In early 1966, I had the great fortune to be assigned to the SR-71 Blackbird program at Beale AFB, California. Having just finished the required A/P (Airframe and Powerplant) training, It would be some time before we were finished with the extended training and the necessary security clearances to then be introduced to the Blackbird.
Walking past armed Military Police, our ID’s were thoroughly scrutinized, and after a briefing just inside the entrance, we were then escorted into the hanger that housed the SR-71. It is difficult to find just the right words to explain the wonder and excitement that came with that first glimpse of the Blackbird.
Walking around the aircraft, touching the matte black finish of the titanium outer skin, we knew we were indeed a part of a very special assignment. That wonder only grew with time, and even today the pride felt by those of us who were granted the privileged of working on the Blackbird remains.
I had the honor to have been given a temporary assignment within the 9th OMS (Organizational Maintenance Squadron) as a Squadron Illustrator, developing maintenance and management charts, safety posters and event notices. That position,, although relatively short in duration, led to a lifetime of work as an artist. Initially assigned the position by CMSgt, A. J. Smith, I worked nearby CMSgt. William Gornik, who directed much of my work. Chief Gornik set a very high standard of excellence, and was influencial to my growth not only in the maintenance environment but in all areas of personal responsibility. That experience served me well as I advanced in rank, to then be reassigned as a Crew Chief on the F-4 Phantom in Ubon RTAFB, Thailand, in 1968-1969.
The following pictorial album is a display of art that I hope will help the viewer better know the men and the aircraft that had such an impact on myself and others involved in the Blackbird communities history.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to live and work with the men of the 9th OMS through those years.