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SERVICE REFLECTIONS
OF An Air Force VETERAN
Jul 2017

Bates, Earl Jack TSgt

Status Service Years
USAF Retired 1950 - 1970
AFSC
43271-Reciprocating Engine Technician
Primary Unit
1967-1970, 43271, 3773rd Instructor Squadron

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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?

 
I guess the reason that I first enlisted was that I was not getting anywhere as far as any goals and I just thought "What the heck, maybe I'll just try it and see what happens". At the time I was just lolly-gagging in high school and even though I was a Senior, I was not going to graduate. Although I was never a really bad kid, I was just sort of rudderless and felt I had nothing to lose and it sure worked out to be the best thing I did, even though it took a long time to really appreciate it.
 

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?

 
AST 6 Maintenance

I spent the first year in BMT @ Lackland AFB, TX; Aircraft and Engine School, B-29 school @ Sheppard AFB, TX; R-3350 Reciprocating Engine School @ Chanute AFB, IL. My first Line assignment in February 1951 was to the newly formed 6th Bomb Wing, 40th Bomb Squadron, at Walker AFB, Roswell, NM.

Upon arrival as we were still awaiting our aircraft to arrive, I volunteered to help fill in as a clerk typist in the Orderly Room for a couple of months. I also married my wife at the Base Chapel and my Commander, gave the bride away. After a few months of being a mechanic and getting two rapid promotions first to Corporal, and then to Sergeant, I was transferred to the 307th Air Refueling Squadron, an attached KB-29P unit on the same base as an assistant Crew Chief, I was also promoted to SSGT very soon after being transferred.

Our first child, our daughter was born in the Base Hospital in March 1952. During the latter part of 1952, the 307th were detached to Joint Task Force 132 and went to Kwajalein Atoll for "Project Ivy", the first Hydrogen Bomb test.

After this period we returned back To Walker AFB but in early 1953, the entire outfit was soon transferred to Bergstrom AFB, Austin, TX and was later renamed the 27th Air Refueling squadron. During my tenure in both the 307th and 27th we participated in many record breaking missions, such as refueling an entire wing of F-84s across the Pacific. As always these poor old birds were ill suited for the job given them to do, the poor old B-29s had to strain so hard to accomplish the job and we had to operate the engines at such high power settings and almost in a dive while the jets were hardly able to go that slow without stalling, I think the normal engine life at that time was supposed to be 600 hours, ours rarely made 300.

During part of my time in the Air Refueling outfits I even filled in as an Aircraft Records Clerk and helped in Supply.

In Early 1954 I took a separation and went to Orlando AFB, FL and reenlisted in the 1360th Maintenance and Supply Squadron, as this was a Military Air Transport Service outfit, under the Air Photographic and Charting Service Command, We worked on many different aircraft, both ours and many transit such as C-45, C-47, C-54, B-25s and even a few Navy jobs and CAP aircraft just to name a few. At first I was assigned as Aircraft Mechanic, but later on I was assigned to the Engine Section as Supervisor.

It was also during this period that one of our C-47s crashed in a cow pasture in the Orlando area and we had to go out and dissemble it and bring it back to the base on flatbeds. After this it was determined that it was worthy of repairing, so a Depot crew from Warner Robbins AFB, GA was dispatched to make all the structural repairs and I was assigned as coordinator. I helped quite a bit and learned an immense amount in my spare time about many of the ins and outs of structural repair, about Technical Order specs and blue print interpretation and sometimes how to locate parts that were no longer available in normal channels.

In early 1956 I received orders transferring me to the 1370th Photo Mapping Group, 1372nd Photo mapping Squadron, @ Palm Beach AFB, FL. I was first assigned as Engine Dock Chief and in early 1957 I was then selected to Temporary duty with a detachment called Aerial Survey Team #6. We lived off the local economy in Madrid, Spain, staying in hotels, and some rented apartments. We operated out of a Spanish Air Force Base, Cuatro Vientos on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain where the runway was actually mostly unpaved.

We also operated out of other locations such as, Seville, Zaragoza and Leon We operated RC-45s doing an almost unheard of feat of flying over 21,00 feet in order to get acceptable Map Service photography, anyone who knows much about aircraft will attest that the C-45 isn't supposed to operate at that altitude but we did it daily, particularly mapping the Pyrenees in Northern Spain. There was no such thing as only doing your assigned job on AST's, I was also assistant dock chief, engine chief, propeller mechanic, assistant sheet metal man and even instructor to some of the pilots in proper engine starting procedures after a couple of carburetor fires occurred on cold mornings.

After returning from AST#6 back to Palm Beach AFB, I was soon promoted to TSgt and our second and last child, a son, was born in the Base Hospital in August 1958. In late 1958 our entire organization, now renamed the 1370th Photo Mapping Wing was transferred to Turner AFB, Albany, GA. Shortly thereafter the 1372nd was disbanded and I was assigned to the 1376th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and started working on RB-50s, C-54s and H-21s. I was also assigned for several months as a Controller and Scheduler in Maintenance Control. Then I did a couple of months TDY to Hayes Aircraft Corp, @ Birmingham, Alabama as a contract coordinator and minor maintenance supervisor while they performed fuel cell replacements on our RB-50s.

In 1961, I was TDY to Hickam AFB, HI to participate in Aerial Survey Team #8, I was the dock chief and assistant Line Chief again on our RB-50s and one C-54. We were known as 'The Hawaiian Eye' as we had to electronically map all the Hawaiian Archipelago, again no small feat as once again it took everything even the old trusty RB-50 could do to get sufficient altitude over some of the long lines we had to fly to get proper triangulation also some of the ground stations we had to operate out of were nothing but piles of rocks where the guys operating them had to take down the antennas just so the helicopters that brought them their supplies from the LSTs could hover over the site. I also helped set up a site on Maui in the crater of Haleakala , and another one on the Big Island of Hawaii way out on the western part, on a cattle ranch.

We also practiced some capsule snatches on a deserted runway on the Island of Kauai, where we stretched a line between two fiberglass poles about 25 feet tall and attached to a capsule simulating film & data which would be used on some of our ground sites, the our C-54 would come zooming down the runway about 30 feet off the ground with a hook and try to snatch the line off the poles, then pull the capsule up into the plane, after chewing up quite a few poles they actually got pretty good at it.

After about six months we returned to Turner AFB, where I stayed put until I got orders to PCS to, guess where? Hickam AFB, HI to be assigned to the 1502 Air Transport Wing which was renamed as the 61st Military Airlift Wing, right after I got there. Of course the Vietnam war was getting real hot and the traffic increased exponentially. I was assigned as a Shift Chief in the Engine Conditioning Section of the 1502nd Field Maintenance Squadron, also later renamed the 61st FMS for about the first year, supervising a crew of about twenty men, half military and half civilians. Many nights it was nothing unusual to have 20 or so two hour ground time aircraft per shift. That meant they had two hours from the time they touched down until they started their take off roll, to debrief, refuel, fix any squawks without a real good reason for not making it, of course it was not an unusual occurrence for the Military to get the order to do four more hours, naturally they didn't want to pay the civilians overtime. Also during this time we had to still get the work done on our own assigned home based aircraft, C-124 s and C-118s.

Of course this was during the period when we had very few Jet Mechanics, so we had many times to work on and run up transient C-130s, C-133's and C-135's. Later on, I was assigned respectively as Pre Dock Engine Maintenance chief where we did all the prep work such as compression checks and Post flight maintenance. Then I was selected to be Engine Dock Chief, which although was not quite as hectic, but still even a good old bird like the C-124, Old Shakey, requires a lot of TLC when you work it so hard and they really did work them hard.

I was really blessed to have a wonderful crew and they really came through for me many times, we even got several Zero Defects inspections several times. Near the end of my tour at Hickam, I wound up in Tripler General Army Hospital for almost a month and underwent surgery plus a staph infection. Being unable to help my wife, the crew all came over and helped prepare our quarters for inspection and helped her get things and our van ready to ship back to the mainland.

After May 1967 I was lucky enough to have been selected for Instructor duty at Sheppard AFB, TX, I was assigned to the 3773rd Instructor Squadron and attended the Technical Instructor's Course and was assigned to the Reciprocating Engine Mechanics Course, Blocks II & III. I also was selected to be assigned temporarily for a couple of months to help write some of the OJT manuals for Reciprocating Engine Mechanics and Technicians. During my tenure as an instructor, we also trained many Vietnamese students.

 

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

 
This is the Price of Freedom

I guess you might say, it dawned on me one day while I was walking on the flight line at Hickam AFB and seeing a whole load of coffins being unloaded from a plane from Vietnam, the nights before having to listen to the likes of Dan Blather or Walter Crankshaft, and others such as Jane Fonda and all the looney left hippies, the college students and their pinko professors denigrating what we were trying to do.

I think I could have choked any one of them with my bare hands if they were near, but it just steeled my resolve that I would continue to do the best I can because it was worthwhile doing and that all those kids would not die in vain. America and freedom is still worth the effort.

 

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?

 

I suppose the only awards that received other than GCMs and Longevity, and of course the NDSM twice, was the multiple awards of the Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards from the 1370th Photo Mapping Group/Wing for all the difficult jobs we accomplished sometimes under the harshest conditions, and from the 1502nd in recognition of all the thousands of accident free flying we did.

 

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

 

I would have to say it would probably be my first Commander in a Line outfit, he was certainly an outstanding example, a West Point Graduate who flew fighters in WWII, even after I left his Squadron and he moved on up to 8th Air Force Headquarters he stopped by to see me one time at Bergstrom AFB on one of his trips, he went on to become Commander of PACAF before he retired.

 

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?

 

I guess that the Statute of Limitations is up on this so I'll just plunge right on in with the tale of the cigarette loads. While we were on TDY to Spain, someone found some really powerful cigarette loads and of course we were all sneaking them into each other's smokes, yes I know in those days almost everybody smoked. Anyway we had lockers in the supply room and our Line chief had a new pack of unopened Camels in his locker, our sheet metal man snuck in and very carefully opened them and did his dirty work and sealed them back up so good no one could tell they had been messed with.

It couldn't have been done any better if it had been planned that way, but that very afternoon our Adjutant came down to the Maintenance Office as he was to go out that evening with some members of a visiting inspection team, he asked if any one had an extra pack of smokes to loan him. Our Line Chief gladly jumped up and went and got his, the next morning the Adjutant came down again and said 'thanks a lot", I thought I was going to be a third Lieutenant today, as he had lit up his cigarette in one of the most exclusive night spots in Madrid among a whole table full of brass everybody thought a gun had been fired.

 

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?

 

You name it, I just about did it all, I did just about anything mechanical and worked in construction, Installed Draperies and window treatments and even worked on deep sea fishing vessels for a while. My last job before fully retiring was a Maintenance man for a Cafeteria for ten years.

 

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

 
Air Force Photo Mapping Association

As my health pretty well restricts me these days I'm really not much active in any now but I am a Paid Up for Life member of the American Legion, also an informal bunch that is Known as 'The Orlando Gooneys' a bunch of the old Maintenance people who were assigned at Orlando AFB and I am also a Paid up for life member of the Air Force Photo Mapping Association, I guess that would be my favorite as I was in it so long and so many shared experiences and acquaintances.

 

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

 

Luckily I found out early, to always look for opportunities to learn more that I need to and try to be as close to indispensable as possible. I took many extra courses, so even though I didn't graduate from High school, I did get my GED and I also took the USAFI College Equivalency test and passed it very handily.

 

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

 

Do not listen to those who tell you not to volunteer for anything, learn everything you can about everything you can and do not ever say that's not my job, learn the other fellows job, someday your lives might depend on it, of course that doesn't mean try to bluff your way through with BS, but make an honest effort to learn as much as possible. Even when I wasn't on duty I still tried to learn how to do as much as I could, such as mechanical stuff, auto body and paint work, air conditioning work, I found it all to be worth a whole lot in later years.

 

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

 

I have fortunately found a few buddies that I served with; of course it is also very interesting to hear of others deeds and experiences.

Note from Admin: Jack completed his story in the summer of 2012. He passed away on Nov 7, 2012, just a few months later. Thankfully, his story is here, for his family and future generations.

 

 
 
 

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