Memories of...Academics

Bob Ryan


It was my misfortune to have endured an unfortunate tirade from a USAFA Aerodynamics Instructor. In 1974, after a presentation on F15 stalls based on data we collected in the USAFA wind tunnel, the good captain remarked to me that I would receive a failing mark and he would ensure that I did not graduate with an engineering degree.

In 1988, while serving as Branch Chief of AF Systems Command Engineering Officer assignments and after having graduated from USAFA with a BSAE, from the USAF Test Pilot School FTE Course and earning an MSAE from AFIT, I ran across a Lt. Col. who was witness to the 1974 incident as a captain. The Lt. Col. (with an engineering PhD) had been recently assigned to a chief position in one of the labs in Albuquerque. He called me about a pending fill assignment. He commented about the inappropriateness of the captain's remarks in 1974 to which I was pleased to report my success and thanked him for his support of my USAFA Graduation.

All this to point out that there are "good guys" and "bad guys" and when one individual oversteps reasonable bounds of authority, it takes fortitude and action to overcome such inappropriate behavior.

I get to continue applying that lesson as I start my 31st year in the aerospace business working on a Sub-Orbital Reusable Vehicle and occasionally challenging inappropriate attacks on junior engineers. It is a comfort to me knowing that there are like-minded members in the USAF and in retirement who watch out for the "little guy". No telling how far that "little guy" will go with a supportive push at the right time.

Hugo Gray


My version of this story – spring of '73 I was rooming in CS-15 with Clint Waltman (now Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Waltman!) – he had never talked much about it, but his Dad was an Air Force pilot who had been shot down and imprisoned in N. Vietnam. The peace treaty was signed and the POWS were being flown out of N. Vietnam on "Freedom Bird" C-141s – watching them come off the planes and salute after so many years of hardship (a young Naval aviator named McCain was in the group) was inspiring to us as young cadets, but had special significance for Clint who didn't know if his Father was coming home until he saw him get off the plane in the squadron TV room. 

Clint was given a leave of absence to go home and spend some time with his Dad and family and missed the Finals Week going on at the time. The Dean got his due – on return, Clint had to study up in an accelerated week of special deferred finals – a solo Finals Week that had him pulling consecutive All Nighters. 

Punchy and worn out one night we started wondering if records (not CDs – classic rock vinyl records that cost us $3.05 in the C-Store) had the same aerodynamics as frisbees – I was no Aero major and before I knew what he was doing Clint opened the our Vandenberg Hall dorm window and started flinging LPs towards the Field House to test the theory I may have joined in. It must have been about 2 am. Fortunately, no known collateral damage. Our testing didn't do much good as we couldn't see where the records landed, but Clint aced his exams and got himself rested and back on track. I was looking for cracked vinyl on my way to the gym for weeks never found any. We had the good sense to use only unwanted records, but perhaps one cadet's trash was another's treasure?

From John Retelle (USAFA 67, an Aero Instructor when we were there): Stan Siefke and Jon Turner won the two aero prizes, so they were easy to remember. There was one other guy in your class . . . an aero major. He got the finals schedule all mixed up, and went to the golf course by mistake during my final exam. I called over to his squadron, and his AOC contacted him. He came running in, over an hour late in a totally panicked state. He wrote non-stop for the remaining time, and nearly collapsed afterwards. Would you believe he got the highest grade on the exam, by a huge margin? He moved his overall grade from a B to an A. He was magnificent.




4th Class Academics

2nd Class Academics

1st Class Academics



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