345 Tactical Airlift Squadron
Yokota, AB Japan - 1979 - 1982

The last stop on my active duty tour was at Yokota AB, Japan just north of Tokyo.

Although both the C-141 and the C-130 are considered airlift aircraft, their missions are entirely different. For starters, the C-130 is a 4-engine turboprop … sort of an overgrown commuter airliner.

While there is some take-off, fly straight and level, and land work in the C-130, most of it involves doing things like assault landings, airdrops, LAPES and a whole bunch of other hair raising and adrenaline-producing activities. C-141's rarely flew below 35,000 feet. C-130's often flew below 500 feet.

The other thing about the assignment was that it gave me an up-close and personal look at the Far East. One of my additional duties was as an Airlift Control Element (ALCE) officer. I spent a lot of time running airlift operations at remote fields in Korea. It wasn't unusual for my team and me to be the only "round eyes" for a hundred miles in any direction. I learned how to sleep on a futon on the floor, and I learned to like kimchee. I really enjoyed working with the ROKs.

The most notable thing I did as an ALCE officer was to run airlift operations out of Diego Garcia for a month. I had the entire Indian Ocean as my area of operations. Along with a friend of mine (another Captain) who worked at PACAF headquarters and controlled the Pacific Ocean, we controlled about 40% of the free world's airspace.

The squadron was rank heavy, and I was the only Captain that was a flight commander all the other flight commanders were majors. This meant that I got all the young lieutenants. So, here I am, the "old man" at 30 with a group of 22 to 26 year olds as my charges. The scary part was that they looked to me for advice.

It was at the end of this assignment that I decided to make a break for it. I knew the defense industry would be re-building under the new president, and I still wasn't that far away from my semi-technical days at Systems Command. If there was ever a time when my experience as a military officer would be useful it was then. So I bailed.

For more information on the C-130 click here.