Ramon A. Savera, Navigator
17th SOS, Tan Son Nhut, 1970-71
My name has been a source of confusion since December 28, 1930, when I was born in Ironwood, Michigan. The confusion was partly because I have three birth certificates, each containing a slightly different version of my given name, partly because I am Italian and people assume I am Spanish, and partly because, while growing up, I was initially called Sonny, and later called Ray.
Although an honor student in high school, I was a dismal failure when I went away to college. After two-and-a-half years as a student, I joined the Air Force. During Basic Training, the Air Force legal office discovered my three birth certificates and chose the one listing my name as “August Ramon.” So, in May 1952, as Airman August Ramon, I completed Basic Training and was bussed off to James Connelly AFB, Texas where I waited for assignment to an Aviation Cadet class.
The first 18 months after earning my gold bars and navigator wings was pure turmoil. I arrived in Japan only to have my assignment changed to Clark AB, PI, where I remained only nine months before being reassigned. I finally ended up with the 27th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in Rome, NY. While there, I was sent to Personnel Officer School to satisfy a squadron quota. That training, however, led to a fulfilling dual-track career in personnel and aviation that provided invaluable contacts, training, and leadership experience.
By 1967, I was serving my eighth Air Force assignment – this one was with the 963rd Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron at McClellan AFB, CA. The duty included a three-month tour to Korat AB, Thailand where we flew early warning missions over Laos and North Vietnam. It was gratifying warning the F-105 fighter pilots flying bombing missions of the Mig activities. However, it was very disheartening watching the downtrodden F-105 pilots drowning their sorrows at the Officers Club following the loss of aircrews.
While at McClellan AFB, I was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and received orders for the 17th Special Operations Squadron. In early 1970, soon after arriving at Tan Son Nhut AB, I was assigned primary duties as head navigator, C Flight Executive Officer. My missions were routine until the night we took a small-arms round through the aircraft windscreen, injuring our flight engineer. But the most devastating occurrence during my gunship tour was the crash of one of our aircraft during take-off. We lost six of the eight crewmembers in the crash. The disaster still remains fresh in the minds of the fellow aviators and ground personnel.
We flew many missions where we had confirmed kills up to 200. It was great relieving the grunts of the Viet Cong threats. We were always welcome! The first daylight mission over Cambodia was memorable; flying in daylight, our targets were clearly visible. On one mission we were called by a US Sgt. to fire on top of an ARVN Insertion Team that was being over-run. After getting some helicopters out of the way, we did that and when daylight returned, the unit was led to safety. On another mission we sank a barge, as confirmed by the flight that replaced us in the target area. Upon returning to the United States, I received a joyous reception at the Ironwood, Michigan airport. Such reunions were not too common in those days of anti-war activists. How wonderful to be home again in this great United States of America!
Following my tour as a Shadow, I was assigned to Charleston AFB, SC as part of the Air Force’s first C-5A squadron. I was the first non C-141 crewmember to be assigned to the C-5. Soon after arriving, I became the head navigator and, again, squadron executive officer. It was interesting flying all over the globe, even exciting at times. Some great memories: getting to shake hands with His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie of Ethiopia; talking to senior staff members of the Iranian Air Force; dining with top-level Air Force leaders in Argentina; and visiting with high level civilian leaders in Taiwan.
After two years in C-5s, I was selected as Director of Personnel at Altus AFB, Oklahoma. It was the best job ever in my career. Altus was a friendly military community where I was elected vice president of the American Red Cross. I also spent much time as president of the Officers’ Club Board of Directors. Then one day, I received a call informing me that I was being reassigned to Headquarters MAC. I decided to retire and within a few months, Cathy and I were off to Dallas where I worked the next five-and- a-half years as a personnel manager at the McDonald’s Regional Headquarters. I retired from McDonald’s and life was absolutely great, but then in 2000, Cathy passed away.
My four kids (Pam, Jeff, Shawn and Greg), and now my significant other, Kathy Miller, remain a close knit family, all living in the Dallas/Ft Worth area, where we enjoy frequent get-togethers. Life has been good to me and, if I had it to do again, it would be the USAF!