Matts USAF Career


Matts Career in the United States Air Force

 Matt enlisted in the Air Force and went to Basic Training at Lackland AFB, TX in Sept 1974. After making it through basic training, Matt was assigned to Chanute AFB, IL for his technical training as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician. He took his studies very seriously and kept to himself! NOT!


After training at Chanute AFB, Matt finally graduated and got orders to his first Permanent Duty Assignment. As you can see by the picture below, Matt was always very serious about his military career!

This guy is a regular Sgt. Rock! I gotta see more!

Matt was assigned to the 42nd OMS at Loring AFB, Maine. Loring AFB is about 2 miles from the Canadian boarder and gets around a million feet of snow each winter! This is supposed to be a sportsmans paradise, but since Matt wasn’t a sportsman, he spent most of his time freezing his ass of!

His first assignment was to the Bomber Branch as a member of a Basic Postflight Team. (BPO). This involved recovering aging B-52 bombers and many times trying to turn them around for another mission only a few hours after it landed. Not an easy task with these very old and very broken aircraft. You can see the pride that Matt showed in his job by the fact that he is wearing a BPO3 hat while playing with a stuffed Penguin.

The truth be told, Matt is laying on Margaret Zelinski’s bed in her dorm room.(you remember her? She’s the one holding the flag in the photo with Matt at Chanute AFB, IL. Funny how she got orders to Loring AFB also) Matt gave her the penguin as a present and a token of his affection. The penguin was given the name “Oscar”. Matt can’t remember why! While assigned to the B-52 BPO team, Matt would work maybe 25 hours a week. There would be aircraft recoveries maybe 2 days of the week and the other days he would show up for work with the rest of his crew and they would sweep the hanger from one end to the other. After this challenging task was done, they would all depart for the NCO club to drink coffee. Seriously…. he only really worked 2-3 days a week while assigned to the bomber branch and doing bomber recoveries.

Matt got tired of working so hard on bombers and managed to work a transfer from the bomber branch to the tanker branch. The tanker maintenance guys actually got to fly on their aircraft and go places with them. The easy days of only working 2-3 days a week were gone, but he was happy to finally be working on what he considered a much better aircraft. Another benefit of being in tanker branch was that Matt and Margaret Zelinski had gotten married, and Margaret worked in the tanker branch also!

While in tanker branch, Matt made some new friends and found some new talents. He was actually very good as the pitcher on the squadron Slow Pitch softball team. The picture below shows Matt with one of his co-workers and players, Pat Burke. Pat Burke and Mike Cliff were inseperable friends that took Matt and Peggy (aka Margaret) under their wings and tried to make their life as new tanker crew chiefs bearable.

The picture isn’t fuzzy… Pat and Matt are! Matt is wearing theSusquehana University Shirt that his brother Mark had given him while he was attending that fine institution of higher education. This is perhaps the only day at Loring AFB that there wasn’t snow on the ground. This was summer… 1 day… then it was time for Fall again.

While stationed at Loring, Matt had the good fortune of having some great people help him along. CMSgt Carrol Plumlee, CMSgt Jack Broadaway, Mike Cliff, Pat Burke, Jud “Dusty” Carnahan, and Lt Col Robert Ellenthorp (sp?), his commander.





Here’s some patches from Matt’s days at Loring AFB, Maine


STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND                                 42ND BOMB WING

Matt and Peggy got tired of the winters and decided to see part of the world. They volunteered for an extended overseas long tour to Kadena AB, Okinawa, Japan. And like they always say… be careful what you wish for..


Okay.. I’m ready for more of this great motivational saga!



Matt arrived at Kadena AB during the end of October, 1976. His first assignment was to the 376th Field Maintenanance Squadron in the Repair and Reclimation shop. While working in this shop he got valuable experience on changing flight controls, windows, landing gear and many other major components on the KC-135 aircraft. This knowledge would prove beneficial later on in his career. 

After spending some time in the R&R Shop, Matt asked for and was transfered to the flightline to the 376th Organizational Maintenance Squadron where he was assigned as an assistant crew chief on KC-135A #58-0013. Later on he was assigned to the “Hog Pen” working on RC-135M aircraft.


While he was a Recce hog farmer, Matt was known for repainting only the pilots side of the cockpit and making it look like new. His logic was that the co-pilot had something to look forward to this way. This is one of the aircraft that Matt crewed. This picture is taken as the aircraft is sitting on the wet hammerhead waiting to take off.

After Matt left the Recce Hog Pen, he was assigned as the Crew Chief on KC-135A #64-14838 (the 3rd from the last tanker ever built!) where he spent the rest of his tour. Matt had many TDY’s to Guam, the Phillipines, Austrailia and other places during his tour at Kadena. The pictures below are some that Matt took while refueling one of the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing’s F-4’s


While working on his tanker, Matt also got to refuel some of the same RC-135’s that he used to crew while he was a Recce Hog Farmer.


This picture shows Matt with his Assistant Crew Chief Will McGowan in front of their KC-135, 64-14838.  Matt Set the wing record for consecutive on-time take-offs with 36 in a row.


One of the good things about being in the military is all the great people you meet. This guy in the picture with Matt is Frank Philbin. Frank was one of the pilots and treated the crew chiefs like gold! His attitude was a rarity among flight crews and ensured that I would do anything I could to  make his flight a bit easier! Frank is now flying for

Delta and I will always remember him for sneaking me into the officers club to buy me a “going away” drink. Man those “O’s” sure do get rowdy when they drink! Especially the fighter pukes! I missed Frank after he left, but then I met another great Tanker Driver!

UPDATE: Cathy Philbin (Franks wife) emailed me and I was sorry to learn that Frank lost his battle with cancer. This One-In-A-Million friend passed away on January 29, 2007. My prayers go out to Cathy, his brother Regis and the rest of his family and friends. Frank touched my life and left his fingerprints on my memories. Thank you Frank for being such a good friend.


 Every once in awhile you meet someone that has a profound impact on your life and your outlook on things around you. After Frank Philbin departed for the states,  I met Captain James R. Pugh, Tanker Pilot.  As a result of the time we spent on Alert, TDY, and Jim flying my tanker, we got to know each other quite well and I’m proud to say that on a professional level, Jim Pugh was one of the best “Zipper Suited Sun Gods” that I ever had the pleasure of letting fly my aircraft, and on a personal level, Jim Pugh was one of the best friends that I ever had!  What will always be etched in my memory was that as the crew chief, when I told Capt. Pugh that I had checked something that was it, no questions, no doubts. My word was gold with him, and he was one of the few that ever gave a maintenance troop that level of respect. For the sake of those that came after me, I hope they are fortunate enough to come across men like Jim Pugh and Frank Philbin. 



Here’s some patches from Matt’s days at Kadena AB


Wow.. this is so intense.. What’s Next?



Matt arrived at Andrews in November 1979.He was assigned to the 89th Organizational Maintenance Squadron working on one of the Special Air Mission C-135B Aircraft #62-4130. Matt’s first week in the squadron he was tasked with “Hangar Banger”. This detail involved cleaning up the aircraft hangars, performing maintenance etc. Matt got to paint aircraft chocks yellow and then sprinkle them with glass beads so they were reflective at night. While performing this “national security” duty, he found out that he had been selected for promotion to E-5, Staff Sergeant. Guess is was all the yellow paint and glass beads that put him over the top!

Matt made several trips while assigned to 4130. One of them was to the Middle East where he visited Petra, the city carved in the rock in Jordan, and then to Egypt where he visited the Pyramids.


THE TREASURY AT PETRA, JORDAN                                                THE SPHINX AND THE PYRAMIDS

After working on the C-135B aircraft, Matt was moved up to the C-137’s. He was assigned to 58-6970. This aircraft was the first jet powered Air Force One. The pictures below show Matt in front of his aircraft and then when its on display at it’s permanent home at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.after being retired from active duty. Here’s what they have to say about Matt’s old aircraft.

Air Force One—The Flying Oval Office

The first presidential jet plane, a specially built Boeing 707-120, is known as SAM (Special Air Missions) 970. This aircraft, as well as any other Air Force aircraft, carried the call sign “Air Force One” when the president was aboard. Delivered in 1959 to replace Eisenhower’s Super-Constellation, the high-speed jet transport is a flying Oval Office with a modified interior and sophisticated communication equipment.

Jet technology gave a president the opportunity to meet face-to-face with world leaders easily. SAM 970 has carried presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, as well as VIPs such as Nikita Khrushchev and Henry Kissinger. By 1962, SAM 970 was replaced by a newer Boeing VC-137C. But SAM 970 remained in the presidential fleet ferrying VIPs and the vice-president until June of 1996.


    Matt served on 6970 for awhile and then was transferred to 58-6972 where he met Steve Kerr. Steve and Matt became best friends and their friendship continues to this day. After working for Steve on 6972, Matt finally got the chance to be the “Crew Chief” on his old aircraft. 6970 was normally used by the Vice President for longer trips that the C-9 couldn’t do. Matt was a flight mechanic as well as the primary crew chief on this aircraft for over 2 years. He normally spent about 2 weeks a month on the road since George Bush was a very active Vice President. On one trip to the far east that lasted 19 days, Matt had drawn a Snoopy cartoon that was posted in the crew compartment. Mr. Bush saw the cartoon, asked who did it, and then signed it for Matt. Then the people in the Vice Presidents party made copies of the cartoon and asked Matt to sign it for them. Matt cherished the autographed original signed by George Bush and placed it inside a paper towel sleeve so it wouldn’t get damaged. Unfortunately, it was later mistaken for trash when he got home and was thrown away. (not by Matt!) Matt had some business cards printed up to use while on the road.

    During Matt’s time on 6970, he traveled to many places. Matt has been all over the world and the list of places would be very long. He took alot of pictures but the only ones he really saved were from China. The pictures below are from his first trip. He went to the Summer Palace and The Great Wall.

Matt took this picture from the entry doorway as the Vice President and Mrs. Bush were walking to Marine 2 after one of the many trips. The Bush’s were always very friendly to the crew members and were great people to know. Matt will never forget them!

After flying around the world with Vice President Bush for 2 years, Matt accepted a job as the Squadron Safety and Budget NCO. This was a nice office job working for the Squadron Commander, Lt Col Robert F. Guy, a very unique individual. The last time Matt saw him, he was Col. Guy and he was doing the Special Ops thing. As a squadron commander, he was the about the best Matt ever had! During his stint as the Safety/Budget NCO, Matt also got to build offices for the Tech Reps, coordinate the squadrons part in the annual Air Show, and get involved in all kinds of other stuff that gave him more experience and a well rounded point of view of the maintenance operation.

The words on the bottom of the pictures on the right say:

To Matthew Caswell with appreciation for your great service aboard AF II. Good Luck!

Matt was on the Presidential Maintenance backup list and was selected for Presidential Maintenance duties in 1986. He was assigned to the primary aircraft 72-7000 where he once again was working for Steve Kerr.


Matt was only in Presidential for about 9 months. Matt had been at Andrews AFB for 7 1/2 years and wanted to move on. Presidential was a great experience but it they were getting new 747’s and we were told we would be at Andrews forever if we were in Presidential when they got the new aircraft . Matt decided that he wasn’t really cut out to spend the rest of his career in Presidential Maintenance so he asked to be released and took a job in Maintenance Control as a Senior Controller. The personnel that maintain the Presidential aircraft are the best in the in world and deserve all the respect and admiration that they are given!

Some of the people that Matt will never forget from Andrews include: Steve Kerr, Robert F. Guy, CMSgt Tate, Shelly Hunihan, Susan Berholka, CMSgt Don Axe, CMSgt Abe Amerhein, Lewis Dickerson, Phylis Wand, Willie Falcon and everyone in Presidential who put up with him!


Patches from Matt’s Assignment at Andrews AFB, MD



Matt was transfered to the 9th Organizational Maintenance Squadron in 1989. Once he arrived there he was put on a KC-135Q as a crew chief. At this time SAC was on a big kick to have rank back on the aircraft. So even though Matt was a Master Sergeant, he was back to doing the job he did as a Senior Airman. He made several TDY’s while crewing his aircraft, including one back to Kadena AB as part of the refueling support for Det. 1, the SR-71’s based at Kadena AB. Matt enjoyed seeing the old island again and noticed that even though there had been some improvements, not much had changed.

While doing this job he was deployed to “Operation Desert Storm” in January 1991. He and Kevin Connolly were in charge of KC-135Q maintenance during the night shift. On any given day they were flying 20 sorties with only 10 aircraft. One aircraft returned with an extruded boom sighting window. It looked as if a watermelon had been pushed into the window from the inside. The window hadn’t come apart, but it was still unsafe for flight. Reaching back into his days in Repair and Reclimation shop while stationed at Kadena, Matt was able to change the window and get the aircraft off the ground to meet its scheduled mission. The KC-135Q aircraft that were from Beale AFB and assigned to the 1700 Air Refueling Squadron spent most of their time refueling the F117A fighters during the gulf war. Matt has many fond memories of his experiences during this time. It’s a scary thing to think that someone is actually trying to kill you and your co-workers. Every night during the SCUD attacks, he would be reminded of this fact.

While TDY to Ryadh, Saudi Arabia, Matt lived in a 5 Bedroom villa. He shared the master bedroom with Kevin Conolly, the other night shift supervisor. They had a color TV, VCR, Microwave, Phone and all the things necessary to live like Air Force troops during a war. Matt and Kevin commuted from the villa to the air base in a Chevy Sport Astro Van with mag wheels etc. Matt returned from Desert Storm in April 1991. There was quite a crowd at Plattsburg AFB, NY where they stopped to refuel. It seemed like the whole base at Beale came out to the flightline to welcome the tanker personnel back home.

Here are some pictures of the welcome:


After returning from Desert Storm, Matt was the Alert Branch Chief for the off site Alert Force at Mather AFB in Sacramento, California. He would drive a little USAF truck back and forth from Beale to Mather and back again every day. It was about a 45 minute trip one way. After President Bush fired Matt (well, actually he shut down all the alert forces, not just Matt’s) Matt returned to Beale and became the Inspection Branch Chief. When the inspection branch was moved out of his squadron, Matt became the assistant Sortie Generation Flight Chief where he got to play racquetball with CMSgt Jodrey , SMSgt Marty Ringgold, and Major Tommie Thompson. They normally kicked his ass on a daily basis.

Matt earned a promotion to Senior Master Sergeant (E-8) and with the selection for promotion, he got a love letter from Headquarters that said “Congratulations on your promotion, now you gotta move!” Matt got to select from 3 bases and Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ was the lesser of the 3 evils, so Matt decided to move there. It’s in the desert, and it’s hot, hot, hot! And the other bad part of this move was, he won’t be on KC-135’s anymore. Matt was going to have to learn all he could about a new airframe, C-130’s! YUK! This would be the assignment that ended his career due to politics in the maintenance unit!

Patches from Matt’s Assignment at Beale AFB, CA

I’m still looking for an actual 609th OMS patch. The one shown above is just a drawing I had done for the Inactivation Ceremony for the 609th on 30 April 1992.

Okay.. Matt got promoted and had to move!


“Weasels aren’t only on F-4’s”

The ugly details of how the leaders in the 43rd ECS screwed me and essentially ended any chance of me making Chief Master Sergeant have been removed. I’ve moved on.. but they still suck!

– Hell ends and Matt once again finds People with Integrity –

Needless to say, after Matt found out about this decision to kill his career, he sought to move to another squadron where he would at least be able to finish out his time with individuals that had integrity and weren’t subject to petty political games. About this time, another C-130 Unit was moving to Davis-Monthan from Keesler AFB, Mississippi. The 7th ACCS was coming to town and needed some maintenance people to fill key positions. This is when Matt met 1Lt John Devane. John Devane asked why Matt wanted to move from the 43rd ECS, and Matt told him. Lt Devane must have believed what Matt was telling him because he offered Matt a job in the new squadron. Matt moved from the 43rd ECS to the 42nd Airborne Command and Control Squadron around July 1994. From the time he reported for duty, Matt knew he was among professional maintenance personnel and it was like a breath of fresh air!

Matt was assigned as the Sortie Support Flight Superintendent. While assigned to the 42nd ACCS, Matt had the honor of meeting SMSgt Leon Peterson. Leon was the acting Maintenance Superintendent and it was obvious that he knew how to treat people and unlike Greg Daniels, he was the right career field for the job and could actually do the job. Leon made Matt feel welcome from the first day. Sorry to say that CMSgt Leon Peterson isn’t with us anymore. He was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident several years ago. Leon touched so many lives and so many people will miss him!

While assigned to the 42nd ACCS, Matt was sent TDY in support of Operation Deny Flight. He was sent to Aviano AB, Italy where he got to know Lt John Devane even more. John is another individual that had a great positive impact on Matt. On one of his rotations to Aviano AB, Italy, Matt was the senior ranking maintenance representative(ie: no Officer!). It was during this Tour that “Operation Deliberate Force” occured and Matt was right in the middle of it all. It was a tough job driving the Fiat Sports car from the downtown hotel to the maintenance facility to supervise the ABCCC contributions to the NATO mission, but someone had to do it. As a result of the constant rotation of deployment to Italy, home, and back to Italy, and the fact that Matts’ most recent performance report was a kiss of death to his career, Matt decided to retire in May 1996. His squadron commander, Lt Col Schilling didn’t want him to retire. Matt explained his reasons and that since he couldn’t be a good influence anymore, he didn’t want to be any influence. The list of good people that Matt left behind in the 42nd ACCS includes:

John Devane, Zebby Miles, Chris Ouellette, Tim Russell, Abe Lilly, Leon Peterson and many others. Matt was able to finish his career on a good note with a great bunch of people in the 42nd ACCS.


As pissed off as I am about how I was treated in the 43rd ECS, I must actually thank the losers that ran the squadron and the maintenance unit for making me want to retire. If I hadn’t retired, I wouldn’t have met my wife and I wouldn’t be as happy as I am now. So, maybe it was my Karma to meet these low lifes and close out that chapter in my life and move on to something new.

Thanks guys! You still suck, but it turns out you did me a favor!

Maybe Karma Really does Affect Things!