GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. --
For many Airmen, Grissom is the place they choose to spend their military career. For some, even military separation doesn’t mean saying goodbye to their Grissom family.
Civilian employees are essential to the 434th Air Refueling Wing’s mission, and among them are retired veterans who chose to continue serving their country even after hanging up their uniform.
Dan DeAngulo, 434th ARW exercise program manager, retired from the Air Force as a Senior Master Sgt. in 2010 and has served in the Grissom community for over 30 years.
“I did five years active duty, most of which was overseas,” said DeAngulo.”Once I decided I was ready to leave that, I heard about the Air Reserve Technician program.”
DeAngulo, who was a jet engine mechanic at the time, said his passion was working on the A-10 Warthog.
“I love the A-10, but when I got to Mountain Home Air Force Base, I was working on F-111’s,” he said. “I didn’t like working on those, so I went home to Dayton, Ohio to see if I could get in with the F-4 Phantom unit.
“They didn’t have an opening for me but they said there were A-10’s at Grissom,” he continued. “It was the first time I’d even been to Grissom and I started signing paperwork to join that same day.”
DeAngulo has stayed at Grissom ever since, and has worked in a variety of different roles. The unique perspectives he gained from each of them helps him now in his role as exercise program manager, he said.
“One of the things that has kept me here is all of the different opportunities at Grissom,” said DeAngulo. “I’ve had a lot of chances to move into different roles when I want to learn something new and challenge myself.
“The other thing is the people at Grissom,” he continued. “Of all the places I’ve been, nowhere else has made me feel more like I’m part of a team. You don’t find that kind of comraderie everywhere.”
For veterans looking to continue serving their country, Grissom has no shortage of opportunities, said DeAngulo.
“I didn’t know what I would be doing after I retired from the military,” he said. “Things worked out for me though, because now I’m doing my dream job and all those different roles I filled over the years prepared me for it.”
Another veteran who has long been a part of the Grissom family is retired Col. Gary Beebe, Grissom’s site focal pilot instructor.
“I’ve been all over in my career, but Grissom seems to be the place I keep coming back to,” said Beebe.
Beebe has been working with the Air Force both in a military and civilian capacity for 48 years, during which time he has returned to Grissom several times for various assignments, as well as being part of 4 different flying squadrons stationed at Grissom.
“I started at Grissom in the 70th Air Refueling Squadron, and I also flew with the 305th ARS,” he said. “As a reservist, I flew with both the 72nd ARS and the 74th ARS.”
Like DeAngulo, Beebe said he felt a strong connection to Grissom because of the people he worked with.
“At Grissom, we’ve got a lot of what I call the Midwestern work ethic,” he said. “The wing has always had a great reputation, and that really shows when our people deploy and they step up to not just fill their own obligations, but to help others as well.
“Grissom will always be special to me,” he added.
Years before Beebe retired, he realized he wasn’t going to stop working, he said.
“I kept seeing people I knew who got out without a plan, and they had problems finding a sense of purpose because there’s really only so much time you can spend golfing or mowing the lawn,” Beebe said. “I decided that wasn’t going to be me.”
Despite knowing he wasn’t ready to retire completely, Beebe had no idea he would find himself as a simulator instructor.
“I’d never really had an interest in it before, I always felt like simulator training was just something where you tried to get it over with,” he said. “They asked me to try it for six months and quit if I didn’t enjoy it, and here I am eight years later.”
What keeps Beebe coming to work every day is the mental challenge and the opportunity for new experiences, he said.
“It’s amazing to me, because what I quickly discovered is that even after over 60 years, there’s new things to learn about these aircraft,” he said. “We’re here writing the book on (KC-135R) Stratotankers and I love being a part of that. I’d like to keep doing it for as long as I can.”
Beebe is far from the only Air Force veteran working at Grissom as a contractor. Bob Arnold, Grissom simulator maintenance technician, was retired for a mere 15 days before returning to Grissom.
“I knew about the simulator back when I worked in avionics and it always fascinated me,” said Arnold. “When I got to the point where I was going to have to retire from the military, I applied for the technician position and now I’ve been here 10 years.”
Being close to his family is what brought Arnold to Grissom, he said, but the unit soon became another sort of family for him.
“I always enjoyed working with the Grissom team,” said Arnold. “I’ve always been amazed by what we achieve here because I believe we did, and still do, have the best maintained tankers in the Air Force.
“I have a lot of pride in what we did,” he added.
For Arnold, working as a contractor has given him a way to stay connected with his Grissom family and continue doing what he loves.
“I stayed in the Reserve right up until the last day they’d let me, and I’d still be in today if I could,” he said. “Being a contractor here at Grissom has been the next best thing for me because I still get to see a lot of the same faces, I stay involved in the community I love, and I get to keep using the skills I learned in my military career.
“I’ve always given the Air Force my best, and the Air Force has been very good to me in return,” Arnold continued. “I feel very blessed that I can be here today.”
The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker
unit in the Air Force Reserve Command
. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.
Stay connected with the 434th ARW on Facebook