When I first met Jim he was an active member of the Jamestown unit of the Air Force Recovery Squadron. One weekend a month he had to spend the entire weekend at the airport doing something with a bunch of airplanes and military men. Then, to top it off, they went to somewhere exotic, like Rapid City, South Dakota, every year for two weeks for extended training. I didn’t understand why he was spending all that time with the Air Force.
This and the next couple of letters describe the second half of Jim’s military career. It’s a long and involved story that deserves the three letters he invests in it. He was adamant about getting his time in, making up weekends when he couldn’t get to the scheduled one, even when they moved to Fargo, a hundred miles away. I just didn’t understand how he could give up a weekend of camping and fun to run off to the airport so often.
The other thing I didn’t understand is how much he was teaching me by example. He had a goal in mind, a goal that was years in the making. I was only a teenager when I learned about his dedication to the Air Force Reserve so the idea of investing in a goal for something thirty years out was impossible for me to imagine. In fact, as I aged it became clear that my past limited my view of the future. I don’t recall exactly when I figured it out, but at age twenty I could only see twenty years into the future. Retirement was beyond my comprehension. Now that I’ve reached retirement age, the future is all too clear.
Jim could see far enough to know that retirement would be something to plan for. Between his military retirement and Tri-Care military medical insurance his decision in 1962 allowed him to live the last years of his life in relative comfort and plenty.
After spending ten years in the Navy and all those years spent on different types of ships at sea it was a startling change of military careers when I enlisted in the Air Force Reserve in August of 1962.
Being completely landlocked in the midwest didn’t offer much in the way of advancement and training in a Naval career field. At this time there was a small Naval Reserve unit headquartered in Fargo on the NDSU campus. It wasn’t very active and had little to offer. Thru a friend in Jamestown, Dave Robertson (of AAU fame!) I learned that there was an Air Force Reserve Unit right here under my nose and I wasn’t even aware of it!
I was 38 and had recently parted company with Sears Roebuck as manager of their local catalog store. My future was uncertain and when I learned that all my prior military service would count toward a retirement thru this enlistment in this Reserve Unit I was immediately interested. Dave arranged a meeting with First Seargent John Doyle of the Unit. He explained that the 9523rd AFRES (Air Force Recovery Squadron) was one of a 112 located in 44 states with over 8,000 prior service reservists as members.
These were ground forces whose mission is to provide support to regular military aircraft at civilian airports following an attack on the US that might have knocked out military airfields and bases. Squadrons in our area were located in Aberdeen, Minneapolis, LaCrosse and Sioux CIty. There was a regular Air Force Advisor assigned to these groups … he was Senior Msgt James Freeman who worked closely with the units, and his office was in Fargo.
Arrangements were made at local airports to conduct fire fighting drills and training. The Grand Forks Air Base provided equipment and firefighting gear including a huge 0-10, which was a fire fighting unit with tanks of foam and agents to quell jet fuel fires. The unit personnel met for two days of each month and served two weeks of active duty at an assigned Air Force base for duty and training.
In Jamestown the monthly meeting place was the second floor of the old senior high school. The men coming in from out of town were housed at the Gladstone Hotel (more commonly known as the Happy Rock!) Four meals during the training weekend were provided by various cafes on contract. All in all it sounded like pretty good duty.
There were presently 10 officers and approximately 65 enlisted men in the 9523rd. And the best part about it was we were paid for these training assemblies and I would be getting around 80 or so dollars monthly! You could accrue points toward retirement at age 60. There was an opening for an Administrative Clerk Typist. Despite the fact that my previous experience in Navigation and Signaling didn’t have much in common with this vocation I was tested and somehow qualified. The title was bestowed upon me along with the lofty rank of Airman First Class! I repeated the oath of allegiance and was duly enlisted with great expectations of gloriously furthering my military career.