NOVEMBER 2002

Hot from our squadron reunion Public Affairs & Historical officer, Jim Bullard
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
         966th AEW&C Squadron Celebrates Reunion in Orlando

ORLANDO – Members of the long deactivated 966th Airborne Early Warning & Control Squadron (ADC)/Gold Diggers gathered in South Orlando recently for a gala two-day reunion.  In the first such get together in some 25 years, almost 50 former members of the Air Force squadron greeted past fellow crew members, renewed old friendships and retold the tales that have passed into squadron legend.

The aircraft flown by the 966th was a radar surveillance aircraft, the four-engine EC-121D Lockheed Super Constellation, affectionately known as the “Connie.”   The Gold Digger Mission was a special and, at the time, highly secret reconnaissance support mission flown by the 966th off the Cuban coastline.

During the late Sixties, the 966th also supplied crews to College Eye Task Force, flying combat support in Southeast Asia out of Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand.   Many of the “war stories” originated from the exploits of squadron members assigned to College Eye, both on-duty and off-duty.

Wade Johnson, for example, an aircraft commander on College Eye, told about one mission during which he established radio contact with the crew aboard the nearby aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise, in the Gulf of Tonkin.    The men on the Enterprise wanted to take some photos of the EC-121D, and requested that Johnson fly over their carrier.   Johnson gladly obliged them – more so than they anticipated.  He lined his Connie up on the landing path of the big ship and began to descend.  Then, when he dropped his landing gear, he watched pandemonium break out on the flight deck.  He then buzzed the Enterprise at “mast top” level and, as he began to climb back to altitude, radioed down to the startled Navy crew, “Get your pictures, boys?”

Perhaps the oldest attendee was Col. George “Red” Arns, former 966th Operations Officer, 82 years young and accompanied by his fiancée Rosie.

The officers and men of the 966th, many accompanied by tolerant wives, began to arrive on Friday, October 18th.   Phil Szymkowicz and Jim Skelton, co-planners of the reunion, had arranged for Adolph Coors Brewing Company to donate 15 cases of Coors Beer and send along a reunion banner.   The only scheduled event of the reunion was a dinner on Saturday night.   Each attendee also received a 966th/Digger baseball cap, T-Shirt and a commemorative coin as mementos of a weekend.

They also received another gift as well – the renewed camaraderie of men who climbed aboard their memories and returned together to the warm skies of Florida and Southeast Asia… older men now who reopened the treasures of friendships of younger days, and long ago missions on behalf of their country.
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Thanks Jim for the great write-up and for you folks who didn't attend the reunion, here's Red Arns and Wade Johnson.

WadeDelores.jpg (84224 bytes)    RedRosie.jpg (82183 bytes)

Jim And Phil

FYI-A Connie driver from McClellan, Art Lichte, was promoted today to Lt General.