Just after I made ‘major,’ I had lunch with Bill ‘Doc’ Holaday. Bill was a high school classmate of mine who worked at AFMPC (Air Force Military Personnel Center). We both were on the major’s list.
During lunch Doc told me he was ‘undecided’ whether or not to stay in (the USAF). I was assigned to HQ ATC Flight Safety at the time, and knew I was staying in, for at least 20 years. I just wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. Bill suggested the USAF Exchange Program. This was a program wherein an Air Force officer was ‘traded for’ an allied officer, usually for a period of 2-3 years. I told Doc that, as a major, I was probably ‘too old’ for it. He then took me down to the program manager, Capt. Mel Dumke.
Mel worked in a secluded ‘hole-in-the-wall’ in MPC. We walked in and Doc explained what we were there for. Mel looked at me and asked, “What do you do, Sir.” I took stock of myself, giving my flight suit a ‘once over,’ and replied, “I’m an aviator.”
He then said, “I know that – what else do you do?”
“I’m a T-38 Command Flight Safety Officer,” I told him.
“Oh,” he said, “we have an opening for a Flight Safety Officer in Australia this summer.”
“Great, I’ll take it,” I told him.
Not that easy. I had to apply for the position.
As it turned out, the position called for a ‘fighter/attack/reconnaissance/high performance” pilot. I showed Mel where the T-38 was considered a “high performance” jet, so I was “go to go” as far as the reg was concerned. So I put together an application “package,” along with 4-5 ‘fighter guys’ from TAC (Tactical Air Command). As it turned out, I had way more flight safety experience than any of the TAC guys applying. It was the aircraft qualification I was “gaming;” and I knew it!
About five years earlier my mom, Mom, worked for an exchange officer, from Australia! Go figure. He was a group captain (colonel) at the time, and now was a 2-star general. So, I called him, and told him about my application. He, in turn, went over to the US embassy and told the program manager there that I was ‘the one’ they wanted. I got the job.
That left more than a few folks at TAC scratching their heads. At some time or another I had heard the four rules in flying fighters: “Go fast, check six, fight dirty and cheat.” How could anyone at TAC be pissed? I used their rules!
It wasn’t long after receiving my assignment that I heard from my sponsor, Mike Bounds. Mike was the out-going flight safety officer. In his letter he said, “The RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) requirement says interceptor/ground attack experience desired. What they meant was ‘required,’ but didn’t want to ‘require’ anything from the USAF — thus the ‘desire.’ The boss was not overjoyed with your background but he is a fair man. work hard and listen and you will be O.K. Expect them to change the wording to ‘required’ when the position is reviewed in 1981.”
As it turned out, Mike’s words were invaluable. I heard what he had said, worked hard, listened, and did well… The boss was a great guy, and we got along very well. And, the did change their wording in 1981..