Electronics System Division (ESD)
Force Base, MA - 1976 - 1979
The Air Force has a
program called "rated supplement." The official position
is that it is to enhance an officer's potential by giving him
career-broadening opportunities. Many others have the position
that it is a place to hide pilots in times of surplus. Rather
than having a position chosen for me, I chose one that would be
of value to me.
When I walked into
the door at ESD, they asked me a couple of questions: "Are
you an electrical engineer, and do you know anything about C-141's."
I answered "yes" to both questions, and was immediately
made the project manager in charge of the acquisition of $7.5
M worth of avionics and associated ground-based equipment. I was
27 years old, and never used my electrical engineering degree!
To say it was a baptism
of fire would be putting it mildly. I learned a lot and I learned
it fast. At one point, I think I was one of two people (the other
being the person who described it to me) who understood how the
Air Force / DOD / Federal Budget cycle worked. This is where I
first got an introduction to what a GANTT chart was, and had to
plan and project.
I figured if I was
doing it, I might as well learn about it, so I used my GI Bill
to take night courses and got my Masters of Science in Engineering
Management. It was my first step towards thinking that there was
more to life than flying airplanes.
After I spent three
years flying an LSD-6D (large steel desk - six drawer), the Air
Force discovered that they didn't have a pilot surplus after all,
and I was pulled back into the cockpit.
The first couple of
offers were C-141's to McGuire AFB in New Jersey. Nice state:
wrong plane. I tried to get my old FAC job back, but they wouldn't
hear of it. So they countered with a C-5 to Dover AFB. They were
going in the wrong direction as to the size of the aircraft. I
countered by offering to fly C-130s. They told me I could go to
Guam, the Philippines, Okinawa, or Japan. I told them if they
sent me to Guam, I'd turn in my wings.
For more information
about the United States Air Force Electronic Systems Division,