David Perez Rios. IO
71st SOS, Nha Trang, 1968-69

I was born in 1948 in Sinajana, Guam. I graduated from Narbonne High School in Lomita, California and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Aircraft Maintenance at Embry University via satellite at Norton AFB, CA. I currently live in Long Beach, CA with my wife, Maria, and my three children: Dave Michael, Princessa, and Melissa and her daughters, Joleen and Jocelyn. I enlisted in the Air Force in March 1967 because I was very interested in aircraft flight and maintenance. I always dreamed of becoming part of a flight crew. I did not want to join the Army or the Navy as I did not want to go to Vietnam or go swimming.

My first temporary duty assignment was in June 1968 with the 71st SOS commanded by Colonel James E. Pyle at Lockbourne AFB, OH. In January 1969, I was sent with the Indiana Reservists to Vietnam, the place I didn’t want to go to. I was assigned to the 71st SOS, Shadow Crew 22 at Nha Trang AB as an Illuminator Operator. There were many life altering experiences on many combat missions, but September 3, 1969 was the most heroic, and memorable day. On that day, the crew of Shadow 76 helped prevent the 1st Army Squadron, 4th U.S. Calvary, from being overrun by the Viet Cong. Following that great experience, each member of our crew was given a letter of appreciation and made an honorary member of the Army unit.

I separated from active service in March 1979 at Loring AFB, Maine. In March 1979, I re-enlisted with the 33rd Air Reserves of the C-130 Air Rescue Squadron at March AFB, CA. A year later, I separated from the 33rd Air Reserves. In October 1981, I re-enlisted in the 445th Wing/Aero Repair Shop where I worked on C-141 aircraft. I continued to work at the Norton AFB, CA for 12 years until my final retirement in July 1993.

I enjoyed every moment as an active duty Airman and reservist in the military. My years in the military have definitely added a lot to my experiences. It fulfilled my career choice of working with aircraft that I never dreamed would come true. It provided me many opportunities to travel and see many places of the world. Most of all, it has given me a real sense of pride that I have protected my country and that we are still enjoying its’ freedom to this day.