An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Commentary Search

March Retiree's Corner

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. (retired) Robert Barkalow Jr.
  • 169th Fighter Wing

We had around 50 folks attend our February Luncheon. There were no first-timers, however, we did have some folks to show that had not been in a good while. We had to endure another meeting room, but overall the NCO Club tries to do the best they can. At times they have a lot of folks to feed and serve, including meetings they have to handle. Normally, we like the Excalibur Room, it’s just a nice meeting room, well-appointed and decorated, open and airy. Larry Walden surprised us Retirees with a gift, he brought in a large package of ink pens. His plan was for us to sell these pens for $1.00 and the money goes to us Retirees either in the form of speaker money or put into our Retirees Account. The pen has a white Swamp Fox logo on it plus the inscription ‘S.C. Air National Guard – Retired’. It has a blue and black background, so it’s pretty and even writes well. We collected $58 at the Luncheon. I’ll bring them again next month, we have about 40 left. They are going like hot cakes. For a good while, this form of revenue will be in lieu of our periodic raffle. Speaking of ‘revenue’ we had the Comptroller Flight commander, Lt. Col. Will Tarrant, as our featured speaker. Great guy, loves history, one of the first questions I asked him, and I knew it was not a fair question was, “what is McEntire’s budget”? Naturally, he could not give me a definitive answer because there are so many aspects of the new modern budget. It has to be a monumental job to keep up with all the forms of revenue, budget allocations, maybe grants, and the ownership where all these different funds come from and what to be used for. I did this for a living the last years of my state retirement, so I am familiar with the quirks of budgeting and administering of the different allocations. This is compounded by Congress and budgeting by concurrent resolutions, meaning there is no annual budgetary process, now just piecemeal budgeting. So if we walk by and see somebody with green eyeshades, their sleeves rolled up, chained to their desk, you know what they are doing!

McEntire History:  Chief Master Sgt. Rob Wright and the Chief’s Council did this to me, they added 34 names to the Monument, meaning we now have a total of 330 names on our Monument. I will endeavor to do 17 names this month and 17 next month, catching up all the names on the Monument. Seventeen seems like a lot, however, some of these folks go way back, and I don’t really know a whole lot about them so I will tell you what I know about these individuals, either by knowing them or hearing about them, or statistical data compiled on them. They are as follows:

1.    James McKelvey “Jimmy”, one of our 1985 Retirees, he retired as a master sergeant and passed away Nov. 9, 2016. He was a Darlington resident and is buried there. He served 14 years in the Army Guard, and if I recall, a Medical Unit. Later, he joined the SCANG and served with the 169th TAC Clinic. He was also a volunteer fireman with the city of Darlington. He eventually became certified as an EMT Instructor and taught many years at the Florence-Darlington Technical College. He coached Dixie Youth Baseball and was a long time member of the First Baptist Church in Darlington. In other words, he was a pillar of the community to the city of Darlington. He was 87 at his passing and was married for 59 years.

2.    Charles Eston Housand, he goes by C. Eston Housand. He passed away Dec. 10, 2016. He retired in 1994 as a master sergeant. He was a Federal Technician, however, his home roots were in Loris, South Carolina. I remember he used to come to the Monday Night Drills that Chief Hatchell put on. I eventually lost track of him but looking at his obituary, he was a private pilot after he retired. He was a Desert Storm Call-Up attached to the 169th CAMS as a master sergeant. His picture is in the 25th Anniversary Book on Page 80, top picture, 169th Radar. He is also in the 40th Anniversary Book on Page 116, 169th CAMRON Flight Control AIS Test Station. 

3.    John J. Leech Jr., well now one of my old buddies. He lived next door to my son who was always going on deployments, and guess who had to keep his yard work up? Therefore, I got to know John and his wife Alice very well, a great couple. We had a lot of over the fence conversations. After learning about them, they were always helping with their family situations. Over the years John was having problems with his equilibrium, Jean and I visited with him in the hospital many times. John was a unique fellow, he loved serving the pilots, fitting them with their individual helmets, etc. I have been told stories that he could have been a Chief, but he had no interest in making rank. He just liked to serve and be ole John. John was a Desert Storm Veteran as a master sergeant attached to the 169th Tactical Fighter Squadron. His wife, Alice, retired as a school teacher from Richland One. They were members of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church and he was buried in their cemetery. An All-American couple, they were married for 58 years. He is pictured on Page 72 in the 25th Anniversary Book. John passed away Jan. 25, 2017 and he retired in 1992. John put in 39 years at McEntire. He was a Berlin Call-Up guy, as a staff sergeant attached to the 157th Fighter Squadron.

4.    James B. Oswald, “Sonny”, he passed away Jan. 31, 2016. He retired in 1983 as a technical sergeant. He was obviously a Flight Line guy. He is pictured on Page 76 in the 25th Anniversary Book, top picture 169th Flight Line. He was a Berlin Call-Up as a staff sergeant attached to the 169th CAMS. This is all I have on him at this time. I did not glean any further information from his obituary.

5.    Ollie W. Smith Sr., he was 85 years old at the time of his passing, Feb. 5, 2017. Ollie retired in 1987 as a master sergeant. He was a Berlin Call-Up as a staff sergeant attached to the 169th Air Base Squadron. His obituary states he earned an Army Good Conduct Medal, which concludes he was prior Army. If I am not mistaken, he came to some of our Breakfasts and Luncheons. I found Ollie in the 25th Anniversary Book on Page 81, top picture, he must have transferred to CAMS, because he is pictured with the 169th Radar bunch. He is also pictured on Page 116 in the 40th Anniversary Book with the 169th CAMRON Flight Control AIS Test Station.

6.    Jimmy F. Joye Sr., was 81 when he passed away March 19, 2017, and he retired as chief master sergeant around the late 1980s. I have not been able to pinpoint his retirement date. Jimmy served 37 years at McEntire, told me he absolutely loved being there every day. Jimmy lived several blocks away from me, therefore he and his wife, Harriet, would go to Pizza Palace and eat lunch often and we would see them there. That’s when I got to know more about him. Many folks attended his funeral. He was born in Hemingway then came to Columbia and the SCANG. I am guessing, but I would say Jimmy showed up at Congaree, right after the Korean War Call-Up. He was a Berlin Call-Up as a technical sergeant attached to 169th CAMS. He is pictured on Page 74, bottom picture, 169th CAMRON Administration in the 25th Anniversary Book and in the 40th Anniversary Book, he is pictured on Page 109, top picture, 169th CAMRON Quality Control.

7.    Charles D. Firestone passed away March 5, 2017. He retired in as a major in 1995. Primarily, he was part of the Services Flight with the 169th Combat Support Squadron. He died in Monroe, North Carolina. Based on his obituary, he was born in Pennsylvania. He got his degrees in law enforcement from both Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh. He also retired from Square D Corporation as an electrical draftsman. I am not sure how he gravitated to the Food Service industry. I was told he was a manager of a Denny’s Restaurant in Ohio, so all I can tell you is he did a variety of things. More than once I would see him and others at the Pecan Palace scrubbing pans. He was a hands-on type of guy.

8.    John C. Watson, “Chick”, he was a historical figure. The reason being, he was the first black member to be enlisted in the SCANG. This took place Aug. 28, 1964. He obviously was prior service since the 40th Anniversary Book refers to him as a sergeant. He retired in 1988 as a master sergeant attached to the 169th Resource Management Squadron. He is pictured in the 40th Anniversary Book on Page 122, bottom picture. He is also pictured in the 25th Anniversary Book on Page 89, top picture, 169th Supply, Equipment Management. Personally, I did not know John, however, I would see him around during drills for years. All I can tell you he is buried at Fort Jackson National Cemetery, other than that his obituary tells us nothing more.

9.    Jack L. Moak, one of our first Retirees! He and Alton Cox retired in 1963.  Alton being the first and Jack being the second, and the first officer to retire. He retired as a lieutenant colonel. Jack died March 23, 2017, at the age of 94. He died at Still Hopes Retirement Home in West Columbia. Jack came to one of our Breakfasts/Luncheons and told his story. He was a WWII pilot and at that time he was flying a P-38 during the North African Campaign. He was shot down by a German pilot and he pancaked in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy. The German pilot who shot him down kept strafing him. He would hide underneath the plane until the German pilot left. Later, the Italian Coast Guard came out and rescued him. At that time, they were part of the Axis and he was finally shipped off to Stalag Luft #3, which many of us know as The Great Escape Prison, personified by the movie with Steve McQueen. The prison was located in modern-day Poland. Most of the escapees were the British, many did not make it, and some were executed. While a POW, he learned to play the Clarinet. I guess my question is how did a clarinet get into a POW camp? Nevertheless, he played and entertained people for years until his passing at the Still Hopes Retirement Home. After his retirement from the Air Guard, Jack worked for years with the S.C. Aeronautics Commission, flying our governors and dignitaries around for years. He was a Korean War Call-Up as a captain attached to the 157th Fighter Squadron and also a Berlin Call-Up as the commander of the 169th CAMS. According to the pilot roster, he flew the P-51, F-80, F-86s, and the F-104. His call sign was “Bones” since he was a slender guy. When he finally died, he had a Celebration of Life at Still Hopes. I and Jack Coward went to it, very formal, served wine and had chamber music. Hud McLean was there and we talked, there was a cloud burst of a storm, not sure if there was any significance to that at all. He is pictured in the 25th Anniversary Book on many pages as well as the 40th Anniversary Book.

10.    Allen C. Pate, he retired in 1994 as a major general. Allen joined the Air Force in 1962 and became a KC-135 pilot. During the Vietnam War, he logged over 110 combat missions with over 610 hours. After the Air Force, he came back and went to law school and joined the SCANG in 1967 and flew the F-102 and continued flying until 1976. He later transferred to JAG and subsequently kept getting promoted until his final rank of major general. He was a Florence County native and later moved to Edisto Beach until his passing May 17, 2017. I personally did not know him but was always impressed with his ribbons and career in both the Air Force and SCANG. He is pictured in the 25th Anniversary Book on Page 71, top picture. Also on Page 96 in the 40th Anniversary Book, Headquarters SCANG.

11.    Walter A. Drafts, he retired in 1995 as a master sergeant. He passed away June 24, 2017. He served for 37 years in the SCANG. Walter was married for 54 years. He was a Berlin Call-Up as an A2/C attached to CAMS. He was a Desert Storm Veteran as a master sergeant with CAMS. He is pictured in the 25th Anniversary Book on Page 75, bottom picture, 169th Engine Shop. He is also in the 40th Anniversary Book, Page 109, top picture, 169th CAMRON Quality Control, standing next to Jimmy Joye.

12.    Marion Gunter, he died June 30, 2017, at the age of 78. He retired in 1991 as a master sergeant. Marion was prior service Air Force and then he joined the SCANG as part of the 240th Combat Communications Squadron, for a combined 29 years of service. He and his wife, Alice, were married for 55 years. I was also in the 240th at that time but I did not know Marion very well, we were in different sections plus Marion was rather quiet and laid back. After he retired, Marion would come to some of our Breakfasts and Luncheons all the way from Florence County. He and his buddy Ron Dorriety were a pair, they would come to drill together, serve together and at times would come to our Breakfasts together and they would bring their wives. Both were big men and when I was selling SCANG Retiree jackets, they had me get them XXL or XXXL sizes, don’t remember which. Actually, when Marion was having medical problems his family reached out to me and other 240th folks and SCANG Members. Many 240th folks went to his funeral in Florence. Marion was a gentle giant who always had a smile on his face. He is pictured in the 40th Anniversary Book on Page 139, bottom picture.

13.    Derek J. Fish was one of our active members who took his own life. He astounded everyone by doing this. He died July 30, 2017. He was part of our Security Forces Squadron and was a Richland County Deputy. After he died, there were several subsequent articles about him and his mother who championed her son and why these things happen. Derek was born in Minnesota and I believe his mother took him back home with her. Again, everyone that knew Derek was in shock by him doing this, he had just got off duty and went back to his station when he decided to do this. Derek was 28 years of age.

14.    Johnny E. James, passed away at age 77, Sept. 6, 2017. He retired in 1997 as a senior master sergeant. He worked in Base Operations for around 40 years. Johnny was a people person. He developed cancer in one of his eyes and it had to be removed. Over the years and through the internet I have gotten to know his wife, Beth. She is the computer person in that family. Johnny would come to some Breakfasts and Luncheons when he could. I found Johnny as a Berlin Call-Up as an A1/C with the 169th Material Squadron. Also, he was a Desert Storm Veteran as senior master sergeant attached to the 169th Fighter Squadron. Johnny is pictured in the 25th Anniversary Book, Page 69, HQ 169th Fighter Group. Also, in the 40th Anniversary Book, Page 101, Bottom picture, Operations Support Staff 157th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Just a great guy!

15.    Grady I. McIver was another 1991 retiree. He retired as a chief master sergeant with Security Forces. Grady was a fixture around the base. He was always around when we went to pick up weapons. He was a traditional Guardsman. He was both a Korean and Vietnam War Veteran and later served in the SCANG. I believe he lived in the Sandy Run area of either Lexington or Calhoun County. He also retired from the Savannah River Plant as a pipe welder. He was 83 when he passed away Sept. 27, 2017. He served his Lord for many years, a very devout man. Grady is pictured in the 40th Anniversary Book on Page 131. I did not spot him in the 25th Anniversary Book, he may have been active duty at that time.

16.    John A. Spearen Jr., he passed away Sept. 23, 2017, at the age of 71. He was born in Maine and according to his obituary, he served a total of 27 years, active and SCANG, retiring in 2005 as a master sergeant. He was a Desert Storm Veteran as a staff sergeant attached to CAMS. He is pictured in the 40th Anniversary Book, Page 114, bottom picture, 169th CAMRON Munitions Storage. John was buried at Fort Jackson National Cemetery. He was married for 48 years.

17.    Charles E. Caldwell, he passed away at age 70, Nov. 28, 2017. According to his obituary, he was born in Youngstown, Ohio. He served in the U.S. Army and later joined the SCANG for a 30-year military career. He was a Federal Technician. He retired in 2003 as a technical sergeant. I understand he loved his 1988 Blue Corvette. I have very little information about Charles at this time.

Our March Luncheon will be held at the Fort Jackson NCO Club, March 5 at noon, please come and see us.