GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. --
The familiar whistle that breaks the silence in the hallways of Grissom’s headquarters will now be a tune heard by memory. That whistle, Col. Larry Shaw’s trademark pre-cursor to his energetic entrance, will reverberate here no longer. Shaw retired as commander of the 434th Air Refueling Wing March 13, in a ceremony during the unit training assembly.
“Military or civilian, we speak the same language when it comes to describing the character of Larry Shaw,” said retired Col. Paul Gates, the events’ emcee.
Shaw joined the Air Force as a navigator in 1988 after graduating from the University of Nebraska. It was a big year for him both personally and professionally as it was the year he also married his high school sweetheart, Kris, and welcomed their first child.
The Air Force was his path. He knew that early on-- learning from and admiring his dad, a retired senior master sergeant and boom operator.
“We lived at March Air Force Base, right off the base. Me and my buddy would ride our bikes to the end of the runway and watch the F-4’s and B-52’s and it just absolutely intrigued me,” said Shaw.
“Then we moved to South Dakota and I remember running two-a-days- for football and I remember the B-52’s and KC-135’s taking off in the background and I just thought that was so cool,” he added. “However, the older I got the more I appreciated wanting to serve my country.”
So he answered the call. His first assignment was as a KC-135 crew member at the 920th Air Refueling Squadron at Wurtsmith AFB, Michigan. For the next 33 years, he went to work.
Shaw served on active duty until 1996 when he joined the 72nd Air Refueling Squadron at Grissom as a traditional reservist.
When advances in technology began phasing out the need for navigators, it was the perfect time for Shaw to make a change. In 1997 he made the switch to piloting, another long-held dream.
“I always wanted to go to pilot training. I truly believe I wasn’t ready to go to pilot training out of college,’’ he said. I always wanted to but the good Lord said no. There’s always a reason.”
Throughout his career, Shaw soared. He rose to the rank of colonel while logging over 5,700 flying hours and pinning on numerous decorations.
When he took the helm at Grissom in 2016, it was a homecoming of sorts. Shaw served at the 434th in several roles between 1996 and 2013. When he left as the 434th Operations Support Squadron commander in 2013, in three short years he would return as wing commander.
“It was an honor and a blessing to command this wing and I’ve loved every second of it,” said Shaw.
“Grissom is the best reserve unit and I truly believe that. I’m not just saying that because I’m the commander. We execute the mission very well and we have that reputation.”
With his final commander’s call and UTA under his belt, he’s ready to map out his next adventure with his best friend.
“I’ve been on the go for 33 years. I’m going to relax. We’re going to babysit and travel,” he said. “I will miss this, but I am looking forward to the next chapter.”