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Interview with Jacob Younginer [September 30, 2003]

Frederick Wallace:

Today is Tuesday, September 30, 2003. This is the beginning of an interview with Mr. Jacob Younginer. Mr. Younginer was a career air force officer. This interview is being conducted at his place of work in Tucker, Georgia. My name is Frederick Wallace. I am the interviewer. And Mr. Younginer, as I had explained to you before, this is your story. We want you to tell it in your own words. Just take us from the beginning of your military career to the date of your retirement. Tell it as you would like us to hear it and make sure that you cover the important points that you want to cover. Will you begin, please.

Jacob Younginer:

Yes. I was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the Air Force officer training school program at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, on 10 November, 1964. After commissioning I transferred to Lawry air force base in Denver, Colorado, where I attended munitions officer training school. And upon completion of that I went to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, where I was initially the loading officer for the 539th fighter interceptor squadron and air defense command unit at McGuire. McGuire, as you know, is the headquarters -- is a large MAC installation and we were a tenant unit there. They also had an Air National Guard Base there that flew the F-105 thunderchief. But I was in the 539th, as I said, the F-106 unit. And we were responsible for defending the United States against any infiltration from outside. Interesting job. As I said, I started off as the munitions loading officer. Just responsible for loading the aircraft. But after a few months I wound up being the only munitions officer left there on the installation and so I had the entire munitions complex to take care of. Munitions involved anything to do with explosives or armament on the aircraft itself. And we loaded it, we unloaded it, we maintained the bombs, missiles and other munitions. We also maintained that part of the aircraft system, which was an interesting job. And it lasted for about 22 months. And then right after making First Lieutenant I wound up being transferred to Binh Thuy air force base in Vietnam. Binh Thuy was down on the Mekong Delta. And very interesting place to be. Very hot. Very wet. Very rainy during the raining season and very dry during the dry season. And I was the youngest advisor to the Vietnamese and the youngest person in the what was then called air force advisory team seller as the first lieutenant and only lieutenant in the outfit. So I got all of the junior officer chores to do in addition to maintaining my job as the advisor to the Vietnamese munitions officer and munitions team there. And --

Frederick Wallace:

Let me stop you for a minute. Why did you choose to go into the air force?

Jacob Younginer:

It appealed to me in high school. I liked the uniform. I liked being around aircraft. I would go down to the airport and just watch aircraft flying back and forth. And the closest air force base was an air National guard base in sumpter, south Carolina. And once or twice in my life I got to go down and watch that. I had a blue/green color deficiency, still have, and could not become a pilot. But I enjoyed working around them and being around them. And I guess I just got JP FOR IT and jet fuel in my blood that it was wonderful just to be around aircraft all my life. And that's something that I enjoyed so much then. Hasn't changed. I still enjoy air shows. I still enjoy going out to the air force base and watching them fly. And my wife can't understand it why after all these years I still just get a real charge just being around the military aircraft and watching them do their thing.

Frederick Wallace:

I understand.

Jacob Younginer:

Anyway, Vietnam. I was -- that started my EOD career because the Vietnamese did not have an EOD contingent there. And me being the munitions officer and not knowing any better, when they put one out into the rice paddies one day, some napalm bombs on it, the commander came in and said you guys are going to have to go out and get the napalm out of the way and safe it so the farmer can come back and harvest his rice later on and tend his fields. So we went out and took care of it and didn't realize the danger involved. God takes care of fools and poor people and he took care of us that time. After returning from Vietnam, they sent me to EOD school where I learned how much danger I had been putting myself into. Scared me a lot, but from then on I knew what to do and a little bit about it instead of just going out and doing what I thought was right based upon the munitions experience. And I had a very wonderful Career as an EOD officer for about five years after that. From there --

Frederick Wallace:

Can you explain EOD for us?

Jacob Younginer:

EOD is Explosive Ordinance Disposal, what the civilians commonly referred to as the bomb squad. They will go out any time there's a problem with a munitions item, explosive, then the EOD or explosive ordinance disposal team is the one that's responsible for going out and taking care of it. If a bomb or some device is called in, a bomb scare, we would go out and we would search the building, declare it safe if we didn't find anything, or take care of what we call render it safe if we did find anything, and make sure that after we evacuated all the civilians we took care of the problem, whatever it was. That is true still in civilian life. We find out now that in civilian life it's a lot easier for the people involved in most cases. Because when we did it most of the part we did was a manual operation. We had to go in and take care of it ourselves. Now if you see it on TV you see a lot of these remote devices, robots, and all that going in and taking care of the actual bomb. When I went out to take care of it this {showing hands} was my robot. We took care of it by hand for the most part and got the job done that way. A lot more stress, but a lot more pleasure and pride in what you had done when you got it done that way. But that was the EOD job. And for the military it's a lot harder because you have so much of a variety of different possibilities all the way from the terrorist-type bomb to the conventional bomb that just falls off of an airplane. And quite frankly, there's a few times, and I can't talk about it, a few times during my career we were involved with the nuclear chemical biological weapons. So you had every possibility and you had to be trained for every possibility. And to survive all of that you had to be pretty good at what you did. We lost a few people along the way that I knew personally and that was always a very traumatic experience because it was such a small close-knit group of people that most of the time somebody knew somebody involved somewhere. And so if anything happened to anybody it was something that you felt personally. As I was saying, that was how I got started in the EOD career field. And when I got back from Vietnam they finally sent me out for the formal training and let me learn how to do it the proper way, which was not too much different from the way I was doing it, but I learned a lot of the hazards of things that I was doing wrong in the beginning so I was able to avoid those and have a long career and come out with all 10 fingers still. From EOD school I went to Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas, where I was the second in command for the 27th munitions maintenance squadron. Little rock air force base was responsible for b-58 hustlers and titan II missiles, neither one of which is in the inventory any longer. Also 106 is also gone. But the Titan II missiles were very large missiles that we had on strategic defense and the B-58 Hustler was the fastest bomber in the inventory at that time. And at Little Rock I had the distinction of being the team chief for the only complete blackout safing of a Titan II missile. They shut off all power, all lights, everything in the silo, set it up with a dummy warhead, very similar to what it would be if it was an actual explosive, but it was a nonexplosive warhead on it, and SAID GO in and do just what you would do if this was an explosive warhead, real conditions, total blackout, total conditions where you have absolutely no outside power or anything, what you would do if there had been an accident. And we went in and we did it. They didn't think much of the idea of us being put into that type of jeopardy later on because this thing's a very tall thing. And right before I got there one guy missed a step on a ledge and fell to his death. And that could have easily happened to one of us if we weren't extremely careful working in there with just flashlights and total blackout conditions. But we did it. It was safe. We did it all perfectly. And they all commended us for showing that it could be done because I'm told nobody actually ever done it and that worked out very well for us.

Frederick Wallace:

How many men were on your crew who performed duties like this?

Jacob Younginer:

Me and two others. {Laughing} we had a team of only five so we couldn't very well have a lot of people to do it. And it took us a couple of days to get it all done. We got the initial part where it was safe to just leave it overnight and everything done on the very first date. And then the rest of that time was just going in and taking off this munition component, this explosive component, that explosive component, until we had everything taken off of it and all of it pulled out of this silo that it was in and safely packaged up and ready to send back for disposal. So it took a couple of days to get it all done overall and working long days at that, but with three people we did it and did it safely. As I said, proved that it could be done. The procedures are always there for a lot of things but until you actually go out and do it, in the back of a lot of people's mind is that question of will this really work under those conditions? We proved it would. From little Rock I got spared, if you will, and had to have the daunting task of being reassigned to Hickam air force base in Hawaii. Sounds like the greatest thing that could happen to you and a lot of ways it was. I learned how to scuba dive and do a lot of other things there. But in three and a half years at Hickam, I probably got to spend right at one year on the base itself. The rest of that time it was traveling someplace around the world. While I was there at Hickam, I was in and out of every country in the Pacific that we were allowed to travel to as Americans and a number of other places. So it was a lot of time on the road and not a lot of time sitting in Hickam in Hawaii enjoying the wonderful sights and sounds of Oahu and the beaches. But it was a great assignment and I enjoyed it very much. While I was at Hickam I started off as in the command as a staff officer munitions and EOD. But after a few months I got reassigned to the base, Hickam air force base base EOD detachment as the commander and the munitions officer for the base. And that was really exciting. That was why we deployed so often. As the base EOD officer I had people that worked for me out at wake island and a few others out at Johnston island. And so I got to go out at various times to visit those units. Wake island was a pretty safe place to visit and pretty calm and routine. But Johnston island is where they stored all the chemical munitions that had been held around in storage for years, and years, and years. And that was an experience to go out there each time and you put on your chemical gear and wander around, make sure that all the animals in the cages and everything is still alive. Because if something died, first thing was the panic of whether or not there was a leak. And we had to make sure that that didn't happen. So until you confirmed that there was no leak, any time an animal died there was a lot of concern.

Frederick Wallace:

Let me back you up for a minute. Were you married at the time you went to Vietnam?

Jacob Younginer:

Yes. And a fairly newly wed. I got married while I was at McGuire. And I stayed there about 22 months, no children yet, and off to Vietnam I went. So that was a tough thing to happen. But the only R and R I got to go on while I was at -- in Vietnam was to Hawaii. And at the time I had no idea that I would wind up being stationed at Hickam later on. I went to Hickam in Hawaii for my R and R, met my wife there, and we spent five days, six nights -- six days and five nights there in Hawaii, and enjoyed each other, and got to know each other a little bit after nine months in Vietnam. And I backed up as long as I could because that traumatic experience of separation and going overseas even to a war and leaving a new wife and all of that behind is really tough. And we both suffered a lot, I think, by being apart that young. And so when I got there I didn't want to do like some people I knew that come home as soon as you could and come back on your R and R, and meet your wife, and you go back and you've got longer to go than you had the first time. So I wanted to put just as much time and get as much of it out of the way as I possibly could before I came to meet her, spend that time with her. So when I go back I could say, I don't have that long to go before I can come home and be with you full time. And that helped a lot. I think if I had to do it over again I would do it the same way again. But, yes, I was married and, yes, the family separation is really, really, really hard.

Frederick Wallace:

How did you maintain contact?

Jacob Younginer:

At that particular time we didn't have the phone card. We didn't even have telephones that we could use to call home. Only way that I could hear her voice, call and hear her voice, was through the shortwave radio. And we couldn't do that very often. I think I did that twice while I was there. One time setting up an R and R in Hawaii. And the first one I had to cancel because before the trip came up I wound up getting wounded in Vietnam and spent the time that I was expecting to be in Hawaii with her in the hospital recuperating from wounds suffered from a mortar attack. So I called her then and told her that we had to reschedule it again and set it all up. And the only thing we had to do at that time to keep in contact was to write letters. So I wrote a letter every day. Before I fold up my tent and go to sleep at night I'd write a letter home no matter what. And that was it. We didn't have computers and all the other things to send e-mails and sort of thing the way they can do now in the current gulf war. We just write a letter. Slow mail, as they call it. And that was all that was available.

Frederick Wallace:

If you're comfortable, tell us about the mortar attack.

Jacob Younginer:

Yes, I can talk about it. Get very comfortable about it because we had one almost every week for the entire time that I was there. It started when I went to Binh Thuy -- the first few days were in Saigon. There's an orientation. Then I went down to Binh Thuy the following Sunday, that first Sunday that I was in the country. And we had that one the very first night. So we had the bunkers out and we'd rush out and get in the bunkers if we had a chance. If you didn't you rolled under your bed if they start hitting very close before you got a chance when the sirens went off. And as I said, almost every week we had one. The one that got me we had built revetments around in front of the building so if something hit out close it would not come through the door, come right into you. So the only problem with that is when you came out the door you had to go down to the end of the building, go around the revetment to reach the bunker outside. And as I started out, I headed out across the field toward the bunker. I realized that they were hitting close to me and I dove into a little trench there and was laying down. And I covered my arms over my head and it's covered as I was laying facing down, and the one hit in the roof right above me, penetrated some, and went down into that a little bit, penetrated my back a little bit, and put one about two inches down, straight down in my heel and my foot. And that was the one that was the most troublesome. And that was the one that put me in the hospital for awhile. You see in these western movies where they take this little probe and stick in and find the bullet, and pull it back out, and they give the poor guy something to bite down on, somebody holds him steady? Well, they had about six big guys to hold me down. They didn't give me the bullet, they didn't give me the drink of alcohol that they were supposed to numb it with first, and they didn't give me anything else. And they rammed this thing in, and pulled it out, and then they packed it. And these guys were holding me down the whole time. They got a pretty tough job because that hurt. And I thought it hurt really bad then. But later on that day -- and this happened at night. Later on that day when they came in to change the dressing, they packed that wound and I didn't realize how bad it was going to be until he got it with some tongs and he jerked all that packing out of the hole in the foot. And when he did that I don't think I stayed alert or alive for awhile, it seemed. And he packed it back down. And the only thing I can say about that is each time they changed that dressing after that it was less pain and less suffering than it was the time before. But I still remember it very well and I certainly don't wish that on anybody ever again. But the problem was -- part of the problem was I got hurt about 10 or 11 o'clock at night and the attack was still going. And it lasted the rest of the night and into the next day. And so they penetrated the base that time and they was searching for them. They knew they were inside the perimeter someplace. And it was five or six of them. And they finally caught up with them about two days later. But that night, because the firefight was still going, and they penetrated the base, and they were searching for them, and a lot of shooting going back and forth, they rolled me and two other guys that were wounded into the bunker that I was talking about, finally got into the bunker, and they just left us there until the next day. No care or nothing to worry about. Just left us alone and continued with that. Well, the next morning they brought us out, and checked out to see how badly we were hurt and that sort of thing. And that's when the treatment started. By that time the wounds had swollen up so much and it was nothing they said they could do as far as painkiller or anything there except possibly to put me completely to sleep to do it. So they just held me, go at it the way it is and let me suffer that, too. I survived it, but it was painful. Anyway, that's how I got the purple heart and that's how I got the wounds and all that in Vietnam. and because of that, as I said, I had to cancel the first R and R and told the wife, I'll meet you later on sometime. I didn't know exactly when until I got out of the hospital, and got squared away, and could walk okay. And I think it's something that -- I didn't tell her why we were canceling. I didn't want to worry her, and I didn't want to worry my parents and my family back in south Carolina. I'm originally from Lexington, South Carolina. I didn't want anybody to worry about it so I didn't tell them I had been wounded. I didn't say a thing about that at all. And nobody found out until after I got back from Vietnam, went through munitions school, was down at Little Rock, Arkansas, when they had the award of the purple heart for me -- didn't get the purple heart until later on when I was at Little Rock. And it made the base paper with a picture of me in it. And I didn't think that my wife would know what a purple heart was so I didn't bother to tell her about that either. I found out that she did know what a purple heart was and that created quite a furor when she found out that I kept that from her for almost a year. I thought, well, you know, don't worry about it, don't say anything. Then she told me parents about it and oh, boy, everybody was wondering why didn't I say something. What are you going to say, you know? Just don't worry anybody and let it go. But while I was at Hickam -- I'm sorry. I think I got us to Little Rock, Arkansas. From little Rock I went to Hickam in Hawaii, as I was saying. And while I was at Hickam, the bad guys went up and blew up Camron bay in Vietnam, munitions storage area. And we were part of the pullout back in the late '70's -- early '70's, late '72. We were pulling out of Vietnam. They went in there and blew up the ammunition storage area. And as I said, I didn't spend a whole lot of time on Hickam air force base, but I got a call about 2:30 in the afternoon that I was going to be on a plane headed for Vietnam at 4:30 that same afternoon to go in to Hickam -- to Binh Thuy air force base to start the cleanup -- Camron Bay air force base. I'm sorry. To start the cleanup of this munitions storage area. And they were bringing in people from various places throughout the Pacific to come in and be on the team for it. I was going to run the team for it. And at that time I was the captain. So I got on the plane. My wife was not home. I had a daughter by then. They were not home when I went home and started grabbing clothes and stuffing them in a bag to pack. This was at the time before I had learned that always have a bag packed and ready to go anywhere in the world. At that particular time I had a few things set aside. I always had a shaving kit and things like that set aside so I can Go at a moment's notice. But to go off for two months, I was not packed -- prepared for that. So I went home and was packing, and the guy was there waiting with me to take me to the airport. I was going to fly out civilian. And usually right now you would have to be there at least two hours before to go flying out on an aircraft international flight. And I had two hours from the time they notified me to catch the plane. And I had such a short-noticed time that I got to fly from Hickam Air Force Base Hawaii to Saigon first class in a 747 just to get me a seat on the plane. So it was a nice experience to go all the way to Saigon. and then from Saigon to Camron bay I got on the C-130 where they were deploying a village of Vietnamese, and I had to change from the uniform that I had on into the fatigues to get on there. And I remember we had chickens, and goats, and everything else you could think of in terms of animals that they would have all on that same plane with us. And we sat in the webbed seats around the side, held on to the pallets and stuff they had for them Deploying this village of Vietnamese. And so you go from first class to last class in a blink of an eye. We got to Camron bay and I started organizing everything for the cleanup. And we went in and started cleaning it up. And interesting thing about that, and it's something that I'm quite proud of, that was the first cleanup of its type that we can find anywhere in recorded history where people involved in the cleanup did not get decorations for it. And the reason we did not get decorations for it, as we were told later, was because it was also the first cleanup of that type that they could find any recorded history of where there was nobody killed or injured. And I was proud of the fact that I was the team chief. I was the only officer there. I was the one in charge. I was running the show. And I can come away and say nobody was killed or injured. Came close a few times. We were lucky. I'll admit that. But nobody was killed or injured. And consequently they said, well, it must not have been that very dangerous so they don't need decorations for it. And I would gladly give away any possible decoration for the fact that I can say I ran the only one where nobody was killed or injured. At least the first.

Frederick Wallace:

When you say they, "came close," was it because of hostile fire or accidental -- or accidents that came close?

Jacob Younginer:

Hostile fire. But at one point -- and I and another, we ran all the munitions together and assemble it together all day, and as the team. And then at the end of the day we would set it up and me and one other person, two other people, would go in and blow it all up, burn it up, whatever, start the fire, start the explosive, countercharge it, and blow it all that we had accumulated that day so it wouldn't sit around. But as you were walking through picking it all up, there were so many times that you would pick up these little grenades and all that, put them in boxes of sand, and bring them over to the area where you were going to dispose of them later on that day. And as you walk away, you get about the distance from me to you, and you hear something explode behind you. Those things would sit out there in the sun and they would just cook off. And we were just lucky enough that none of them ever cooked off when somebody was picking it up and carrying it. But a lot of times, whatever it was it would cook off before you got to it or it would cook off right after you left. And that was the scary part of that whole operation and that was the very dangerous part. That was something we had to deal with every day. And other time when I almost got it, really got it, was we didn't have a lot of security around the area. As I say, this was during the pullout and most of the Americans were gone. There were no other large amount of security there. There was a military police unit down the road some ways for us and they retrieved us about the incident I'm about to talk about. But some guys sneaked in where we were setting up all the stuff to blow it and they decided, I guess, to help us a little bit. They triggered it and set it off. And we saw the footprints and saw people running away later on and knew that they were Vietnamese. But we didn't have the security posted around there to prevent that from happening because we didn't even think it would at the time. They set it off. It started exploding with us in the area there. And at the end of the day, as I say, me and one or two other guys would always be the only ones left. I would stay out and be involved in that myself. But it had trapped two of us in there as it started exploding. And this stuff was exploding, rockets were firing around and all of that with us there. All we could do was try to bury ourselves in the sand and hope it didn't hit right on top of us. And we stayed there for awhile, what seemed like an eternity, before the military police got sent in an armored personnel carrier and we crawled in it and they got us out of it. After awhile, later on that evening, it all exploded out and calmed down. But then we had to and start picking it all up again and cleaning it all where they had messed it up again. But I can tell you security was a lot better from then on. I can tell you we didn't let anybody slip in and do anything wild and crazy on us. As I said, it was the only time it got really, really hazardous, through no fault of our own, no direct fault of our own, should have had better security. But we didn't have the security at our disposal at that point. And that was the time I had to be rescued out of it. Like I said, just very lucky. But we all got out safely. No one was injured. And still the first one, possibly the only one, I'm not sure, hopefully they done it again without that, but that was the first one and only one for Vietnam. I'm sure of that. From Hickam --

Frederick Wallace:

So you left without telling your wife that you were going when --

Jacob Younginer:

She came home as I was walking out the door. I'm sorry. Yes. She came in as I was walking out. But I had most of the stuff in this guy's car already and was locking the door when she come driving up. And she drove up and, "what's going -- what are you doing home?" I said, "I'm leaving. I've got a plane to catch. I'm headed to Vietnam." "When are you coming back?" "I don't know." And my daughter was just about six months old at the time, I think. So I had been going off and on, like I said, traveling so much that she was kind of accustomed to that. There had been other times that I left and just left a note. And I had already written a note then, left a note and said I had to leave, I'll be back whenever, wherever -- if I could tell where I was going. Sometimes I couldn't and didn't tell her where I was going. Just try to tell her when I would be back, if I knew. This particular time I didn't know When I would be back. I knew I was going to Vietnam, but I really at that point didn't know exactly where in Vietnam I was going. So it was a little bit different. she did come driving up. She never got in the house before I left. So I just told her I was leaving, and hopped in this guy's car, and he dropped me off at the airport, and that was it. That was as close as I came -- it was one of those deals where you don't get to kiss the wife good-bye. You just go. It's not the best way to depart, but you do whatever you have to do. That's what I had to do at that time. From Hawaii I had just been extended for the fourth year. About halfway through that I came in to work one morning and my boss says, "I got a notice to write an OER," officer evaluation report, "on you and it's a change of station officer evaluation report." He said, "they haven't told me I'm leaving. Do you know anything about you leaving?" And I said, "no." He said, "well, I only have it for you. And I'm not leaving because they didn't send it to me to write on any of the rest of the people that work for me so it must be you. So check and see what's going on with you." So I called personnel and they said, "yes, you're going to Wright-Patterson air force base in Ohio. You're going to the air force institute of technology to pick up a master's degree. So I had a few weeks to get out. And the wife was pregnant with the second child at that time. She had gone back to be with her mother for delivery of the child. I was planning on leaving to go back by the time the child was born already, but this came a little earlier. So I wound up getting out of Hickam in a big hurry and going back to Wright-Patterson air force back in Ohio for a master's degree program.

Frederick Wallace:

Had you applied for the program?

Jacob Younginer:

No.

Frederick Wallace:

So you were just selected?

Jacob Younginer:

I was just selected and was totally surprised. But as I said, I hadn't applied for the EOD program either when I got into it. And the funny part about that is when you're in the EOD program you get what they call hazardous duty pay. Well, I hadn't applied for the EOD program, but I was put into it. So I went through and I did it the rest of the time in Vietnam. I went through the school. And I was at Little Rock air force base and I had never been paid any of the hazardous duty pay. and I went down there and I said, "wait a minute. Everybody else is getting hazardous duty pay, why not me?" And he said, "well, we don't have a volunteer statement on file for you." And I said, "well, no, because I never signed one." He said, "well, you're not going to get paid until you sign one." So I had to volunteer for it after the fact. And I got my back hazardous duty pay. I signed up for it. They said until you do you're not going to get it. And so anyway, I got that. And I went from Hickam to Wright-Pat, went through the master's degree program there. It was interesting that during that master's degree program and I -- remember, this is 1974, so it's quite awhile ago. But I was going through the master's degree program, started in '73, graduated in '74. And during the masters thesis, me and my master's partner, were working on automating hospital records, medical records. Until then they were all manual. And I had had a problem, because my son was a junior, of them keeping his records and my records straight. So I figured that would be something that if it was computerized it would probably be a lot easier to do that. Computers were just sort of coming into their own then and I was getting involved with it in the master's program. And I liked computers. So we decided to see if we could computerize that and work on that. As we were working on it we found out all kinds of other things. People were being misreported. One man was reported that he had a bad pap smear. Of course that didn't alarm him too much, but the lady that had the bad pap smear, they didn't know who she was at that point. So probably would alarm her. We found out that sort of thing and we did this. And we were working on the thesis to show that it could be done. We did a prototype of it and was cataloguing a lot of medical records into the computer. And especially with all the lab results and everything. We were floating along fat and happy and about three weeks, I guess it was, before it was supposed to be finished, somewhere in that neighborhood, our thesis advisor died, had a heart attack and died. And so we were assigned another thesis advisor and he wanted a totally new way of reporting and cataloguing all the data and everything. And we got it done. We came out with good grades on it. But I tell you that last few weeks were a nightmare in terms of trying to get everything done. And was happy to see that once we got it done the air force adopted that. And everywhere you go everything is computerized, all the medical records. but the air force adopted it. Started it right there at Wright-Pat as a prototype from our thesis. And I was very proud of that. From Wright-Pat, after the masters I went to Whiteman Air Force base Missouri as a missile maintenance officer for minuteman missiles. And then stayed there approximately 20 months. And from there back to Wright-Patterson air force base as the staff munitions officer -- a staff munitions officer. And there I was responsible for development of small missiles, the missiles that carry around on aircraft, and the what they call now smart bombs, a lazy guided infrared missiles and bombs. And they were the type of weapons that they use for the precision work in both gulf wars. So I was involved with the actual development of those. And it worked out to be something that I enjoyed doing. And it's still a lot of travel involved in that. From Wright-Pat I went to Ramstein in Germany. My boss at Wright-Pat had transferred to Ramstein before that. He was the guy that I thought he hated me, to be honest with you. He would always aggravate me at every turn he could. And I said, I don't know why in the world this guy hates me so. But he finally got orders to go to Ramstein and he left. And I was at Wright-Pat. I moved up. I had gotten promoted. And I went off TDY to Andrews air force base maryland. And I was there when the -- anyway, I was there -- I can't remember the name of the guy, but there was an assassination -- Anwar Sadat?

Frederick Wallace:

Yes.

Jacob Younginer:

When he was assassinated. I was there and we were watching a little of it on TV. And I got called in that I had a phone call from my boss, my new boss, back at Wright-pat. And he said, "I got some good news for you and some bad news for you." And I said, "Oh, boy." And I said, "give me the bad news first." and he said, "in that case I got some good news, some bad news, and some good news." He said, "The good news you got an assignment to Germany. And the bad news is you're going to be working for that old boss again." I won't call his name. And he said, "But the other good news is he asked for you by name." And I said, "my gosh. Why would he ever do that?" It wasn't really "my gosh," but anyway, translated into what you can record was my gosh. And he said, "I don't know either." I said, "he tried to fire me the whole time I was here. He just made my life miserable trying to fire me." He said, "yeah, but he asked for you by name. And when we came down and personnel said when he asked for you he said, "no, we got other plans for him." so a few hours later his general called our general and asked for you by name. And at that point we said, "okay. He's coming." So I went off to Germany. And I got there and i walked and he said, "you know, I was just horrible treated you the way when we were together at Wright-Pat. But when I got away from there I realized the wonderful Job that you were doing, especially when I got here and saw what I had here. And I decided I wanted you to come over and run this place for me." And he said, "I can guarantee you that I will not be the kind of person that I was before." And he was different. We had a wonderful Relationship from then on. And he said, "I just realized that what a wonderful Job you were doing and I want you to come over and do it for me again." He said, "I don't want you to do anything different. And if I start to get out of line a little bit, you just mention it to me and I'll -- I can guarantee you that I will stop." He never did. He was wonderful From then on. And he was a great guy to work for from then on. But he would do little things before like I tried to go swimming at lunch time every day. And he would have something on his desk, and I could see it there, and knew I was going to have to do it for him. but he would hold it until he see me get up, and get my hat, and start to walk toward the door to go out for lunch. Then he'd call me and say, "I got this for you to do right away." And it was just something that I could have done the day before, any time. But, yes, he admitted, "I would just hold it just to do this to you. And I don't know why I do that. I just get a kick out of it." But he stopped and everything was wonderful. And so at Ramstein I was involved with a number of programs. One of them that I can talk about, a lot of them I can't, was when we started a Nato interoperability. And what that was, we had aircraft, safe American aircraft, that would go into a German base. And they couldn't even refuel them a lot of times. They didn't have the equipment or the technology or whatever to safely refuel or especially to load munitions on it if there was a war going on where you can send it on off and continue to fight. And we had bases -- NATO bases all over Europe. No nation could do anything for the aircraft for another nation. And one of the tasks I had was set up a program, do whatever is necessary, and work with all the people so that if a Belgium aircraft came to one of our bases we could refuel it and rearm it or German or whatever. And I set that program up. And it became a great hit. And it was something the general and everybody over there was very proud of. It took a lot of work. You go into this base and you find somebody that can speak English and you work with them. If you got anyone who they couldn't speak English, and I didn't speak their language, of course, then hand signals and everything else. But we got the job done. And it was a lot of fun. And it helps me a lot now in my current job because when I got here I was hired as the second shift -- to run the second shift here at Sears. I shouldn't say Sears. I'm sorry. But I was to run the second shift here. And I had people from 18 other countries besides the United States that were working for me on that second shift. And a lot of them didn't speak hardly any English and I didn't speak their language, but we communicated. We got along well together. And that's a great part of the training that I got from working in Europe with the NATO interoperability, working with all the people from the other countries. And I think that one of the things that I have always been able to do well, and I'm proud of, is build good teams of people that work well together. I proved that here and I proved that at a number of other places. When I left Ramstein I first went to Lindsey air station in Germany in Wiesbaden. And I set up -- didn't set it up, but I ran the director of resource management operation. That was supply, transportation, civil engineering, accounting and finance, logistics, plans, a number of units like that to take care of all the operational part of the base itself. And I had a wonderful Career there. We had some fantastic operation there. And at the end of that time I got reassigned to my last duty station, which was Hanscom air force base in Massachusettes.

Frederick Wallace:

While you were in Germany You were reassigned within the country?

Jacob Younginer:

Three years at Ramstein, and then went up to Wiesbaden for another three years.

Frederick Wallace:

So you spent quite a bit of time in Germany?

Jacob Younginer:

Yes.

Frederick Wallace:

I'm interested to know whether or not you received any awards and decorations with this program you set up at Ramstein?

Jacob Younginer:

No. Well, I say no. I got a meritorious service medal out of it, yes. That was a big part of the justification for the meritorious service medal. But in terms of other recognition for that, a lot of it was things that we didn't want to do a lot of talking about at the time. It wasn't classified, but it was somewhat sensitive because at first they didn't know if it would ever work and so you didn't want to publish all of this. And a few other things that I worked on can't talk about at all. But that we finally got to work. But most of that in case it didn't work you didn't want to go out and say anything about it and have it fall on your face. So we didn't say a lot about it at the time. And then when we found out that it was working and you got the people enthusiastically involved in it -- and like I said, I enjoy aircraft. I get a great kick out of watching aircraft. I don't care what kind of aircraft, jet aircraft or whatever. And I like going up in them. I'm not a pilot, but I like going up in aircraft and flying around. You get a few people that like aircraft and like to see the different kinds of aircraft and like to be around them, and you build that kind of a team, and that kind of a spirit, we'll make anything work. and that was the thing with the people from those other countries. You could bring an American aircraft in there, they got to go through it, look all over it, feel it, and play with it, and load it, and do things that they were normally doing only for their own aircraft, and get to just get a good feel for it, and get to work with it, and you build up a little spirit of that. And they were all ready to have competitions. When I left there we were having competitions who could load the other person's aircraft the fastest, and refuel it, and get it ready to go back on a mission the fastest. And that's just something that you build that kind of a spirit and it goes wild. So I got the meritorious service medal out of it. But a lot of the other possible recognition didn't come because we didn't want to talk about it a lot. And at that time the cold war was going very strong so you didn't want to let the other side know what you was doing and all that as much as possible. So we just didn't do a lot of talking about a lot of it.

Frederick Wallace:

I assume that your wife and family were with you in Germany the whole time?

Jacob Younginer:

To tell the truth, when I went to Germany, is about the time me and the first wife split up. And I spent the first three years there most of that time alone. And then when I got up to Lindsey, I got married again. And this time I have a German wife. And we got married -- we were going together the last few years. And then when I got orders to come back to the states we had to make a decision, either we're going to get married or we're going to split up. We got married. And that was 17 years ago so it's working out pretty well. But that's when I got married the second time to the lady from Germany. And as I said, it's worked out quite well. She's adapted to America a lot better than she thought she would being away from home. But we go back to visit once a year, at least. If we don't, her mother comes over here. And that's the key thing to it is to keep them visiting and to keep her happy. As long as you got a happy wife at home everything else will work out just fine.

Frederick Wallace:

Amen.

Jacob Younginer:

But as I said, last assignment I went to Lindsey air station in Germany. That's when she went on with me. And I became the director of logistics at Lindsey. And the boss called me in when I got there and he says, "you have a reputation for building good teams with high morale, and that's exactly what you're here to do. I'll be honest with you up front. You're going into the worst outfit on the base. Logistics outfit has low morale problems. It's been written up every year -- and other teams come in here, for low morale, for just being a lousy outfit. And I'm giving it to you. I'm going to ask you to fix it." Well, a little over a year later we won the command award as the best unit in the command. And we won it three out of four years.

Frederick Wallace:

Excellent.

Jacob Younginer:

And I established a reputation -- and we worked just wonderful. We self-help renovated our facilities, and took care of facilities and everything around us. We built up from virtually no participation in anything around the base until we had four teams in the base intramurral tournaments, two in A league, two in B league, and we won the championship in both leagues. And we just did things together. Now, there's a lot of things I did that I was lucky, I guess, and got away with. But I would go to the games -- couldn't play them. I'm getting a little old in the tooth for playing softball with them. But I would go to the games and I would write a sports report. And if they did bad -- it was always a very humorous thing to do, but I would write a sports report and then we'd publish it on our little Internet the next day. And the guys and ladies in the unit could not wait until the next morning to read the sports report to see how good, how bad they did. And it just was a wonderful Thing. And that kind of every other kind of thing we did, too, I would report on it. We would have a lot of fun with it. But it built all this togetherness and it built this morale. And like I said, we wound up winning the award for the best unit on the base three out of the four years.

Frederick Wallace:

You had reason to be proud.

Jacob Younginer:

I was very proud of that. And I still maintain contact with a lot of people in that unit and other units around that I was With. But I always saying if one thing they can count on that they would come into the unit where I was and it was going to be a good unit, and we were going to have a lot of fun together. And we did. And throughout that I ended up, as I said, my career at Hanscom air force base, and finally topped out at 28 years and retired as a lieutenant colonel at the end of November of 1992. So I've been retired a little over 10 years now.

Frederick Wallace:

You have had an interesting career and really one that you can be very proud of. If you were to have the opportunity to talk to young people today, what would you tell them? what did you gain from your military service that you could pass on to them?

Jacob Younginer:

One of the first things that I would try to tell them is to seize every opportunity. Don't wait for the opportunity to come along to prepare for it, but be prepared for any opportunity that comes along. And don't expect special favors. Go out and earn that opportunity. Be prepared. Always commit yourself to doing the better job than everybody else first. And always do it in a pleasant attitude. Always be fair to everybody. But do your job and be the person that they can depend on to do a wonderful Job. And build that as your reputation and your legacy. And don't try to slough off and -- slough off and not carry your full share of the load. But be the kind of person that they can depend on and that they will depend on. Yes, you're going to get a lot of extra tasks and a lot of extra piled on you because you're doing that. And you're that kind of person. But you're earning something far more than the pay. And be proud of what you do. Write your name on it with pride. And if you do that you will go far in life no matter what your career or your profession.

Frederick Wallace:

Well, those are good words and I hope that anyone in the future who sees this will take that to heart.

Jacob Younginer:

I hope so.

Frederick Wallace:

We thank you very much, Mr. Younginer. This has been an interesting interview. Thanks for spending your time with us.

Jacob Younginer:

Thank you for the opportunity.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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