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SERVICE REFLECTIONS
OF An Air Force VETERAN
Feb 2017

Brown, Kenneth SSgt

StatusService Years
USAF Veteran 1960 - 1967
AFSC
43151E-Aircraft Mechanic
Primary Unit
1964-1967, 43151E, 1612th Organizational Maintenance Squadron

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By Completing Your Reflections!

Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Profile Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.

 
 

Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Air Force?

 
My Father, CPL Kenneth R. Brown Sr

I was born August 23, 1942. Soon after that, my father joined the Army Air Force. He was a maintenance technician working on radar and was sent to Aman, India. The radar he maintained was essential for the aircraft that flew over the "hump" to support China against the Japanese. He took many pictures during his service and he also received his Staff Sergeant Stripes.

During the Korean War, some of the older kids in our neighborhood were leaving for Korea and we would listen to them talk about how they were now men.

Later, I learned that my mother had been a "Rosie the RIiveter" building Navy Torpedo Bombers near Trenton, NJ. She and two friends worked together and shared time taking care of me.

When I was in high school I would hitch hike to school and frequently be picked up by an Army SGT who suggested I not go in the Army. He said he had been in almost 20 years and was still digging fox holes.

These stories were my motivation to join the Air Force.

 

Whether you were in the service for several years or as a career, please describe the direction or path you took. What was your reason for leaving?

 
A3C Ken Brown, Chanute AFB. IL - 1961

I joined the Air Force on August 30 1960. I am a seven year veteran. I was transferred from Lackland to Chanute AFB, IL. I was schooled on the B-52 Stratofortress. When we walked into the hanger, we just stood there, silently looking at that monster, I thought, "I made it through high school by the skin of my teeth. I'll never be able to handle this schooling!" But my fellow students were very supportive and the instructors were the best. I studied so hard, I never did get to the USO in Rantoul.

I was assigned to Lincoln AFB, NE. (Where the heck is Nebraska?) Being from the northeast it seemed like the cowboy movies I use to watch as a kid. When I checked in at the base, I began to see these people as different. They seemed to make me uncomfortable, somehow. They were very friendly. But I soon found out they were all guinuinely nice people! They made me feel like this was my home.

I was assigned to the 98th Bombardment Wing on a B-47E 6- engine Stratojet. It was smaller than a B-52, but I soon loved the aircraft. I worked with a great Crew Chief named Newton (Don't know whether it was his first or last name) who took me under his wing and taught me everything he knew. Soon I was my own Crew Chief and had my own 47. When I was not on Alert Duty or REFLEX(TDY), on most weekends I would be out on my aircraft reading the manuals or sprucing her up.

Before long I started to think about what the future would bring. I had my sweetheart back home. (We met when she was 13 and I was 15 and we have been together ever since. After 52 years I still don't know why she is still with goofy me).

If we were going to marry, I wasn't sure how my being away from home so much would effect our marriage. Sue and I talked about it and I finally decided to take an early reenlistment and received a base-of-choice to McGuire AFB, NJ. The base was 15 miles from my home!

I transferred to McGuire and worked on C-135's and C-141's. Sue and I married, we had two beautiful children at Walson Army Hospital at Fort Dix and I began attending college. What a life!

Unfortunately, I could not stop thinking about my wonderful experiences in SAC. It was a culture shock going from SAC to MAC. I felt as if I was working for a civilian airline. At the end of my early reenlistment I was discharge on October 27, 1967.

That is the path I took and my reason for leaving the Air Force.

 

If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which were the most significant to you and, if life-changing, in what way.

 
The Cuban Crisis - Niagara Falls Municipal Airport

I was in the Air Force for seven years during the Cold War. The Cuban Crisis was my most life changing - and fondest memory.

I was stationed at Lincoln AFB, NE. I was a Crew Chief on a B-47E. I enjoyed every day I was with her. I lived for the regular maintenance activities on the Flight Line, the Alert Duty, and REFLEX(TDY). On Alert Duty and REFLEX my aircraft was loaded with weapons and I responded to surprise exercises - up to the point just before the aircraft would take off. I never knew if it was the real thing.

Then President Kennedy made the announcement on TV that the Russians were approaching Cuba with a supply of missiles to be assembled and capable of mass destruction of the United States - and US warships were going to stop them. The word came down that our 100+ B-47's would be spread all over the US. My aircraft, and five others, were loaded with fuel and weapons. Before I knew it I was at Niagara Falls Municipal Airport! My first thought was, 'What about my Sweetheart, Sue? Will we ever be married?'

But, our entire team switched into "military mode". The logistics of the operation kept us very busy (refueling, maintenance, inspections, etc.) It was amazing how we all worked so well together to solve problems. It made me so proud to be an American and a member of the United States Air Force.

Then the Russians made an about-face and returned home. We kicked back, grabbed some Walkie-Talkies and visited the Falls. On Thanksgiving Day the citizens of Niagara Falls arrived at the airport with a dinner for us - fit for a king!

All this, and I was only a "kid". I will never EVER forget this experience. And, throughout my life I have gravitated to careers to make a difference - as part of a team.

 

Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which one was your least favorite?

 
RAF Upper Heyford, Englan - 1962

Of all my duty stations and assignments, my fondest and least favorite memories are answered in questions # 2 & #3.

My fondest non-military memories were when I was on REFLEX assignments at RAF Upper Heyford, England between 1961 and 1963. I went REFLEX to Upper Heyford and Zaragoza, Spain several times, but I had family in England.

On days off I took the train to see our family in Ellsmere Port, Cheshire. One of my cousins lived in an ancient house. They could not change the house, inside or out. It was quite an experience staying there.

I have so many fond memories that have made our family tree come to life. And I've been working on our family history for over thirty years.

I am sincerely thankful to all my fellow Airman who helped make these fond memories possible.

 

From your entire service, including combat, describe the personal memories which have impacted you most?

 
Mental Health Issues ? - SOP in Vietnam

Ironically, the personal memories that impacted me most, happened thirty years after I became a veteran. And I was never in combat.

I was in college at Rider University to earn my MA in Mental Health Counseling. I was doing my internship in individual Counseling at a VA Mental Health clinic in Trenton, NJ. I was overwhelmed by the terrible issues faced by Vietnam Veterans and their families. It tore my heart out to hear how difficult it was for these Veterans to try and keep their families whole while fighting mental health issues. And to add to the hell these families endured, you may recall the "drug" stereotype that our own citizens used against our heroes. Please excuse my language, but it just pissed me off to see so many Americans act so inhumane and heartless. Where does that come from?

At the end of my internship, our Clinic Director called me to his office (An Army Capt, Psychiatist and Vietnam Veteran). He wanted to let me know how proud he was of me, not only for my effective counseling skills but also for using my own time to find other needed resources for the veterans and their loved ones.

And then he read a letter that one of my patients sent to him thanking him for my help. The veteran had split up with his family before he came to the clinic. He reported they had gotten back together. His two children had developed mental health problems brought on by him but they were doing okay. The Captain said, " I wanted you to hear this because I know I've been tough on you." I said, "I know you did it for me. Thank you, Sir".

Goofy me...I cried all the way home.

 

What achievement(s) are you most proud of from your military career? If you received any medals, awards, formal presentations or qualification badges for significant achievement or valor, please describe how these were earned.

 
My Baby - 53-2379 - 1962

Of all the accolades we received during our military careers, I am most proud of an incident that occurred one day on the flight line at Lincoln AFB, NE.

I was making a final inspection of my B-47 prior to the flight crew's arrival. The Maintenance Officer was in his car in front of my plane checking the Maintenance Records to approve the aircraft for flight. My supervisor was in the car with him. At some point, the Officer looked up at me and laughed. My supervisor said, "What's wrong?" The Officer said, "Nothing. He just seems to enjoy himself so much. You know, one day I was out here on a Saturday and I saw him sitting next to his aircraft reading a Maintenance manual! When I asked Brown if the Security Guards bother him out here alone, he told me, 'At first they did, but not anymore'."

When my supervisor told me what happened, that was the best "Non-Formal Presentation I ever received.

 

Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or any other memorabilia, please describe those which are the most meaningful to you and why?

 
COLD WAR Certificate

For me, my most meaningful presentation was the Certificate of Recognition of my service during the Cold War. Until then, I always felt that, somehow I let my country down not fighting in a war.

I did always believe that all service women and men promoted peace and stability for our country and that our citizens were grateful for our Cold War service.

It maybe seems trivial but with this DD Form 2774 signed by the Secretary of Defense, I no longer feel as though I let my country down.

God Bless America.

 

Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?

 
Friends that made a POSITIVE IMPACT on me

Two individuals from my time in the military that stand out as having the most positive impact on me were Bob Viles from MA and Lanny Bergman from MN.

We arrived at Lincoln AFB, NE in January 1961 from Chanute AFB, IL. Our AFSC was 43151E and we were assigned to the 98th BW on B-47E's.

We lived in the same barracks and hit it off right away. Bob was a talker and Lanny and I were not. We didn't work together but we hung out in one of our rooms frequently. We would talk about anything and everything - It was neat hearing about one other's lives and listening to that good ole rock 'n roll. When one of us was "down", we would always be right there for him.

Now and then others dropped by. In time, when word got out that one of the guys was having problems, we all band together to help him. It was like having your old gang from back home.

I believe this experience motivated me to receive my MA in Mental Health Counseling and work in a Psychiatric Ward, a Veteran's Mental Health Clinic and a Behavioral Health Program for adults from 18 to 80.

Years later, Lanny died (RIP). Bob & Linda and Sue and I are still good friends. After 50 years, Linda and Sue really enjoy one another, and Bob and I never tire of reminiscing about our service time.

 

Please recount the names of friends you served with, at which location, and what you remember most about them. Indicate those you are already in touch with and those you would like to make contact with.

 
Lincoln AFB Dance Band with me on guitar

This is a question I don't like because it makes me sad.

I hardly remember anyone I served with. What a stinkin' shame!

I remember the guys in the Lincoln AFB Dance Band. I played guitar, sax and piano. I really enjoyed that. It took me back to my high school days. Names? No.

I do remember Walter Turnquist from CT. He was one of those guys that wore stylish civilian clothes. He was definitely a lady's man. But, the military was not his bag. It didn't make any sense to him.

Bob Viles kept in contact with him and Bob gave me his phone number and email address. I tried, both ways, to contact him with no response. We got along fine and I even let him use my car to go home on leave (from NE to CT). Bob told me he has made out very well in civilian life and still is doing well. God bless 'em.

I remember Dave White. He was a "hobby" pilot and belonged to the Lincoln AFB Aero Club. We had Atlas sites around Lincoln and one time he buzzed one of the sites.He was a very funny guy but the Air Force didn't think so. I understand his father was a "big wheel" in the FAA in Chicago. We never heard anymore about it.

I remember a "long time" Sergeant. I had applied for a base of choice twice. I had one more chance to apply. All I remember about the Sargent was that he had a job that took him back and forth from Lincoln to Offutt. I told him about my predicament. He said, "Don't you go REFLEX and bring back booze?". Yes I do. I have two lockers full of it. He said, "Give me three bottles of VO, and I"ll see what I can do." Three months later I was stationed at McGuire, 15 mile from home!  What a country!

 

Can you recount a particular incident from your service which may or may not have been funny at the time, but still makes you laugh?

 
Jewelry? What Jewelry Sir?

I WAS INVOLVED IN AN INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT IN ENGLAND :

I was on a REFLEX tour at Upper Heyford, England. When I returned to the states I was scheduled to go on leave. I heard that RAF Greenham Common had a C-135 that was returning to the US the same day I was and they were going to McGuire via Lockborne and Lincoln. The 1st Sergeant made arrangements for me to get the 135. It would be a long trip, but it would be better than hitch hiking from Nebraska to New Jersey.

When I got to Lincoln, I got permission from the crew to go to McGuire with them. They said they were leaving in two hours.

I went to the barracks and while taking a shower the CQ walked in and said I had a phone call. It was some Sergeant but I couldn't understand what he was talking about. Soon an AP showed up and told me to take him to my room. He asked if I knew anything about stolen jewelry at Greenham Common commissary. I said no. He asked me to open my lockers. I was so scared I couldn't remember the combinations. (Honest!)

Just then the CQ told the AP he had a phone call. Then the AP told me I was okay to go.

I got to the plane in time, but it took a long time for that incident to make me laugh.

 

What profession did you follow after your military service and what are you doing now? If you are currently serving, what is your present occupational specialty?

 
Comm Tech. Ken Brown - 1976

On October 27, 1967 I was discharged from the Air Force and I became a metallurgical technician. It was an interesting job, but little money

In 1971 I took a State Police dispatch position on the NJ Turnpike. It was a rotating shift job. Not good with a wife and two small children.

In 1980 I transferred to a Turnpike position in Communications Maintenance.

In 1986 I was promoted to Communications Field Supervisor

On February 1, 1997 I retired from the Turnpike

In 1997 I worked at a VA Mental Health Clinic near Trenton, NJ and the Helene Fuld Hospital Psychiatric Ward in Trenton, NJ

From 1998 to 2007 I was employed by the Delaware House Behavioral Health day program for adults 18 to 80, in Rancocas, NJ (In the same town where I grew up)!

I retired from Delaware House in 2007.

Sue & I are now enjoying the fruits of our labor. What a life!

 

What military associations are you a member of, if any? What specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?

 

B-47 STRATOJET ASSOCIATION

This is an amazing and worthwhile organization to join. And with only about 900 members you will not believe the quality of the newsletters and membership directory.

The newsletters are large, in color and on heavy weight glossy copy. The text is sharp and the photos are high resolution in brilliant colors. And if you think that's something, wait until you see the articles. I'm sure you would have to search high and low to find a quality organization like this without having 1000's of members. Don't miss the members' stupendous B-47 related photos on the site, www.b-47.com. But that's not all. When you see the Membership Directory - You'll go bonkers. It has: member's name, spouse's name, full address, phone #, email address, and organization and/ or base.

Thanks, B-47 STRATOJET Association

98th Bomb Group/Wing Veterans Association.

 

In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career?

 
My Sweetheart, SueEllen O'Donnell 1963

I believe, by reviewing my answers to the previous questions, they will sum up how the United States Air Force has influenced the way I have approached life and my careers.

 

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Air Force?

 
A FINAL THOUGHT

Based on my experiences, before, during and after my service in the Air Force, I offer the following advice to the fortunate Airmen who have recently joined the women and men in blue :

To be successful in the Air Force, it takes the same "stuff" as in civilian life. Your mind and body are the only things that separate you from those who feel that life is a drag.

If you are working with someone who doesn't seem to like you, find out something that interests them. Squeeze in some questions about their family history, what their childhood was like, what they want from life? I've found most people love to talk about themselves and it's neat to learn about how different our lives have been compared to others. And DO NOT PRETEND YOU ARE LISTENING or you'll make an enemy for life.

Celebrate the good times, and consider the "not so good times" valuable experiences. And most importantly, try not to repeat the same "not so good time".

Give yourself the opportunity to switch gears and go off and do something you've never done before. If you enjoy it, great. For me, if it wasn't as enjoyable as I would have liked, that motivated me to try something else. As time went on, I automatically looked forward to my next adventure.

Do not make like you agree with everything and everyone. If you don't agree, say so. When discussing an issue (1) Take a deep breath, (2) Smile, but do not laugh and (3), Listen more than you speak.

And finally, live like someone left the gate open.

 

In what ways has TogetherWeServed.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.

 
THREE CHEERS FOR TWS.COM ! ! !

TOGETHERWESERVED.COM has allowed me to reclaim my Air Force experiences. There were some that I could not even recall until I wrote my Reflections! In my case, it was even more surprising because I have dementia and Parkinson's.

TWS's support staff are a genuinely caring bunch of human beings. Even though I have only been privileged to be a member of TWS for a short time, I have used "chat" several times. I feel sorry for the staff because of my dementia. They have been so understanding.

And there are so many features on our site, it will probably take me as long as it takes to go to the moon to fully appreciate them ! !

God Bless All Those who Served and God Bless the United States Of America.

 
 
 

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