6:29 | Air Force ROTC was Bob Wolfe's introduction to the military. After navigator training he was flying photo missions for the Army map service when the Cuban missile crisis brought the Cold War to the forefront of national attention. He was sent to Bermuda, where he flew missions looking for Soviet ships bound for Cuba.
Keywords : Robert Bob Wolfe Carbondale IL Southern Illinois University Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Harlingen Air Force Base Mather Air Force Base navigator Strategic Air Command (SAC) Boeing B-47 Stratojet Turner Air Force Base Lockheed RC-130 Hercules aerial photography mapping Cuban Missile Crisis Bermuda Russian Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) missile John F. Kennedy (JFK) Nikita Khrushchev
Bob Wolfe's two children were both born while he was far from home on assignment. He asked the Air Force for a more family friendly job and he got it, flying navigator on C-124's out of Hawaii. Unfortunately, the Vietnam War was heating up, so he was still away a lot, flying between Hawaii and Vietnam. Eventually, it was his time to go to the combat, as a forward air controller.
Flying out of Thailand, forward air controller and navigator Bob Wolfe's job was to find and kill trucks. He flew the night missions, which were the scariest. He hung out the window with a Starlight scope to find the targets and then he'd call in the air strikes. It reminded him of something he used to do back on the farm.
It was too good to pass up. Bob Wolfe and another forward air controller had a long convoy of trucks spotted, just begging for an air strike. So they went at it and the burning trucks lit up the night. There was just one problem. The convoy was across the border in North Vietnam and the rules of engagement did not allow the border to be crossed. It was either going to be a court martial or a decoration.
It was like a big Boy Scout camp. That's how Bob Wolfe remembers the Thai air base where he spent his combat tour. Once he and a buddy flew over the border into North Vietnam and took potshots at road crews with a rifle. He definitely got involved with his share of dumb things.
Forward air controllers are responsible for making sure the fighters making the air strike don't get shot down. You have to know the location and direction of enemy ground fire to give the pilot a safe approach and exit. Bob Wolfe is proud to say, not one of his fighters was ever shot down.
The camaraderie at the Thai air base was wonderful, recalls Bob Wolfe. Whether pulling hijinks at the base or risking life and limb over Vietnam and Laos, it was making the best of being at war.
It was wonderful being home from Vietnam for Bob Wolfe. His assignment at Military Airlift Command meant he could be home with his family, quite a change. He continued on for a twenty year career in the Air Force, but what still gets him excited is getting that catapult shot from the deck of a carrier back in Vietnam.
Air Force wives are tough. Bob Wolfe was over the ocean looking for Soviet ships when his wife checked herself into the hospital to deliver their first child. She joined him briefly at his next post in Columbia, but she stayed at home while he was in Ethiopia on a mapping mission. While there, he had an odd encounter with some local tribesmen.
There is a song that will make Angela Beltz recall her time in the desert, and another that will make her cry. As for the present, she is worried about the military being able to recruit among the existing pool of young people. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/)
Following the tragic deaths of ten Afghan children, it fell on General David Barno to tell President Karzai about the incident. He describes the effect this had on the rules of engagement going forward and he discusses a document he drew up to give guidelines to the troops that would keep them in the good graces of their hosts.
When a vehicle loaded with explosives blew up at the gate, dental officer Mike Barno hurried to his emergency assignment, triage at the aid station. A truck with wounded men from the Afghan Army pulled up and he jumped into the back, ready to help.
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.
It was the Movie Gung Ho! that instilled the desire to become a Marine in the young mind of Mike Pickrel. In 1995, at age 19, he enlisted and spent four years in the Corps. He was at Headquarters Battalion in Okinawa, then finished up his enlistment at Quantico. He wasn't done, all the knowledge he'd gained came in handy later.
In her quartermaster unit, Angela Beltz had to endure the stereotyping of women in the Army. It was difficult to find any men with much sympathy. But when she got to the Ohio National Guard, she found something she really liked, a new truck. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/)
After a four year stint in the Marine Corps, Mike Pickrel could get no traction as a civilian. The Marines wouldn't take him back, so he enlisted in the Army. Then came 9/11 and, like so many others, he was anxious to do something about it.
In his Air Force career, he got to fly some incredible aircraft, the most advanced of their time. It wasn't a period of low stress, though, as the threat of nuclear war was looming. Rick Goddard describes Operation Looking Glass and the measures taken to train for the event of a nuclear attack.
Women, too, serve on the front lines. Angela Beltz, a veteran of Desert Storm, speaks of her work with women's veteran groups and their outreach to veterans of all wars. Especially important to her are the women who served in Vietnam. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/)
You learned the little things that helped you spot IED's. Mike Pickrel tells how he looked for them and how the Surge never really made it to where he was. No more boots on the ground there. He chafed at partnering with former insurgents and was angry when he finally got a chance to engage in a real firefight, but was withdrawn.
Brett Stroney was just a high schooler on the day of the 9/11 attacks. He recalls the sense of duty that led him to consider the United States Military Academy as America entered the Global War on Terror.
Angela Beltz is proud that all water purification and distribution during Desert Storm was handled by National Guard and Reserve units. When she got to her forward base, the first order of business was to secure the perimeter with concertina wire. She was on that detail and a chance encounter would change her life. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/)
His second tour in Iraq was a waste of time to Mike Pickrel. Just sit in the base, pretty much. He has some observations on the enemies we face in these latest wars, on the men he served with who inspired him and on what servicemen need from their leadership and their government.
It was a surprise when her National Guard unit was activated for Desert Storm. It gave Angela Beltz a new appreciation of the hands on training the water distribution detachment had received in the mountains of California. As she readied for deployment, she had to make a choice regarding her long hair. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/)
When he landed in Iraq, Mike Pickrel felt like he was in a very unpleasant place. It was hot and it smelled bad. He was in a tight knit Cavalry unit which was immediately poached for manpower, so they would face their assignment shorthanded.
If you are a woman veteran, reach out, find a network of women who have been there. That's the advice of Angela Beltz, a veteran of Desert Storm. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/)
His first day in the field in Iraq, Mike Pickrel learned some valuable lessons. He learned not to drive up to a visible IED, he learned not to return by the same route and he learned not to talk to the locals or give them anything.
It was a small detachment from the North Dakota National Guard that flew together with their vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Angela Beltz describes the scene as other units waited in the desert for their gear to arrive. Her unit had their own vehicles with them, which was a huge advantage. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/)
It was her first time on an airplane, and when she got to basic training, Angela Beltz was the youngest one there at seventeen. She was also small of stature, which made the drill instructor wonder if she had what it takes. She did. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the National Veterans Memorial & Museum- https://nationalvmm.org/)
The long hours often faced by servicemen and women weren’t just in the field, as Brett remembers a mission to apprehend a high value target that led to a full day’s worth of administrative work.