Vernon Richard Raveling, FE and IO
17th SOS and 14th SOW, Phan Rang, 1969-70

Remsen, Iowa was my birthplace in 1930. I graduated from Central High School in my hometown of Le Mars, Iowa in 1948. I entered the Air Force in Sioux City, Iowa on October 2, 1950 because the Iowa National Guard (Infantry), of which I was a member, was due to be called to active duty for the Korean War.

During my first 18 years of active duty I served as a Crew Chief and Flight Engineer with the 1141st Special Activities Squadron, a little-known organization that provided VIP services for General Officers throughout the World. My duty was to fly on and maintain aircraft for general officers assigned to American Embassies, NATO and United Nations locations.

In late 1968, I was reassigned to the 4413 CCTS at Lockbourne AFB as an instructor Illuminator Operator for the AC-119G and AC-119K programs. I also completed the AC-119 Instructor Flight Engineer course, making me dual qualified as instructor IO and FE. I eventually received orders for the 17th SOS at Phan Rang. I flew a few combat missions as an IO before being reassigned to 14th SOW as the stan/eval. As stan/eval IO, I flew missions with 17th and 18th Special Operations Squadrons. I will always remember the brand new IO who, for some reason, ejected the flare launcher instead of launching a flare as ordered.

The wing commander was demanding. He said he only wanted to see the stan/eval people on Sunday mornings. That meant flying back to Phan Rang on Saturday, meeting on Sunday and flying out again Monday to the FOLs. The Sunday morning meetings with the wing commander were some of the most exciting events of my tour. The most I typically said was, “Yes sir” and “No sir.” I found out very soon to never offer additional information that was not in the report, to keep it short, and to remember to say how well the crew coordination was, as a whole, and to comment on the good work the crews were doing.

I flew at least three or four missions a week. There were many hair-raising missions (too many to list). I kept out of everyone’s way, kept a low profile, and submitted the reports the wing commander required. Even as a stan/eval member, there were times on some missions that I took the place of the assigned FE or IO because of crewmember grounding.

In November 1970, I returned to the U.S. on leave. While on leave I was reassigned to the 4413 CCTS as Instructor IO for the AC-119 and the AC-130. The following month (December 1970) I received orders to return to SEA as an AC-130 IO. It was time to retire.

I officially retired from the USAF on June 30, 1971 at Lockbourne AFB. I took a job with the Post Office where I worked for the next 20 years. I’ll always remember the many friends made while assigned to the gunship program.