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McCune traveled to 27 countries while serving in the United States Air Force

Jewell County Record of Mankato, Kansas

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On July 1, 1958, Bob McCune, 19, began a 20 year career with the United States Air Force.

Bob started his school years around the town of Hunter, just to the east Victor, which consisted of a school and a convenience store. The rest of his grade school years were at Solomon Rapids. In 1949, he moved to Burr Oak and graduated from high school in the spring of 1958. At the beginning of his senior year of high school, Bob joined the National Guard in Mankato, where he was a member from September 1957 to July 1958.

"While at Burr Oak High School, I had a teacher by the name of Mildred

Masters, and she was a big influence on my joining the Air Force," said Bob.

Bob went on to say that while he was attending school in Burr Oak, not bragging, but he was pretty good in track and football. He turned down a scholarship to Fair bury College in both sports to join the Air Force.

"I had a principal who told me the only reason I was being offered the scholarships for college was because I was an athlete. I wasn't smart enough to make it in college. It would just be sports and then I would be done," said Bob.

The principal didn't know Bob McCune very well because that comment stuck with Bob throughout his career in the Air Force and was a driving force for him to succeed at everything possible. He had a point to prove to himself, and his principal.

Jan Reece and Bob dated throughout high school and in their junior year they became engaged. Both of them wanted to get away from Jewell County and see the world. Bob knew for a fact he didn't want to farm, and what else was there in Jewell County? In May 1958, two days after Jan graduated from Mankato High School and three days after Bob graduated from Bun-Oak High School, they got married. Bob was supposed to report for basic training June 1, but that was changed to July 1.

At this time of the armed forces, there was a buddy system for enlisting. Bob reported with buddies — Jim Whelchel, Larry Thompson and Paul Zimmerman — to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, which is where they took their first four weeks of basic training. At this time, they were given a battery of tests. Bob excelled in the mechanical and administrative categories. His hearing was fantastic and he learned that he was ambidextrous (able to use both hands). Jim went on to become a crypto operator while Larry and Paul were in the mechanical field. Bob never saw any of the other men during his time in the service.

The next four weeks, basic training was held at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. During the first year of his service, Bob was involved in training called "white rope," in which his assignment was to march the guys to KP. Also at this time, Bob began aircraft controller and warning school for eight more weeks.

"I wanted to fly, but I thought maybe this might be a fun field. One of the things I had to do at this assignment was see the information in front of me and write it backwards, so the men behind me could read it," said Bob.

This was the beginning of the top secret training for Bob with the Air Force and it would continue for him and for Jan throughout his career. Jan moved to Biloxi and lived with one of Bob's instructors off base. When Bob finished his schooling and it was time to leave for the next phase of the Air Force, Bob said he asked his instructor how much he owed him for Jan staying in his home.

"My instructor told me to 'pass it on,' and I have lived 'pass it on' since that time," said Bob.

Following a 30 day leave which was in Mankato with Jan's parents, Lyle and Elizabeth Reece, Bob reported to Klamath Air Force Station in California, which is where Jan and Bob's first daughter, Dee Freimuth, was born. He stayed a year as a controller and warning operator and also became part of the combat alert team.

"Sometimes we worked 36 hours straight. Our work site was always on top of a mountain and was done in a dark room, and I didn't really like that. A service man was told from the beginning of joining the Service, if you have a problem, go to the chaplain and he will help by doing what he can. So, I went to the chaplain to discuss my problem and he told me I couldn't get out of AC&W, so I had to stay and continue to work in the dark room," said Bob.

Bob remembers several things that happened at this point of his career of which there are many still today that he does not discuss because of it being top secret. He finally got out of the AC&W and his final decision to do so was the possibility of having to serve in Iceland and being away from his family.

In 1961, Bob left Klamath for a 15 month tour in Tainan, Taiwan. During this time, Jan and Dee were not with him.

"That was a hard time. Not only were Jan and Dee not with me, but our second daughter, Leslie Walker, was born," said Bob.

While in Taiwan, Bob was in the administrative field where he was in charge of two types of disposal of supplies One year later his assistant sergeant major put him in charge of all classified information, all messages and dispatching of messages as well as making up the duty roster and bed check every night. While in Taiwan, Bob was recommended for officer training school, but prior to coming back to the United States in 1962, the school was closed.

"One of the first things I learned while in Taiwan happened one night when I walked into a room with the lieutenant to do the bed check. He saluted and so I saluted, not knowing at the time why, but I did it. He stopped and asked if I knew why I had saluted, and I said no. The lieutenant went on to tell me I had saluted the National Medal of Honor that was hanging on the wall of that room," said Bob. "Everyone should always salute the National

Medal of Honor anytime you see it whether it is being worn or hanging. This is not just for service men this is for everyone and it still holds true today."

From 1962 to 1964, Bob was stationed at Mather Air Force Base in California where he held administrative jobs with the 320th Bomb Wing and was in charge of all records of flight personnel on B-52s. Examples were compiling test scores and checking to make sure they were executing proper emergency procedures. Also while working with the B-52, Bob worked in the simulator to become a gunner for a B-52, and was just about ready to become a gunner and would have but the Vietnam War broke out and no personnel with administrative training were allowed to go to combat.

November 1964 to 1966 was at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. He was still serving in administration and was givien the assignment of Office of Special Investigation, OSI. This was during Vietnam time and the Air Force really wanted people to go into OSI. One of his other assignments at Langley was security clearance of all personal.

May 1967 to 1970 Bob and his family were at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. He was still in administration with a postal assignment for all the Pacific Islands.

From 1970 to 1972 time was at McClellan Air Force Base in California with the Recon Squadron where he keep track of all weather tracks and recorded them.

1972 to 1974, Bob had a big assignment. He, Jan and the girls were in Ubon, Thialand, where he worked for the same colonel as he had at McClellan Air Force Base. His job was recording all air control information like number of bombs in stock and used daily.

1974 to 1976, Bob was stationed in Bitburg, Germany, with the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing. For one year he kept record of all bombing targets by aircraft. Every two weeks there was an upgrade. Everything was top secret. From this assignment, Bob moved to the social actions drug and alcohol department, where he was in charge of all personal for drugs and alcohol. He held counseling and classes once a week for four hours, was in charge of keeping all records. In 1975, the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing was presented Top Social Action Program of the Air Force and was runner up in 1976. While the family was stationed in Germany they were not allowed to go anywhere there was not a military base.

This brings us to the last two years of Bob's 20 year career which was at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., where his final assignment was with the drug and alcohol program.

"During my 20 years in the service, Jan and I and the girls were separated for a total of 28 months. The girls never missed one day of school. The main problem the girls had with school was that most of the schools were not on the same curriculum, so consequently when we moved, sometimes they would be in the same class as the one they had just finished, but after tests were given they were moved up to the class ahead," said Bob.

While at McClellan, Bob was sent for a four week program for noncommissioned officers. During time at Bitberg, Germany, Bob completed two years plus of college at the University of Maryland night school studying sociology and education and almost completing enough to receive his master's degree.

Bob received the Meritorious Service Medal while at Bitburg and again at Hickam Air Force Base; Air Force Accommodation Medal while at Ubon Thialand; Air Force Accommodation Medal 1st Oak Leaf Cluster at McClellan Air Force Base; Air Force Accommodation Medal 3rd Oak Leaf Cluster at Davis Monthan Air Force Base.

Bob retired as an E-6 technical sergeant and at that time was on order for master sergeant.

"Leslie, was just getting ready for her senior year of high school and I didn't want her to have to move to a new school for her senior year, so I did not reenlist," said Bob.

After his retirement, Bob continued to work and educate himself. He attended real estate school and sold real estate in Tucson for two years; worked as a civil service worker for Monthan Air Force Base; also worked in civil service in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin, where he was an upper grade mobility officer. While living in Pennsylvania, he completed three years of college and classes to receive his associate's degree and lacked one class for his master's degree

"Jan and I wanted to see the country and we did that, in fact 27 different countries. We have talked about being: in the service for 20 years many times and both agree we would not change what we did," said Bob.

Some of the memorable things Bob remembers that he can share are: "There were two good assignments in the military, one going to and one leaving; make your home where your hat hangs; studying at Johnson Institute of Family Care and Family Chemical Care under instructor Joyce Brothers and Dr. Dusey; the girls don't feel they missed anything; we have moved 32 times throughout our married life and looked at Elizabeth and Lyle's farm as home-base."

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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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