I was working in a factory for Campbell Soup Company. In 1961 I knew I didn’t want to work in a factory the rest of my life and decided to see what options there were that offered outside working conditions.
During my travels a friend of mine and myself went and seen the Air Force Recruiter. After all the “stuff” the recruiters feed you, he told me I could get into aircraft maintenance. That actually filled two of my desires, being outside and doing mechanical work of some type.
So on 25 July 1961 I raised my hand, took the oath and became a member of the United States Air Force. Being from a small town I didn’t have an idea what was in store for me.
I arrived at Lackland Air Force Base, “Gateway to the Air Force” and the instant I stepped off of the bus I knew life for me was going to be far different that what I was accustomed to.
The DIs were yelling as we got off of the bus and since we all still had our civilian clothes on were referred to as “Rainbows”.
The worst part of basic training was trying to adjust to the hot August weather in Texas. I think I lived on water and salt tablets. Of course in addition to all the military training I was exposed to the dreaded “KP” duty. KP was a very labor-intensive task and there was no break as once one meal was over and the place restored to somewhat normal conditions, the next meal started.
I survived basic and headed for Sheppard Air Force Base and technical school. I was under the assumption that I would be taking some sort of aircraft training. I later found out I was scheduled to go to jet over 2 training.
After an extraordinary amount of time spent pulling KP I realized that all the folks that arrived at the time I did were in school. There was myself and four others that had no school date.
We finally went to the 1st Sergeant and explained our situation. He told us he would check into it and get back to us. A few days later he called us in and said we could start school the next Monday if we wanted to go to Helicopters. Our immediate response was, "sign us up”.
In February of 1962 I graduated from tech school with a 3-level headed for my first duty station, Stead Air Force Base Nevada.
I arrived at Stead in March of 1962 after taking a leave. I was assigned to the Post-flight crew on the H-19 flight line. Being the new guy on the block, a 3-level straight out of school I was given all the choice jobs.
As a third wiper I was assigned to whichever bird needed some third wiper work done. I got to wipe down a lot of rotor heads after they were lubricated.
I was entered on 5-level training and began the process of learning the basics of maintaining the helicopter.
As I recall the only ones on flying status were the SSgt crew chiefs. However when it came to doing sling work for new pilots I was often put on a bird and taken to the training site and became the ground man, not only on one aircraft but two. They didn’t use the same pad so as I got one marshalled over the spot, hooked up and sent off it was time to run to the other pad and do likewise. At the end of the training flight I was pretty well worn out.
Once I had the required OJT time as a 3-level I was able to test and then was awarded my 5-level.
I was on a weekend cross-country and we went to San Francisco. We landed the aircraft at Crissy Field was near the Presidio at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.
While at Stead I got married and my wife and I lived in Reno. We had our first child while living in Reno.
In December 1963 I received orders to Vietnam. I relocated my wife and young son back to Ohio with her parents.
In January 1964 I arrived in Saigon South Vietnam. I was assigned to the 917-H FTD out of Stead. We were located on Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Our mission was to train Vietnamese pilots and mechanics on the H-19.
It was decided to close the unit and all would receive new assignments stateside. Those of us that had less than a year was allowed to stay the required time to get credit for a short tour.
All the H-19s were placed in storage and moved behind our hangar and in July of 1964 I departed Vietnam headed for my next assignment at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
At Wright-Patterson we had two H-19s that were more or less base flight. The birds were used for everything from VIP support to taking investigative teams to nearby aircraft crash sites.
I was put on flying status and would fly on a variety of these missions. I would also fly as co-pilot on FCFs or on training flights where there was only one pilot. We didn’t usually go on training flights when there were two pilots, not much to do in the box, unless we had hoist training.
Later on since we had an abundance of helicopter folks so we were tasked to help the U3-A folks out with routine tasks. Some of us were also tasked to assist on phase inspections on the assigned C-47s, and T-29s. Usually we got to do the tasks no one else wanted to do.
One I dreaded was changing a de-icing boot on the leading edge of a C-47 wing. It was difficult stretching without ripping the rubber boot while installing. On a couple of occasions I had the thing almost on and it would tear. Nothing to do but start over. It wasn’t for my lack of expertise that they ripped, it was about a 50-50 chance of ripping no matter who installed it.
While at Wright-Patterson I volunteered and was sent to CH-3 school at Sheppard. Aeronautical Systems Division had an H-3 and I hoped to get assigned there. After school I found out they only had civilian slots assigned.
When the decision was made to terminate H-19 operations I had the opportunity to take one to Davis-Monthan in Arizona. It was a long but pleasant and uneventful trip.
While waiting on orders I was assigned to the C-47s and was able to fly keeping me on flying status.
In the summer I received orders to the 23rd TASS at NKP Thailand. I went to UH-1 school at Sheppard, the E&E school at Fairchild, and the Jungle School at Clark AB.
Before leaving I once again relocated my wife and my two sons, one of which was only months old.
In October 1968 I was aboard a C-130 and landed at NKP. While taxiing in I seen no UH-1s only CH and HH-3Es.
When I processed in I was informed I was assigned to the 21st SOS and not the 23rd TASS. The 21st I learned had the CH-3Es that I had seen earlier.
The only knowledge I had of the H-3 was from school that I had been to a couple of years earlier. When I interviewed with the 21st Commander he briefed me on the mission and informed me I was going to be a Flight Engineer. I accepted that as my task and told myself that I would do the best that I was able to.
At NKP we were part of the “secret war”, as we were officially not flying over the countries we flew over.
The mission included Igloo White, which consisted of dispensing sensors in a predetermined area of enemy activity. As the helicopters were low and fairly slow they were easy targets. After a few losses the Igloo White mission was given to the fast movers.
The replacement mission was MACV-SOG support. This entailed carrying Special Forces teams in and inserting them in areas of known enemy activity. Some of these missions got to be pretty exciting especially if the inserted team met with heavy resistance and called for an emergency exfil.
The SOG mission was definitely more intense than Igloo White. With Igloo White the aircraft were moving targets whereas Prairie Fire missions involved hovering time while doing an infil, exfil, making the aircraft more vulnerable to enemy fire resulting in a couple of downed aircraft and several with ground fire damage.
While I was at NKP I recall two aircraft lost to ground fire, fortunately both crews were picked up with only minimal injuries.
From NKP I went to Homestead AFB in FL. Here we had H-21s that were used to support the TAC Sea Survival School. With all the exposure to salt water and spray the aircraft required a lot of corrosion preventative work. The H-21 has numerous flight control cables that required changing often to corrosion.
One of the aircraft experienced engine failure while on an over water approach to the school pad. The result was the aircraft landed in several feet of water. The Army sent a sky crane and airlifted the bird back to Homestead.
From Homestead I went to Naha Air Base Okinawa. When I arrived I was informed the helicopter unit was closing and I would be getting transferred to another base, possibly Korea.
We salvaged the one remaining H-19 and I received orders to Kadena, which was up island from Naha.
At Kadena I was assigned to the HH-3E maintenance unit of the 33rd ARRS. Eventually the maintenance portion was consolidated into the 603rd MASS.
While at Kadena I had three off island TDYs. I went to Tan Son Nhut where I was in charge of a detachment of HH-3s from Clark.
I also went to CCK AB Taiwan. We took two of the HH-3s from Kadena and staged from Taiwan to support air operations during the cool weather months. Should a pilot go into the cool water, survival was marginal if the Helicopter had to come from Kadena.
I was also sent to Iwo Jima to assist with the changing of a main rotor head hinge pin seal that was leaking. Had the opportunity to tour some of the island and we were guests of the U. S. Coast Guard.
I was fortunate to have my family with me while at Kadena.
I extended my tour for a year and was then sent to Hill AFB Utah. I originally had orders to McClellan however they was changed, but not until I had made arrangements to have my stateside household goods sent there.
While at Hill I was the HH-3E flight line night shift supervisor. After a year or so I was assigned to Job Control
When the decision was made to send the unit to Kirtland AFB NM I was on the advance team that went and made initial bed down arrangements at Kirtland.
In Feb 1976 I was reassigned to Kirtland AFB. While there I was the Job Control night shift supervisor.
This is where I became involved with the Military Airlift Command's (MAC) “Hangar Queen” program. The unit had to track status of all aircraft once they reached the 12th day of no fly. At 15 days of no fly there were reported to Hdqtrs. ARRS and were tracked from there. At the 20-day point they were briefed to the ARRS Commander on a daily basis at his morning staff meeting.
I felt this program put to much emphasis on the no fly period than it did in taking action to get the aircraft flyable. There were many times items were canned to prevent an aircraft from reaching the 20-day no fly.
There was one occasion that an UH-1N had made a hard landing, spreading the skids and other significant maintenance actions were required such as fuel cell maintenance due to fuel leaks.
The day this aircraft would have went 20 days with out flying however the powers to be directed it to be taken out of the hangar and a flight crew was put on it and lifted it off the ground to prevent the 20-day no fly. The aircraft was leaking fuel and certainly wasn’t safe for flight.
While at Kirtland my father passed away and I began an effort to be transferred closer to my Mother in Ohio.
In December 1977 I was transferred to ARRS Headquarters at Scott AFB IL. I served in several positions while there, one of which was the Mission Support Division (MSD). The primary function of the MSD was to provide whatever logistics support was required for all ARRS aircraft worldwide.
This included coordinating with all the various depots and helicopter parts manufactures to locate and expedite shipment of items to prevent mission degradation and keeping aircraft off the 20-day no fly list in which I now had to brief to the Commander at the morning stand up.
One of the missions we provided logistical support for was when the ARRS HH-53s were sent from Eglin to Jonestown Guyana to recover the 900 plus suicide victims.
Once I received a promotion line number for Chief Master Sergeant I was able to arrange for a transfer to Wright-Patterson AFB OH.
In July of 1981 I was assigned to the 4950th Test Wing at Wright-Patterson. No helicopters here but C-130s, C-141s, and an assortment of C-135s, some of which supported the various space shuttle missions.
I was first assigned to OMS Large Aircraft Branch as Maintenance Superintendent.
In December 1985 I was assigned as the Technical Advisor to the Deputy Commander for Maintenance. In this position I was also the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Wing and advised the Wing Commander on all enlisted issues.
I retired after 30 years and 6 days effective 1 August 1991.
JUNE 26, 2009 JAMES (JIM) B. MOORE TOOK HIS FINAL FLIGHT.