Lessons of Vietnam

John Cullen’s “Fillers” in the Sept. 22  edition has caused some angst on my part. I see nothing wrong with a young Mr. Cullen sweating out his draft number, as I’m sure many thousands of young men did during that time period. I take issue with Mr. Cullen’s departure from “Pulitzer” quality reporting when he denigrates the service of the thousands of National Guard members (including Iowa units) who served during that period.

President Bush’s National Guard service is frequently ridiculed in the media and I take issue with that. My Air Force pilot career began at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona. That period in a USAF pilot’s life was called the “Year of 53 Weeks.” During my “year” at Williams we lost seven instructors and students due to aircraft accidents. I can only assume that other training bases, including President Bush’s, had similar experiences. President Bush persevered and was awarded his wings, went on to fighter transition training and eventually became fully qualified in the F-102, a single seat fighter interceptor. The F-102’s role in Vietnam ended in 1968 and the aircraft was phased out by the mid 70s. He served over two years on active duty and while there is controversy over his last two years of part-time duty, he voluntarily served in a hazardous role.

On a personal note, I also narrowly avoided the draft. The path I chose was to join the Air Force and I subsequently served over 20 years including a tour in Vietnam, June 1970-71, as a forward air controller.

I must say that I am an advocate of automatically reinstating the draft when our nation’s leaders send our all-volunteer forces into harm’s way and the conflict is expected to last longer than two years. Perhaps the great minds occupying the halls of Congress would think twice before putting our nation’s greatest assets at risk.


Lt. Col., Retired, USAF

Storm Lake