6:44 | Al Matheson highlights his long and varied post-Vietnam career including a strange turn of events which led to him writing out a personal check for a new space shuttle. He considers his experience as a Forward Air Controller, though, to be the high point of his service.
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Already a capable engineer and a pilot, Al Matheson moved into classified work when he joined the Air Force and was soon flying huge circles in planes full of electronics. This sophisticated operation led to a grand scheme known in the Kennedy administration as the McNamara Wall.
The secret electronic intelligence operation known as Igloo White kept Al Matheson busy flying over Laos and North Vietnam. He describes the complex and exotic technology used which involved IBM mainframes and thousands of sensors, and he analyzes it's predictable failure.
Al Matheson describes how a Beechcraft Bonanza became a drone crammed with electronics that replaced a manned aircraft with a crew of 31. Naturally, the Air Force came looking for that newly idled manpower.
A group of airmen from inside the secret air intelligence effort became Forward Air Controllers with a mandate to report back on what was going on in the non-classified world. Their back channel contacts caused others to wonder how they were so lucky. Al Matheson remembers this as the most rewarding assignment of his career.
Al Matheson had been a pilot on interesting intelligence missions and challenging Forward Air Control missions, but when he had to pick his next assignment, he chose the big birds of the Airlift Wing. He remembers one fateful mission flying orphans out of Vietnam.
Air Force veteran Al Matheson recalls how, at the lowest point of his life, following a fierce battle and the discovery of an atrocity, a sunrise turned everything around.
Justice details a too-close-for-comfort interaction with a vehicle-borne IED. The IED came as a complete surprise and the entire F.O.B. fell into what Justice could only describe as “chaos” immediately following the explosion. She suffered several injuries and had to work with the nurses back in Bagram and depend on the friendship of comrade Colonel Ellison to come back from the injuries.
First arriving in Iraq, Christina Cross and her battalion had to adjust to life in the desert. She was tasked with working with the Iraqis to improve the local schools which had suffered from the war. Her experiences with the Iraqi people were also memorable.
After his deployment to Korea, Joe Estores came back to the States and spent time stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey. On his next assignment abroad, he got to experience the Cold War through his patrol of the East & West German border.
After returning to college after airborne school, Christina Cross prepared herself physically and mentally for the prospect of heading off to war. More training at Fort Polk and Fort Benning got her ready for her deployment to Ramadi, Iraq.
During 9/11, Tommy Rieman was on guard waiting to act if necessary, which they ended up having to do for a training mission. Deploying to Iraq was a transition after his time in Kosovo but they were prepared to do whatever they needed to do.
Growing up with both parents as Marines, Christina Cross grew up with a military influence in her family that caused her to want to join. Living on a military base as a kid was very influential for her and helped give her a sense of what it was like. She still remembers the influence that 9/11 had on her life and desire to join the service.
After a mission, Tommy Rieman and his company also took time to debrief with each other and other members of the Army. When they returned to Kuwait, they reached a deal with a UAV company to get a ride back to their unit. They ended up surveilling the Iraq-Iran border where there was lots of activity.
Being a female soldier in Iraq allowed Christina Cross to be very influential especially among the women & children that they came in contact with. By learning what Iraqi women were good at, they were able to create a Women's Business Center that let the women sew, knit and create products that they were later able to sell at the bazaar.
Getting a medical evacuation in Iraq was cathartic but he managed to recover and had a good team behind him to save his life. Returning home was a real challenge as he had to cope with everything that had happened.
Understanding how the military operated while stationed in Kosovo became essential for Tommy Rieman and it gave him a good first step towards future deployments. Deciding to re-enlist and go to Germany was a very exciting next step for him.
Patrick Sauer remembers the difference between pre and post-9/11 America, especially the changes that happened in the military. Hearing what happened to one of his college friends on United 93 spurred him to push for overseas deployment.
Out on a surveillance mission, Tommy Rieman and his company faced IEDs and RPGs that ended up wounding him and killing some of his friends. After the Quick Reaction Force was able to extract them, he was able to recover from his injuries and enjoy one of the first hot meals since he was deployed.
A unique opportunity, Tommy Rieman was asked to be the model and main character of America's Army, a video game dedicated to depicting American service. Touring around the country representing the game was good for him.
During an extended mission, Dan Brogan and his battalion came across all sorts of enemy combatants as they patrolled the desert. After a particularly hairy encounter, they joined up with another battalion to stay safe against potential threats.