LeRoy E. Frahm, Maintenance
71st SOS and 17th SOS, Nha Trang, Phan Rang and Tan Son Nhut, 1969
LeRoy E. Frahm was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, on 4 June 1948, the fourth child in a family of six. LeRoy grew up on a small dairy farm in Outagamie County, where his parents operated the Frahm family farm into the 1960s.
LeRoy entered Divine Word Seminary, Techny, IL. Approaching high school graduation, LeRoy decided to change his career path, immediately losing his draft deferment. He knew the Army was not his calling!
Scoring well on the Air Force AQE opened new career opportunities. He avoided the draft! His new career began 16 August 1966, completed basic training at Lackland AFB, TX and was then assigned to Tech school at Lowry AFB, CO for Avionic Fire Control Systems Training for the F-4D Phantom jet. After nearly a year, LeRoy was assigned to his first PCS duty at Homestead AFB FL with the 4531st Tactical Fighter Wing. Among his memories there were the Pueblo incident, preparing aircraft for deployment to Korea, and living with and training Iranian airmen on F-4 avionic systems. At Homestead AFB he earned a 5 level and promotion to E4.
Early the Monday after Thanksgiving 1968, LeRoy was awakened with the message to report to CBPO, ASAP. “You’re going to be off this base tonight!” That evening he was TDY to Lockbourne AFB, OH for AC-119 Fire Control systems training. There was no Tech Order Publication, only hand-drawn schematics from the factory. LeRoy graduated at Christmas, got a few days leave for Wisconsin, and returned to Homestead to out-process for Vietnam. Two weeks later, LeRoy arrived in Cam Ranh Bay AB and proceeded to the 71st Special Operations Squadron (SOS) at Nha Trang AB, to work on AC-119Gs, still in culture shock having gone from the F-4D Phantom jet to a reciprocating engine aircraft in a few short weeks. “What is a reciprocating engine? They have pistons?”
After a few months an avionics specialist was needed in Phan Rang AB, a Forward Operating Location (FOL), and LeRoy proceeded there with a group of Vietnamese Rangers on a C-130. That was his first C-130 experience–no seats just pallets and cargo straps– arriving at midnight, with flares lighting the sky! Phan Rang AB was taking the “most hit air base” record away from Da Nang that year! Incoming 122mm rockets hit sometimes as often as four times a night. This was LeRoy’s first experience with Reservists, as he was just one of a few Active Duty blended with Reservists. A few months later, when the 71st departed for home, Leroy remained, and with new folks on board, they became the 17th SOS. LeRoy’s most memorable experiences were flying on wet fires to check bore sighting, accompanying a night mission to try to duplicate a malfunction they were not able to reproduce on the ground, and being commissioned to paint the “Charlie Chasers” image on all of the B Flight aircraft after a night they were told, “We were chasing Charlies everywhere!”
In the fall of 1969, Nha Trang closed and the 14th Special Operations Wing was relocated to Phan Rang, and the AC-119K Stinger aircraft arrived. LeRoy’s FOL experience was needed elsewhere, and now on his second tour, he was assigned by the 17th to C Flight at Tan Son Nhut AB, Saigon. He remembers most the international city of Saigon with its French culture, working with Vietnamese flying C-119s, the invasion into the Parrot’s Beak, and the loss of one of the aircraft and crew 28 April 1970. At Tan Son Nhut, LeRoy was awarded an AF Commendation Medal for his first tour, working the FOL. Returning home, LeRoy was discharged, but after a few years he missed working with people who worked on aircraft. While going to school on the GI Bill, he joined the 440th TAW, Milwaukee, WI, January 1974. The Air Force Reserve unit had just transitioned to C-130A aircraft. LeRoy cross-trained into radar-navigation, learning all eleven different systems, all communications systems and the doppler system. By the late ‘70s, deployments to Panama were frequent, and LeRoy began discovering South America and Central America. By the late ‘80s LeRoy was looking for a career move and became the unit’s Career Advisor. In 1992 he was selected as the First Sergeant for the 440th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, starting a 13-year tenure. Also during this time frame, SMS Frahm worked for the Air Force Reserve Command, facilitating leadership courses for enlisted personnel, instructing Total Quality Management (TQM), Covey’s ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, and taught at the First Sergeant Academy. During his career he taught approximately 2500 personnel.
In April 2002, LeRoy was deployed on a mission for Operation Fundamental Justice, providing First Sergeant support to 200 personnel performing high level missions in Afghanistan.
Thanksgiving 2003 was cut short, having received a call the day before at 9 AM: Presidential Activation for Operation Iraqi Freedom, report for duty the day after Thanksgiving. After only a few days, LeRoy departed for overseas as ADVON to begin setting up and receiving the deploying 440th and other Reserve and Guard units to become the lead C-130 Expeditionary Wing in the Area of Responsibility (AOR). As First Sergeant, he was suddenly responsible for about 500 maintainers and flyers, launching 28 missions around the clock, from Iraq to Afghanistan. They even flew relief missions into Iran in December 2003, after an earthquake.
Decorations and Awards earned include Meritorious Service Medal 3 Oak Leaf, AF Commendation Medal 2 Oak Leaf, AF Achievement Medal 2 Oak Leaf, Presidential Unit Citation w/V, AF Outstanding Unit Award w/V 3 Oak Leaf, AF Organizational Excellence Award, AF Good Conduct 1 Oak Leaf, Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal 9 Oak Leaf, National Defense Service Medal 2 Oak Leaf, Vietnam Service Medal 4 Star, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, AF Expeditionary Service Medal with Gold Border, AF Longevity Service Award 6 Oak Leaf, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with Gold Hourglass and M device, USAF NCO PME Ribbon, and Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, AF Training Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
LeRoy was honorably discharged 1 February 2005, after 14 months on active duty, culminating 35 years of active and reserve duty in the United States Air Force, spanning Vietnam to Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
LeRoy and his wife Rose were married 29 June 1974 and continue to reside in Appleton, WI. They have a son, Ellery, daughter, Erika, and daughter-in-law, Penny. LeRoy and Rose also lovingly cared for thirteen foster children. LeRoy has been employed at Lawrence University since 1975.