guys, Ben is a fine person, always outgoing, friendly and witty, but, underneath his sunny personality there is steel.  He has always possessed a quiet confidence.  But, most of all, and the thing that makes me really proud of him, he is simply a good man. And why wouldn’t he be? His father, mother, and older brother are all good people. Then, there is me. Well, four out of five ain’t bad.