Frank G. Baehre, Pilot
18th SOS, Nakhon Phanom and Da Nang, 1972-73

I’m Frank Baehre (Franklin G. Baehre, Jr. if we’re going to go all formal). I was born in Buffalo, NY in 1948. I graduated from high school in one of the Buffalo suburbs and decided to attend the State University of New York at Buffalo and started into the Civil Engineering curriculum. As part of freshman registration, I had to choose between freshman physical education or Air Force ROTC. The second option had a whole lot more appeal than gym, so I went the ROTC route.

One of the first things I was administered in ROTC was the Air Force Officer’s Qualification test. Amazingly, I scored high in both the pilot and navigator sections. Since I always sort of wanted to fly, from building plastic model airplanes to watching Steve Canyon on TV, I was now hooked. After 4 years in ROTC, I received my commission in May 1970.

My first duty station was attending UPT at Reese AFB in sunny Lubbock by the Sea, Texas. Flying the usual T-41, T-37, and T-38s, I managed to graduate almost dead in the middle of my class. Back then, you got to pick your first assignment from a block of aircraft. When assignment selection day came around, I wanted a SEA assignment in something that dropped bombs or shot guns. I got the last aircraft that met that criteria, as a copilot in an AC-119K Stinger gunship assigned to NKP Thailand.

AC-119 experiences

Enroute to NKP, I had the normal C-119 training then offered at Lockbourne AFB and the AC-119K course at Hurlburt. That was followed by water, global, and jungle survival schools on the way to NKP. I showed up at NKP in mid-February 1972. Got to meet my fellow Stingers that month and began flying out of NKP. When the Easter Offensive started that Spring, I had the normal rotation through NKP, Bien Hoa, and Da Nang. As fall moved on, we all felt upbeat as it was announced that “Peace was at-hand.” Didn’t quite work out that way, and the rotation continued. Sometime after Thanksgiving, we started getting rumblings that the aircraft would be transferred to the VNAF and there might be roll-backs for us more-junior crewmembers. The assignment process started as well, and I got orders to KC-135s at Loring! A few phone calls to SAC personnel followed, and I pled my case to them, looking for a B-52 assignment, specifically an “H” model. An understanding Lt. Col. at SAC heard me, and I was off to Kincheloe. BUT, before leaving NKP, we threw a going-away party a few nights into Linebacker II at the Stinger hootch at NKP. Everything was going great until we felt the ground shake and heard a loud “whump.” Running outside, we saw a fireball on the horizon and bet a Buff shot up over the north tried to make it to NKP but couldn’t. We left the next morning and were home for Christmas (this story will continue later in my career).

I arrived at Kincheloe in early 1973, receiving the normal training at Castle for B-52s. I became combat-ready, pulled one alert tour with my crew, then got selected to go to Stan-Eval. Upgrading to aircraft commander, I flew the line there until the base was closed in 1977. I took advantage of that opportunity, volunteered to SAC FB-111s, and was assigned to Plattsburgh AFB, NY. I upgraded to IP and then was selected as a CCTS IP, also at PAFB. Air Command and Staff College followed, leading to 3 years at Wright Patterson working in the Strategic Systems and then the Advance Cruise Missile SPOs. In 1986, I was again assigned to PAFB in the FB-111s, now as a scheduling officer and then as the Operations Officer in the 528th BMS (BEST JOB, EVER!). Air War College followed in 1989, leading to 2 years in Morocco with my family, working out of the Embassy in Rabat as a Security Assistance officer and closing a deal for them to purchase the F-16 as their next front line fighter. I spent my final year in the Air Force at Griffiss AFB in Rome, NY.

Now, let’s close that story about my final night at NKP. At Griffiss, I was walking through their Bomb-Nav shop one day and noticed a B-52 downward ejection seat handle mounted over a desk. Curious, I asked the guy for the story. It was from the Nav’s seat of the crew that bailed out at NKP that night back in December 1972, 21 years earlier. That’s what I call closure. And yes, I did chew him out for interrupting our Sawadee party!

After retiring from USAF in 1993, our family re-settled in Plattsburgh. I took jobs from running the hobby section of a craft store, to teaching at Clinton Community College, and then doing Quality Assurance work for Bombardier Transportation and Wyeth/Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, retiring from active work in 1992. I enjoyed setting up the Plattsburgh AFB Museum and running it for several years. I also enjoy being active in our local congregation, running our local plastic model society, and cycling, paddling, and cross-country skiing with my wife of 50 years, our children and grandchildren who all live within walking distance of us. We lucked out, big-time!

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