I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico on August 28, 1943 to Mary and Henry Terry. At an early age I moved to East Texas with my family where I resided until I enlisted in the Air Force on November 28, 1960 in Dallas, Texas. The reason I enlisted was that I was coming up on draft age and I wanted to have a choice in what branch of service I went into. I always wanted to be in the service so I enlisted at the earliest opportunity.
After Basic Training at Lackland AFB, Texas, I had the following assignments: Offutt AFB, Nebraska; Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico; Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota; McChord AFB, Washington; Phan Rang AB, Republic of Vietnam (RVN); Tan Son Nhut AB, Republic of Vietnam.
I was assigned to the 14th Special Operations Wing at Phan Rang, RVN, on July 18, 1970. When I reported in, I was assigned to the 17th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) and the AC-119G Gunships. The 17th SOS had two Forward Operating Locations, one at Phu Cat AB, RVN and the other at Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN. I was sent to Tan Son Nhut for my first six months. I was assigned to Flight Line Maintenance as Flight Chief. The AC-119G gunship was a unique type of aircraft. It was not only old but it was hard to obtain parts needed to clear the aircraft for flight. We would beg, borrow and sometime steal the parts. When we were getting a plane ready for flight, we would tighten any oil leaks on the engines and run the engines to pressurize the Prop Regulators so they weren’t leaking.
I went back to Phan Rang AB for the second half of my tour where I was assigned as Assistant Phase Dock Chief. While working nights there, we had a couple of times we were sent to the bunkers on the run. One incident, I remember, we had just parked a plane on the wash rack and the Giant Voice sounded and some rockets and mortars came in. After I got to the bunker, I took a head count of my troops and I found a couple of them missing. After the all clear, I located them and I asked what had happened to them. The story is that Jessie (Duck) Laing said I had run over him and knocked him down on my way to the bunker. To tell the truth, I don’t remember seeing or touching anyone. The other one, I can’t remember his name, said he crawled under the plane for cover and I informed him that the planes were the targets. So, I guess when we are afraid, we do all kinds of things without realizing it. On the more relaxed side, Leigh Norstrum and I used to go to the Bamboo Viper Non- Commissioned Officers (NCO) Club and challenge anyone to play Pinochle, while watching the firefights on the perimeter of the base. The losers would have to buy chow for the winners and Leigh and I very seldom had to buy chow.
After my return to the States on July 18, 1971, I was assigned to Travis AFB, California where I remained until I retired as a Master Sergeant after 21 years in the Air Force. My decorations include the following: Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Sadly, Jim Terry passed away on June 13, 2009.
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