Updated: 7 March 2000
Posted: 7 March 2000
THE BIRTH AND DEATH OF A TRADITION
By: Wm. M. (Bill) Gornik CMSgt. USAF (Ret.)
© Wm. M. (Bill) Gornik
Chapter I.............The Beginning
Chapter II..Edwards AFB & the YF-12 & Chapter III..Birth of the Fakawees
Chapter IV..Birth of the Tie-Cutting Ceremony & Chapter V..Special Tie-Cutting Ceremonies of Note
Chapter VI..The End of An Era &Chapter VII..The Grand Finale
The story you are about to read is a true and unabridged account of the origin of the 9th Organizational Maintenance Squadronís (9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB, California) Fakawee Flag and the events which led up to the now famous Tie Cutting Ceremony associated with the SR-71 Blackbird. Since some of the antics cited may seem preposterous, it should be noted that these events took place during the period 1964 thru 1971. It is extremely doubtful that similar events actions (antics) by present day Air Force Noncommissioned Officers would ever be condoned, much less encouraged. The author credits and sincerely commends former Commanders, Senior Officers (including Former Commander-in-Chief, SAC General. Bruce K. Holloway) and such dignitaries as Senator Barry Goldwater (MGen USAFR) for understanding and their belief in the philosophy that the tradition and harmless (albeit preposterous) antics go hand in hand with dedication and exceptionally high morale.
The author wishes to further emphasize that the mission of the 9th SRW always came first. Whether it was a training flight or a ìhard missionî, the name of the game was always flight safety, professional maintenance and correction of all in-flight discrepancies, bed the bird down and then, and only then, go to the club and let it ìall hang outî.
February 29, 1964 was a typical wintry day day at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, as Chief of Maintenance Quality Control. I always preferred to come in about an hour early to read all the in-coming messages, check on functional test flights, work and flight schedules, inspection requirements, etc. Coming in early also gave me the opportunity to read the morning Idaho Statesman newspaper and catch up on the latest world news. Little did I realize that this day would be the beginning of another exciting episode in my Air Force career.
After reading the front page of the ìStatesmanî, I casually turned the first page and there in the upper left hand corner of page 3 was a rather fuzzy picture of what appeared to be a sleek black missile shaped aircraft. President Lyndon B. Johnson, attempting to gain a political coup over Senator Barry Goldwater, his opponent for the Presidency, announced the existence of the ìA-11î...... The news release stated that several A-11s where undergoing extensive testing at Edwards AFB, California and that in fact they had already flown 2000 mph and at altitudes above 70,000 feet. (Note: The test aircraft at Edwards AFB were three YF-12A Interceptors, not A-11ís as cited in the news release).
As I read the news release, I was fascinated by the appearance of the plane and especially itís speed and altitude capabilities. At the time, I didnít have the slightest hint that I would soon be involved in this latest exciting and highly sophisticated program. In fact, I was contemplating retiring in a year or two with 20 years active duty because it seemed as though I had reached the pinnacle of my career and there were no more challenges. Several weeks later, I was advised by the 9th Bomb Wing Personnel Office that I was being transferred to Edwards AFB, CA on a classified assignment. I was unable to learn anything about the assignments other than the fact that all selectees had to meet several strict requirements, i.e. no less than a high school education, no out standing debts, possess a top secret security clearance, superior effectiveness reports and if married, spouse must not be a foreign national. Needless to say, the selection requirements, exude an air of excitement. There were two other selectees from Mountain Home AFB -- Master Sargent Don Smith, who was a Supply Sergeant and Staff Sergeant John Spek who was an Electronics Technician. It wasnít until several years later that I learned that the initial 50 Strategic Air Commands NCOís were specialists in all fields of aircraft maintenance and support. I did realize however, that most of the selectees were from B-58 or U-2 units which is understandable considering the type of aircraft and ultimate mission requirements we would be involved with. I felt especially honored to be the ranking NCO and the only aircraft & engine maintenance NCO from other than a B-58 or U-2 unit. Needless to say, any thoughts of retiring from the Air Force were quickly placed on the back burner.
© Wm. M. (Bill) Gornik
Chapter 2 & 3
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