704 Tactical Air Support Squadron (TASS)
Shaw Air Force Base, SC - 1971 - 1974

Upon graduation from UPT, I spent 7 months traveling back and forth between the corners of the country attending survival school, O-2 school, and T-33 school.

I finally signed in to my first operational squadron as a forward air controller (FAC) / Air Liaison Officer (ALO). I joined the Air Force to become a pilot. I spent most of my time on the ground with the Army.

An ALO's primary job is to act as an advisor to the Army on matters of air support. This meant that as a first lieutenant, I was explaining to an Army lieutenant colonel commanding a battalion what air assets were available to him, and how he could best use them. Other members on the colonel's staff were at least majors.

To hold down this job successfully, I had to know everything the Air Force had to offer: type aircraft, what kinds of missions they can fly, what their fuel endurance was, what kind of ordnance they could carry, and the weapons effects of the various bombs, rockets and other munitions. I also had to understand Army organization, tactics, and missions. I spent about as much time in fatigues in a MK-107 jeep as I did in a flight suit. Nonetheless, the battalion commander requested me, by name, to deploy with the 82nd Airborne Division on an exercise NATO conducted in Turkey.

The flying part was fun. The O-2A wasn't much of an aircraft. In fact, it's a Cessna Skymaster that got drafted. The Air Force put rocket pods on it and added a bunch of radios. It was our job that made the assignment interesting: working airstrikes. On a typical mission you have three primary radios going, GUARD channel blasting away, you are filling out requests for more air support, and copying down mission data, while a flight of F-4's trying to run you over and another flight is coming on station and screaming about a shortage of fuel. All this plus, you have to fly the airplane. The term multi-tasking was not invented at this time, but it certainly applied.

A typical briefing went like this:

"F-4's, you're out of fuel. Make one pass drop everything and go home."
"A-7's I'll work you next."
"A-37's climb to 25,000 feet, shut down an engine and hold."
"A-1E's why don't you guys find another target, come back in an hour and I'll work you then."

It may be a testament to my age, but all of these aircraft have been out of the inventory for decades.

Our squadron was trained to go to war, but fortunately, the war went away before I could get to it.

For information on the "Oscar Deuce" click here.