Don Carlson, Pilot
17th SOS and 18th SOS, Tan Son Nhut and Nakhon Phanom, 1970-71
I graduated from Colorado State College (now University of Northern Colorado) in August 1968. I completed Undergraduate Pilot Training at Reese AFB, Lubbock, TX in October 1969. After training in C-A/C-119G and Jungle Survival, I was assigned to the 17th SOS and stationed at Tan Son Nhut AB, Saigon, South Vietnam in May 1970. I completed my normal tour with R and R travels to Hong Kong for Christmas and later to Sydney for summer vacations. I extended my Southeast Asia tour six months, after a thirty-day leave in Europe and the USA. As of August 31, 1971, I completed 228 combat missions in the AC-119G Shadow gunship.
On September 9, 1971, I was assigned to the 18th SOS in AC-119K Stinger gunships at Nakhon Phanom RTAFB, Thailand. I flew 25 missions in the 119K over Steel Tiger and Barrel Roll in Laos. I flew my last mission December 1, 1971; almost colliding with two F-4s who were flying AAA Cap.
I returned to the U.S.A. to a KC-135 assignment at Beale AFB, CA. After spending Christmas at home in Colorado, I returned to Beale to a Post-Christmas surprise assignment change; B-52Gs at Beale. I returned to the Southeast Asia Theater in September 1972 on the Island of Guam, Anderson AFB; spending another birthday overseas and losing only eight months of combat pay! I flew 50
Linebacker II combat missions in the B-52G from Guam over South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam. I took part in the 1972 Christmas Campaign over Hanoi flying two missions. On our way to our target on the first mission, we observed an AC-130 Spectre gunship firing on a target near Laos (small world!). We lost 10 B-52 aircraft during that short North Vietnam campaign. Many of our comrades did not return! I flew my last B-52 combat mission over the Mekong River in Cambodia just south of PP (Small World!).
I spent a little over three years in SAC. One of my crewmembers, an EWO, did a tour in AC-130 Spectre gunships (Small World!). I left Beale after receiving a T-38 assignment as an Instructor Pilot to UPT at Williams AFB, AZ. After spending a little over four years at Williams AFB, I flew my last USAF flight on October 18, 1979. I resigned my Regular Commission and separated from the AF, leaving behind eleven memorable years filled with many great and grand comrades and with stories which can and cannot be told. I was hired at Air California, a regional California Carrier, in May 1980. I flew for Air Cal for seven years while upgrading to Captain. In July of 1987, Air California was purchased by American Airlines. I flew the remaining eighteen years at American Airlines also upgrading to Captain. I flew B-737, MD-80, B-757, and B-767 aircraft as a co-pilot and Captain during my Airline career.
I married Dee on July 12, 1975 in Sacramento, CA. Shadow Marty Noonan came to the wedding. We were blessed with our first child, Autumn Brooks, on May 29, 1976. Our second blessing came on October 3, 1980; Matthew Micah. I retired on September 7, 2005 with my last flight to Honolulu, HI.
Dee and I are spending retirement in our beautiful home in Corona, CA.