I just received notification of the passing of Colonel Tom Ardern, USAF/Ret.
I met Tom when he came to “O” Flight at Vance AFB, OK in Oct 1977. I was his Flight Commander for about 6 weeks before moving on to Wing Safety.
Tom ‘stood out’ from the very beginning. Not only from his size but from his intellect (I don’t believe he missed a single academic question throughout UPT), his athletic prowess and his broad, wry smile.
Two things come to mind when I think about Tom:
- One Saturday morning we, the T-38 IPs, played a pick-up game of ‘beer’ softball with his class. It was toward the end of their training and most of us were more interested in drinking beer than the game. However, (Capt.) Marty Miller was playing shallow center field and was ‘taunting’ the students at bat. He continued to creep inward toward the infield while pointing behind him and shouting, “Ardern, look at all the territory behind me!” Tom, wanting to get back at Marty for being a smart ass, swung at the pitches like a man on fire, eventually fouling out… Like many of his classmates before him.
- The next thing that comes to mind is, one day I was told that Tom had attempted to enroll in Squadron Officer’s School (SOS), by correspondence. The folks at the Education Office told him that, because he was enrolled in UPT, he could not take SOS. Because of the intensity of the UPT program itself. So Tom went downtown Enid, and enrolled at St. Mary’s University for his Master’s degree! You have to love him for that!
In later years we established ‘voice contact’ again and shared many stories about our T-38 IP experiences. I wish I had paid more attention as some of the things he shared with me were “eye-watering!”
So, today I am sad to hear about Tom. I am glad I knew him, and he will be missed when he ‘walks through my mind…’