The presidency and my experience in the Air Force

Published 6:38 pm Friday, April 29, 2016

When I graduated from high school in 1963, I immediately joined the U.S. Air Force. They let me have the summer off and sent me to San Antonio for basic training in September. After I completed basic training, they assigned me to Keesler Air Force Base for basic electronics training. I didn’t realize it at the time, but by enlisting I avoided possibly being drafted later on, being infantry and being a target. A lot of good and heroic Americans were killed in Vietnam. I am proud to be an Air Force veteran and very sad of the loss of so many brave American lives.



Enlisting in the Air Force allowed me to receive excellent U.S. Air Force electronics and AC & W radar training. While in training, I was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base, in Mississippi, when President Kennedy was killed. At first, we didn’t know what happened because we went on high alert and gathered in the barrack’s main hallway and stayed there until the alert was over. We were then informed that President Kennedy had been assassinated. This was a very sad day for all Americans.

After being trained, I spent my last tour in the Air Force at Saint Anthony Air Station in northern Newfoundland. You couldn’t go any further north and not fall into the North Atlantic. It was isolated and snowed a lot. An average winter in St. Anthony has 202 inches of snow. The warmest temperature I can remember was 68 degrees. St. Anthony was located on the AC &W Pinetree Line. The Pinetree Line was a series of radar stations located across the northern United States and Canada.

AC & W stands for Aircraft Control and Warning. I guess we were looking for the Russians to invade by way of the North Pole. The official mission was to guide interceptor aircraft toward unidentified intruders picked up on the unit’s radar scopes.

At Saint Anthony, we had both search and height-finder radar. The purpose of the search radar was to pick up the distance and azimuth of the target. The height-finder identified the height of the target. Information of each target was sent back to the main computers at Goose Bay, Labrador. While I was up there, I don’t remember us scrambling any planes that intercepted an actual enemy.

After I got out of the military, I found it easy to get a job. In fact, the first day I was home, a person came to the door, knocked, offered me a job and I was employed. In that era, there were those who embraced troops coming home and others despising them. The Vietnam War was not popular, but taking it out on those who served was not right. I was lucky to have such a fine gentleman knock on my door.

At this point in life, I don’t feel the Vietnam War was a wise decision by our leaders, but I also do not know everything that went into the decisions. I do know that I wanted to serve in the military at the time, and I did prefer the U.S. Air Force.

As I have aged, I look closely at what our leaders do and have frankly been disappointed since Ronald Reagan left the presidency. Presently, I am wondering where our leaders will come from. The remaining major presidential candidates in this election include Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. I cannot picture any of the four as the future leader of our country, but one of them will be, and I will be hopeful that the next president exceeds my expectations.

My biggest concern is where are our future leaders going to come from? Election of the president and congress is driven by money and owing to those who contribute money. This includes special interest groups, unions, industries, PACs, super PACs and even those outside of the United States. I perceive that it is not about the people anymore.

Donald Trump, if nothing else, has proved that you can run a presidential campaign without the input of money from special interest groups. He may not sound very good at times, but maybe it is because he is not a polished politician. Due to the actions of our present elected officials, the president and Congress, I can understand why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are receiving so many votes.

Our young people, in particular, are very worried about their future. I hope it is a good one.

Al Klemm is a retired Beaufort County Commissioner.