Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Veteran's History Project

Edward S. Winslow, Senior Master Sergeant, US Air Force, 1947 to 1985

 

September 28, 2017

Larry Nelson for the Western Nebraska Observer

The Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

A US Navy Reserve unit was newly positioned in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1947. Ed Winslow and three of his high school buddies joined up when most of them were seventeen years old. It was the thing to do.

This unit had just formed but didn't quite have its program ready. However, not far away, was the Wyoming Air National Guard and it was up and running. The same four "kids" decided that looked better than the Navy so they applied for a change in service.

At the time, a young man just had to go to the local Doctor who performed induction physicals. Once a young man passed the physical exam, he was sworn into the Guard.

There was never a basic training or a boot camp provided to Ed Winslow. (This is a "first" for the writer. Having conducted over 200 interviews, this is the first individual who was not required to go off to initial training.)

In that this is two years after the close of WWII, getting any kind of a National Guard or Reserve unit was quite a task. The US Air Force was established as a branch of our military in September 1947. They needed buildings, equipment, and most important, personnel. Like others, Ed was issued military clothing by the unit. His training was obtained on the job.

He learned about the maintenance of propellers on airplanes. The prop had to have so much manifold pressure. In a hanger space, the spark plugs on each part of the V-12 engine had to be set properly. The men learned to take the hubs off the front of the engines and flush out the build-up of engine sludge and grime. It was clear that the unit wasn't too concerned about the military training requirements, they just needed guys who could work on aircraft at this point.

The aircraft they worked on were P51 Mustangs, C-130's and other planes. There seemed to be no shortage of work. Each aircraft had maintenance standards that were driven by the number of flying hours on the engines.

Working in a part time status, Ed enjoyed what he was doing and gave many hours of volunteer time as well as duty time. In his other life, Ed began selling insurance. Now, he was a dual career man.

In 1955, the Wyoming Air Guard had an opening for two full time positions in aircraft maintenance. Ed was selected to fill one of the slots. He could sell insurance part time but work for the Air Guard full time.

On Ed's timeline, (and everyone else's timeline) the Vietnam War developed and the needs of each unit changed. Ed's work was now centered on the C-121 aircraft. This was a transport plane having four propeller engines and three tail fins.

Next, the aircraft work was changed to the F-86 Sabre. This was a single engine, single seat, jet powered fighter. In one instance, two of the planes were flying near the Cheyenne facility. One landed normally, but the other plane was still out. It turned out that the other plane crashed killing the pilot and destroying the plane. In after-action review, these planes had troublesome oxygen delivery systems for the pilots. It was likely that the pilot blacked out.

Ed was sent literally around the world working on aircraft. When the various Air Force bases did not have the expertise on hand, he was in the pool of specialists who were deployable to work on the planes and have them air-worthy as soon as possible. Ed did mention that many of the bases also had nice golf courses – which required being played.

Along the way, promotions to the next higher rank were regular and timely. As his skills grew and capabilities progressed, Ed enjoyed what he was doing and was paid more for it. On another path, the insurance field that Ed began was prospering as well. Often, he would go into his insurance office then report for duty on the base. He was a busy man.

In 1985, Ed decided it was time to leave the Air Force. He earned a chest-full of medals and ribbons and provided real, tangible service to keep the airplanes in the air.

Senior Master Sergeant Edward Winslow, you certainly did your part! Thank you for your service!

 

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