By Paul Gable
Don Wolford enlisted in the Air Force after graduating from high school in his native Roanoke, Va.
“I was 18 years old and I wanted to get some training,” said Wolford. “It was 1958 and I didn’t have the money for college. I thought I could gain some skills and experience by joining.”
After completing basic training, Wolford was sent to school to learn the maintenance and repair of avionic electronic gear and bomb navigation systems.
“We worked on all the various electronic gear in the cockpit of airplanes,” Wolford said.
His first permanent duty station was Seymour Johnson A.F.B. in North Carolina, which was a strategic air command base at the time. Wolford spent three years at Seymour Johnson, then, was overseas for the next five years.
“I spent a year on Okinawa and four years in Germany,” Wolford said. “Germany was my favorite duty station of my career. It was cheap in the mid 1960’s and Europe was a great place to be stationed.”
After Germany, Wolford returned to the U.S. for duty in Orlando, Fla. He was sent to Vietnam in 1959.
Wolford arrived in Vietnam just as the U.S. military was increasing its bombing campaign against North Vietnamese units and supply routes. The area near the Cambodian border was especially hard hit.
“We worked on F-4s and helicopter gunships in Vietnam,” Wolford said. “With the extensive number of missions being flown at the time, we were constantly on the go keeping the planes in the air during my year there.”
Wolford returned to Orlando where he was involved in the closing of McCoy A.F.B. He went back to Seymour Johnson A.F.B. for a tour before finishing his career in Arkansas.
“I really had a great career in the Air Force,” Wolford said. “I got to do and see many things that would not have been possible otherwise.”
After retiring, Wolford used the knowledge and experience gained in the Air Force to launch a second career. The use of computers was just beginning to become normal in American industry and Wolford’s experience with electronic equipment allowed him to land a job with a leading American manufacturer.
“I spent the next 23 years working for National Cash Register Company,” he said. “I started on cash registers and moved to ATM machines and computer systems as their use increased.”
Eight years ago, Wolford retired from his second career. He is now involved with programs at American Legion Post 186. He will also celebrate his fifty-first wedding anniversary in the fall.
“My wife Jackie was with me every step of the way during both careers,” said Wolford. “We’ve had a very good life.”