Ronald Gary Julian, Gunner
18th SOS, Phan Rang, Phu Cat, Udorn, and Da Nang, 1969-70
I was born in 1947, the oldest of six children. I enlisted in the Air Force on December 16, 1966 at Indianapolis, IN. After basic training at Lackland, I was assigned to Lowry for formal training as an aircraft weapons mechanic. My first operational assignment was to MacDill as a weapons release specialist on the F-4 “Phantom” and the T-33 “Shooting Star.” In 1969, I entered the Air Force’s gunship program where I logged over 500 hours as an aerial gunner on the AC-119K “Stinger” gunship with the 18th Special Operations Squadron. This association included assignments to Lockbourne AFB OH, Phan Rang, Phu Cat, Udorn Thailand, and Da Nang.
In early 1971, I returned from Vietnam to Hurlburt Field, Eglin AFB FL, and worked as a weapons release mechanic on the A-1E “Sky Raider,” OV-10 “Bronco,” 0-1E “Birddog,” and A-37 “Dragonfly” with the 311th Munitions Maintenance Squadron. While at Eglin, I was selected to cross-train into the instrumentation career field. I moved back to Lowry AFB for additional training before being assigned as a nuclear instrumentation technician to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory at Kirtland AFB NM in 1972. In October 1973, I returned to Southeast Asia, where I was weapons loading standardization crew chief on the A-7 “Corsair,” the F-111 “Aardvark,” and the F-105 “Thunderchief” with the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat, AB Thailand. My 1974 return assignment was to Wilford Hall Medical Center, where I was a biomedical instrumentation technician in one of the Air Force’s first hospital-based biomedical engineering departments. I was awarded the Academic Award and the Distinguished Graduate Award from the Air Force Systems Command’s Non-Commissioned Officer Academy in 1976. I returned to the operational Air Force with my PCS to the 390th Strategic Missile Wing at Davis Monthan AFB AZ in 1978. I was assigned as the Field Maintenance Branch Superintendent overseeing a three-shop complex that maintained 18 Titan II strategic missiles.
My application to the Airman Education and Commissioning Program was accepted in 1979 and I began my electrical engineering program at the University of Arizona. I graduated in 1981, attended Officer Training School at Lackland AFB, and was reassigned to the Air Force Weapons’ Laboratory at Kirtland AFB as a nuclear instrumentation engineer. At Kirtland, I was involved in several projects directed toward the protection of aircraft and missile systems from the electromagnetic effects of a nuclear attack. In 1985, I was assigned to the Armstrong Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB, where I led the Human Sensory Feedback for Telepresence program. I was the 1987 Company Grade Officer of the Year for the Armstrong Laboratory and for the Human Systems Division in the Air Force Systems Command. I was also the 1987 Program Manager of the Year for the Armstrong Laboratory. In 1992, I was presented the Director’s Award for the Crew Systems Directorate of the Armstrong Laboratory. I became the Chief of Operations for the Biodynamics and Biocommunication Division in 1992 and served in that capacity until my retirement on March 1, 1996. I essentially had two careers in the Air Force. My enlisted career (Dec 66 – Dec 81) and my officer career (Dec 81 – Feb 96).
Seems like I couldn’t hold a job! I had 17 permanent change of station assignments and each one held new, exciting opportunities. I had radically different jobs in most of my new assignments. My duties included fixing knuckle busting bomb racks and weapons loading on the flight line, aerial gunner in combat, patient research in the hospital environment, missile maintenance supervision, nuclear protection R&D, and R&D management in human factors and telerobotics. What would you like your family members and future generations to know about your military service? Service to one’s country and its citizens is the highest calling. I am privileged and honored to have had the opportunity.
My most meaningful assignment was supporting medical and clinical research at Wilford Hall Medical Center where I worked with a broad range of physicians (thoracic surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, neonatal physicians, biomedical engineers, cardiac physicians) and had direct interaction with patients while helping them get well and stay well.
My scariest moment was a mission where our flight path intersected with an Arc Light drop. I don’t know if those two B-52s were lost or if we (Stinger) were out of position. One thing for sure – one of us shouldn’t have been there!! However, it was quite exciting to see the bombs going off below us in the jungle as the tree trunks went flying. The inside of our cargo compartment looked like someone was setting off flashbulbs – lots of flashbulbs.\
Awards, Decorations, and Badges: Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal (2 OLC), Air Medal (8 OLC), Air Force Commendation Medal (1 OLC).
My wife, Kathy, and I have two sons, Travis and Troy.