Major Turning Point

Ben H. Swett
Pease AFB, NH

On Friday afternoon, 17 April 1964, I returned home from three weeks overseas. As I came into the house, our younger son, Bruce, aged four-and-a-half, looked out from behind his mother's skirt and asked, "Is that my Daddy?"

Something in me snapped. I threw my flight cap in a chair and made a decision. The next day was the seventh birthday of our older son, Scott. Thinking about what those seven years had been like for my wife and sons reinforced my decision.

On Monday morning, I went to see the Wing Commander. When he returned my salute, I said, "Sir, I'm not mad at you, or the Wing, or SAC, or the Air Force, or anybody, but I've had it. And I know you can't make a job for me, but if you've got something off a crew, I'd rather stay, otherwise I'm getting out."

"What is it ... family?"

"Yes, Sir."

He didn't bat an eye: "Report to A&E tomorrow morning as Avionics Maintenance Supervisor."

"My crew is scheduled to go on alert Thursday."

"Forget it. We'll schedule another crew. Now ... it's going to take some time to get the paper-work straight, so you'll still have to fly with your crew for awhile, and you may have to go on alert again, a time or two, but I want you in A&E."

"Yes, Sir." I was stunned. "Thank you."

"Don't mention it." He returned my salute, and I left his office.

In the outer office, the Sergeant Major motioned me over to his desk. He showed me the cover of a large document--the preliminary report of a recent operational readiness inspection that the Wing had failed--then opened it and pointed to one of the findings. It said that one reason the Wing did poorly was due to a lack of coordination between operations and maintenance, and it recommended that a B-47 navigator be assigned to the Armament and Electronics (A&E) Maintenance Squadron. The sergeant grinned. My arrival had handed the Wing Commander a ready-made solution to one of his problems.

And it was a ready-made solution to a lot of my problems. I knew that maintenance officers are at the bottom of the promotion list, and I didn't care. For the first time since shortly after Scott was born, I had a job that required less than 74 hours per week. (In 1959-1961 I averaged 120 hours per week away from home). I could still earn a decent living for my family, and now I would have some time with them.