I’ve told many people that I partially give the SCCA credit for recruiting me into the Air National Guard. For those that haven’t heard the story, here it is.
To start, you need to know a little background information. I started my career in aviation when I reported to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in southern California. After active duty I wound up working for Trans World Airlines (TWA) on numerous passenger aircraft. For a kid that grew up fascinated with airplanes it was a perfect job. In 2001, after a number of financial troubles TWA went into bankruptcy (again) and the remaining assets were purchased by American Airlines (AA). While at first this looked like it would give us the chance to keep working on airplanes in Kansas City, it became clear that AA was flush with maintenance facilities – and the Kansas City operation was not long for this world. I didn’t know what would happen next. Would this spell the end of my aircraft career?
Now here’s another little step backward. I started really becoming involved with SCCA in 1997, running in Solo events. One of these was at Heartland Park Topeka (HPT, now Heartland Motorsports Park) during a Club Racing weekend. The sight of race cars negotiating the track was something immediately addictive, and I wanted to join in the fun. This brought me to my Flagging & Communication position with SCCA, and working more events at HPT. It was at these events I kept seeing the KC-135 Stratotankers of the 190th Air Refueling Wing flying past. My first close-up sight of these “souped-up Boeing 707’s” was at the 1997, 1998 and 2000 Solo Nationals, held just north of HPT at Forbes Field. As an avowed aviation nut, I never miss an opportunity to gawk at an airplane (or ten), so being at Forbes Field with autocross and aircraft was about as good as it could possibly get!
Now with the framework of how I got to SCCA, HPT, and KC-135’s in place, I can give you the story. With the prospects of my civilian aviation career ending, I was working at HPT and seeing the KC-135’s doing practice landings and takeoffs. The thought occurred to me: I might not be able to keep working on aircraft full-time, but what if I could join the Air National Guard and continue “crawling around on airplanes” part-time? I contacted an Air National Guard recruiter, visited the unit, and applied for reenlistment in September of 2002. Keep in mind that I left the Marine Corps in 1986, so there was a lot of paperwork and inquiries before I could be accepted into the unit. This finally became reality in September of 2003. My full-time aviation career finally ended in January 2010, almost 24 years after it started; my part-time aviation career continues to this day as a 190th member.
Both my SCCA involvement and my 190th service have taken me to places I might not have seen otherwise. I have had the privilege of working at various Solo locations, participate in Road Rally events, and flag races at Raceway Park of the Midlands, Motorsports Park Hastings, and Kansas Speedway as well as HPT – I hope to visit more locations this year. My 190th service has taken me to Guam, Turkey, England, Germany, and Qatar as well as several locations in the US. It all began with my SCCA involvement – maybe they should get a recruiting award!