Naval flight training (at that time) took about 18 to 20 months. You started in Preflight learning about flight, naval history, geography, meteorology, engines, ships, and basic navigation. Preflight was 16 weeks. Then came VT-1 (Saufley Field) and the “teenie weenie” or T-34B. This was an important milestone. After 12 flights, you got to solo; assuming your instructor gave you the “thumbs up”. Soloing was the most exciting day of my life up to that point. (Things would get much more exciting later). The T-34B was a small single-engine aircraft with a top speed in level flight of 150 knots. Then 10 more flights (half solo) of acrobatics. After another check ride it was on to VT-2 (Whiting Field) and the heavier and faster T-28. VT-2 was more acrobatics, basic instruments (under the bag) and the always exciting night VFR round robin. Then on to VT-3 for formation flying and radio instruments (more flying under the bag). The biggest thrill was to be found at VT-5 (Saufley Field again) for Carrier Qualifications aboard the USS Lexington (CVT 16). I made five “traps” in a row after an initial “bolter and go”. I was almost a real life Naval Aviator. Then it was on to VT-6 (back to Whiting) and the twin-engine TC-45J. After a few transition flights and “solo” with some other students you got to the serious work of earning your first instrument rating. The last leg of flight training was HT-8. You got your first taste of helicopter flying in the TH-13M. After 13 hours, a check ride and 5 solo flights it was on to the much larger and heavier H-34. Another dozen flights, a check ride, you earned the coveted Navy Wings of Gold. Things don’t get any better than that. (period!) I started Preflight with 12 other Marine Aviation Cadets (MarCads). 7 of us would finish flight school. One of my classmates, Paul T. Looney, was the only one KIA during the VietNam War. At least two of us got Purple Hearts. Two would make the Marines a career (Wally Kriko and Ken Gross). I would return to active duty in 1969 serving another 5 years flying OV-10s (Bronco) before an Honorable Discharge in February, 1974.

Feb 1963 VT-1 Flying begins with T-34BVT-6 Multi-Engine TC-45J InstrumentsHT-8 TH13M Almost Done

Preflight (Sep, 1962)     VT -1 (T-34)              VT-2 (T-28)                                      VT-6 (TC-45J)                              HT-8 (TH-13M)

May 12 1964 Designation as NA

Designation as Naval Aviator (May 12, 1964) My wife Voncile at my side

My first duty station was MCAF New River (Jacksonville, North Carolina) assigned to HMM-264. After three months of mission training, the whole Air Group boarded ships for Spain and Operation Steel Pike I. Being fluent in Spanish, I was selected to accompany the Group Executive Officer (XO) to a meeting with his Spanish Army counter parts. LTC Dyer is on the right, and LTC Pita on the left. Standing behind the frame is General Aguilera – the ranking Spanish Officer. The fellow in the sweater to the left of the general is the mayor of Palos de La Frontera. It was from this small village (at the time) that a fellow named Cristoforo Colon sailed aboard the Santa Maria with two other ships (Nina and Pinta) in hopes of finding a shorter route to Asia by sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean. We all know how that ended.

The picture on the right is of the monument to that fateful voyage.  At the base from left to right is LTC Dyer, Me, and our driver.

Spain 1964 LTC Dyer & Spanish Army Officers - Steel Pike 1Spain 1964 Columbus Momument

After Steel pike, I was home for two months and then transferred to Sub Unit 1, H&MS-26 for a Med Cruise that lasted from January until mid-July. We had 8 UH-34 Helos, 20 pilots and about 100 marines to maintain the aircraft. We were aboard the USS San Marcos (LSD 25) with about 300 naval personnel. The best thing about the cruise was the flying and the 6 countries we visited. The best port of call was Nice, France. My father gave my wife a round trip ticket from North Carolina to Nice France as a wedding present. I took some leave and Voncile and I spent 11 terrific days on the French Riviera along with another pilot and his wife (Gary & Barbara Simon).

Pictures from a 1965 Med Cruise aboard the USS San Marcos, LSD 25.

Sub Unit 1, H&MS 26 Patch

Unit Patch       Cold Wx Gear     Clear to Land         Flight Ops           Off Duty            On Duty – Pri-Fly   Mail run to Tromso Norway

Tom Art Joe Mel

Pictures of UH-34D (HMM-772, NAS Willow Grove, PA), OV-10A over the South China Sea (en route to Cubi Point, P.I.)


The Sole Survivor: Lt (jg) Chris Schobacker several days after a night rescue launch in the Gulf of Tonkin (July, 1966) Recuperating at The Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan. The last thing he remembers was buckling up his seat harness. The next time he was conscious was just before air-evac to Yokosuka. His mishap is a reminder that...”Flying is inherently dangerous, and like the sea, unforgiving of human error.”

Flying is not the only thing inherently dangerous military activity: War can be pretty hazardous to your health. A few months after returning from the Med cruise I received orders to Viet Nam. I would very quickly be assigned as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) with the Second Battalion, First Marine Regiment at Phu Bai. During Operation New York, I would unhappily get in the way of some AK-47 rounds which led to my being awarded the Purple Heart. I received the Purple Heart medal from Col Mosteller (a WW II and Korea veteran) while recuperating in Okinawa. My unit was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. My first tour would end in Pensacola, Florida (where it all began nearly 4 years earlier). I got promoted to Captain and spent several months flying the T-28, C-45 and one very memorable flight at the controls of an HU-16 Albatross (twin engine seaplane) owned by the U.S. Coast Guard (NAS Pensacola to NAS Key West and back.) My collateral duties included being a casualty assistance officer (the military officer that makes calls on next of kin when members of the military are wounded (WIA), killed (KIA) or missing in action (MIA). The worst experience of my life was making a call to the mother of a young Marine killed in action (when my CO was unable to do so personally). Fortunately, A Navy Chaplain was with me and made things a little easier.

Purple Heart Award 1966 Okinawa

The Best Part of my Life is below: Being married to a terrific woman and having 3 daughters and eventually 6 grandchildren.

Family Picture (Family Reunion Maine July 2011)

Family Maine 2011

Adults: Seth, June, Matt, Gloria, Germano, Lisa, Me, Voncile

Kids: Soren, Isabel, Olivia, Audrey, Sophia, Wallace

Families: Gloria & Germano, Olivia, Sophia, Isabel

June & Matt, Soren

Lisa & Seth, Wallace, Audrey


This site was last updated 07/25/15