Neil grew up a ranch and farm kid in rural Berthoud attending UNC on a ROTC scholarship where he studied education and aerospace.
He went straight from UNC to Webb Air Force base in Texas where he was the last class of American students that went there. They had 15 Iranians and Americans flying together. That was when the Shah of Iran was still in power. About a month before he graduated from pilot training, the Shah was over thrown and all these Iranians knew they were in trouble if they went back. He was never sure if they went back or were granted asylum.
From there he went to Castle Air Force Base northwest of Merced in California where as he likes to say, he learned everything there was to know about the B 52’s.
From there he went to Ellsworth Air Force Base located just outside of Rapid City, SD.
Neil was on the top crew and was designated as an S-01. S is for superior and they did ride checks and wrote the stand-eval for pilots.
He was expected to fly at least two sorties a day. They didn’t care where you went as long as you didn’t bring the plane back bent. One day he decided to call his mom in Berthoud and meet her in Denver for lunch. He holds the record for 22 minutes from wheels up in Rapid City to wheels down in Denver.
From Rapid City he went to Randolph Air Force Base at Universal City, Texas where he was an instructor for NT 38’s.
After Reese he went to Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington where he was in a unit called DOX where he worked in the war planes area.
After the Viet Nam war there was a lot of shuffling around. Some bases were no longer needed, some got new missions, some became National Guard bases.
He then went to Lajes Air Force Base in the Azores. If you drew a straight line from Philadelphia to Lisbon about 2/3rds of the way on that line in the Atlantic ocean is where the Azores are located. It was a fuel stop for a lot of air craft. He was assigned to deployments and dealing with Diplomats and planes. Lajes was a strange place in the sense that it was a Portuguese base and they had a Portuguese Brigadeiro so they had to have a U.S. General there also. So they had a 1 star General. They had Navy and Army there as well as Air Force. The Air Force didn’t fly air planes. They cut the grass and did the paperwork. The Army had the port and they ran the tug boats. The Navy flew airplanes. As commander of the attachment for Lajes Neil would have F-16’s, F-4’s, 16’s A 10’s F 117’s at various times.
He then went to Langley where he worked in deployment and military sales. And moved the F-117’s from Nevada when they were still down in the dessert of Nevada. That was the first time any one had seen all the F-117’s together out on the flight line at one time. He was getting ready to move them forward to the Middle East to Kuwait for Sadam.
He also worked on getting the F-16’s for Israel from Ft. Worth to Israel. One of the worse things that ever happened to him was they were bringing brand new F-16s out of Ft. Worth going to Vermont. In order to deliver to Israel because they were having problems with Spain and France taking F-16;s up through the Straight of Gibraltar. Through the Med. It was a non-stop from the states so you had to make sure you had enough fuel on board that if you needed to divert to another location. That means at times to keep the tanks pumped up as high as you possible can you would be hitting the tanker about every 15-20 minutes just flying them through. Generally they would take to or three of them across at a time. And he would cycle them through the tanker all the time just so that you could get to Iceland or get into one of the other bases so that you could put it down on the ground with the remaining full in the tanks. Neil was responsible for all the coordination, diplomatic clearances, and making sure that the tankers were on the station and doing all the prep work and coordination.
He had 2 jets coming out of Texas and got socked in in Vermont. The weather was just really horrible. The first pilot decided to go ahead and bug out but the other guy thought he had enough fuel that he could make one more go.
He missed the run way again and he got to the top of his arc and Neil told him as soon as he decided to do this approach again he needed to dump the servo tank out into Lake Champlain so he could get rid of his drag. As soon as he got to the top of his arc he ran out of fuel. So that jet went into a farm yard, no one was hurt on the ground luckily. It was a brand new jet and had about 15 hours on it. Then the diplomatic thing with Israel he had to deal with was them questioning what kind of pilots were we putting in their jets to get them there. The jets were flown under US Air Force insignia but all you had to do was take a little bit of alcohol on the wing and then you had the Star of David underneath that. He hated losing that jet, they had the flight evaluation board and he had to go testify but they went through all his paperwork with a fine tooth comb and couldn’t find any thing wrong with it. They listened to the tapes from Air Traffic Control and found that Neil told him to dump his tank. He never heard the out come of the investigation.
He had a B 52 at Ellsworth fly through a flock of geese and it took out 3 of the engines, took out the leading edge of one of the planes. The scariest one was they hit a goose with the windshield right at the bottom where it meets the metal. It didn’t come through the windshield, it went in through the metal and then flew up over the top of the pilots head because when your flying generally, as a pilot, you would lower your seat down so you could see the flur of the infrared tv in front of you. So you could figure out where you were a couple hundred feet off the ground in the middle of the night. So he had lowered his seat down, so it barely hit the top of his helmet but it went though his ejection seat and into the circuit breaker panel behind him. But if he had of been up as he would have been in normal flight it would have taken his head off. In Lubbock Texas the problem was always Sand hill Cranes. In the winter time they would winter there and there would be hundreds of them flying every where and in every direction. In the hall way there is a sand hill crane with his wings wide open and a really funny expression on his face hung up on the wall as a reminder that when you go up to fly watch out for the dang birds.
He was at Langley 3 years, the last two of which he was assigned to the Thunderbirds to take them to Europe once and the previous year he was scheduled to go with them but they they got into a fight in the middle east and they canceled the entire demo team. It was scheduled to go into North Africa and Europe. So the following year they rescheduled into Europe and Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and then all of the England, Germany, France, Spain and Switzerland. The neat thing there was you got to see all the other teams as well because a lot of the demonstrations included the Italians. They fly either 7 or 9 airplanes together. They are all over the sky. Canadian Snowbirds were there a couple of times. The following year they went down into South America, before Venezuela fell out of favor. They went to Brazil, Argentina. The politics down there are just something fierce that one location they assigned them personal security and every where each one of them went, they had a guy with an AK-47 following them because they didn’t want any of them kidnapped. Which meant in the middle of the night which a lot of the pilots would run prior to reporting in the morning. So they would go out at 4:30-5:00 in the morning and run. And here’s this whole gang in military boots running after one of the pilots who is in running shoes, t-shirts and shorts.
While he was at Langley he was the Deputy Commander of Operations, and it seemed like all the old lieutenant Colonels who were in the same area he was, they said they were just waiting to retire, let’s let the young Major be the Deputy Commander and they will report to him. They didn’t care. So whenever it came time to go to Keflavik up in Iceland guess who went to Keflavik? The young Major. But when ever something went down to Bermuda, that’s when the Colonels went.
Back on some of his education when he was at Wentworth College at Fairchild, which was a Presbyterian college he went back to school and got a Master Degree in Education for the talented and gifted. He was familiar with this type because so many of the ones he flew with were gifted type individuals. There were a few that were rather slow but they were weeded out rather quickly.
Then he went to work at the school district at Keensburg in the Hudson area. Then he went back and got a Doctorate in information systems. Prior to that he went back to UNC and got a Ed Specialist right prior to a Doctorate to EDD which is Education Doctorate which is what a lot of the superintendents and the like have and a lot of them also have as Ed Specialist. It was just short of the dissertation which he didn’t do the dissertation piece at UNC then went back and got a doctorate in information systems.
He had been in a car crash and was down for a while having had a number of surgeries, he decided dshe wasn’t ready to retire so he went to Regis in Denver and picked up another Masters Degree in Information Assurance which is Cyber security. Got his certificates in Cyber Security. He is looking for a job but his age is against him, but he brings a ton of experience. If not he will get into contracting.
He was in the service 19 years and 10 months. He was able to retire early because they had a special program as they were trying to get rid of people. So people all the way down to the 15 year point they would allow you to retire. He taught a years but he bought 2 years into PERA where he retired from there also. He loves cyber -security because it’s interesting.
Cole Kugal had and in the Platteville area that Neil’s dad combined. He had a goal to be the oldest pilot. He would take Neil and his dad up several times and Neil kept bugging him to do a roll. So one time he did. It just so happened that he had spent the day catching lizards and had them in his metal lunch box.
Positive G’s in the seat. It’s uncomfortable flying upside down because you are maintaining a level flight because you have 1 G of downward and you are just hanging by your harness and it gets uncomfortable hanging there for very long. Can you do it, yes. He’s proved it. One of the most interesting things was in the T-38 which is a super sonic trainer that will do about 1.3 mach and one of the rides with the students is that you would take them through the sound barrier and especially the foreign students who were a bit more. Gullible, you would tell them that as we reach 1.0 on the mach meter, sir speed indicator, that we need to brief real well because you won’t be able to hear him. From the back seat any more because you are going to be in the front seat because at the speed of sound you can’t hear him talk any more. So just as you reached the speed of sound, there is no indication in the aircraft that you have reached the speed of sound, no buffeting, no sensation, then in the middle of talking to the student you quit talking and just mover your mouth. They would be surprised.