Commercial by Lars and Kat.
I attended the Illinois Computer Educators (ICE) conference from Wednesday, February 26 to Friday, February 28. You might be wondering why? Why would someone who is only a substitute teacher pay all that money to attend one of the best technology and teaching conferences in the Midwest? Well, for this veteran teacher it comes down to relationships and building lasting relationships.
For the past few years I have not held a full-time teaching job (except for a little jaunt into North Carolina for a semester, but that’s a completely different story). See, I am a teacher. Teachers enjoy being around others who are passionate about kids, teaching, and technology as they are. I was totally blown away by the fact that I was able to meet many people who I have had online relationships for a couple years face to face for the first time. These education rock stars keep me striving to be the best teacher I can be.
On Wednesday I attended a workshop lead by Steve Dembro (@teach42) and co-author of Untangling the Web. He shared with the group many gadgets and devices that made many people salivate. Now I must confess that I am a gadget geek, and it sometimes drives my wife batty, but I just can’t help that when I see a new gadget I also see possibilities for how that gadget may be used to teach my future students better. I ask myself how can that gadget help improve me as a person? How can it help improve my teaching, and how can using the gadget improve relationships with other people? Just having a new gadget in and of itself sometimes helps spark people’s curiosity and brings alive conversation. Witness the fact that if you ever ran into someone wearing Google Glass that they look like Mr. or Ms. Popular. It’s not a popularity contest at all, because people are generally asking the wearer all kinds of questions and they are engaged in conversations.
I also learned about many uses for Google in education that I wasn’t aware of. I attended a session lead by Molly Schroeder (@FollowMolly). She shared with the group many different ways that teachers can learn from and with Google all in an effort to help aid communications, connections, and understanding today’s culture. It is truly amazing the possibilities that exist for all of us to build lasting relationships that are focused around improving ourselves, our teaching, and our society.
The last workshop I attended on Wednesday was lead by none other than my social studies hero, Mr. Dave Burgess (@burgessdave). Dave is the author of the great book Teach Like A Pirate as well as founder and moderator of the #tlap twitter chat. (Don’t know what the pound symbol means or what a twitter chat is? You are becoming an illiterate. Find out now! Don’t even finish reading this post. FIND OUT! If you have not heard of the book or read the book, then you haven’t been having the right conversations with other teachers. The book is full of ideas and idea starters all geared to pump a teacher up and sustain energy to make teaching and learning matter for kids. I consider Dave a friend and the most important part of our friendship is that we communicate regularly about how to become better teachers. Meeting him in person made my day and had me grinning from ear to ear which is difficult for me as I am in the dumps about not being in the classroom again. But, meeting one of my personal teaching heroes made me feel giddy and like a first year teacher again. If you ever get the chance to see Dave in person and present, run for the opportunity. You will not be disappointed.
I almost forgot. I attended my first #EdCamp on Wednesday evening. Teachers getting together all on their own, discussing the things that matter the most to them is an experience every teacher should have. ICE After Dark is an experience I will never forget and It makes me look forward to #EdCampIowa this coming weekend.
As teachers, we can become very isolated in our classrooms, hence the importance of professional conferences, connections to others, and creating a culture of life-long relationships and learning. In this post I do not have room to write about the other two days of the conference. I did however meet face to face and/or learned from the following great friends of mine: George Couros (@gcouros), Paul Solarz (@PaulSolarz), Holly Clark (@HollyClarkEdu), Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher), Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr), and Maria Stavropoulos (@mstavi3). Yes, I consider them friends, because we learn together, support each other, and when we meet face to face we get to enjoy the company and knowing that comes from connections to the profession of teaching and doing what’s best for kids.
If you have read this far, please look at or pass along the link to my resume at the top of my blog. Thanks 8-)
If you would like to know me better as a 21st Century instructional leader, then please read my answers to the following questions. I took about an hour to answer the questions using no references. Thanks to all of you who are praying and helping to guide me in finding my ideal fit teaching position.
Do you consider yourself to be a risk taker? (Give an example to back up your answer.)
Yes, I consider myself a risk taker. I took a risk five years ago and left the classroom so that my wife could pursue her passion which is also teaching. I take risks every day by engaging my PLN and opening myself up by having a transparent digital footprint. I also took risks in the classroom to try new things and to never be satisfied with mediocrity. I always push myself to be in the moment with my students with an eye on the future.
If I were your principal and we were setting goals for next year, what would they be?
- Make sure that all our teachers and administrators are comfortable using social media for professional development & provide support for them via professional development.
- I want to do action research on the benefits or drawbacks of gamification in the classroom.
- Explore best practices of using technology as another tool in the teaching toolbox.
- See how the flipclass works for our student body and faculty meetings.
- Explore connections for the maker movement and coding in the history classroom.
- Make connections with other classrooms around the world by collaborating on projects via Skype or Google Hangouts.
What is the last educational book you read? Why that book?
I most recently read, Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager, PhD. I read this book because I am very interested in engineering, the idea that kids will be our fuure inventors, and we need to become not just consumers but also creators, makers, and doers. I would like to pursue these ideas further to see how they can connect with the social sciences.
If you could create the ideal school, what would it be like?
The ideal school would look like Google. A place where every space can be utilized for creativity, learning, collaborating, sharing, exploring. Every person in the school would have cutting edge tablets that have the memory of desktop computers for ease of use, therefore blurring seamlessly the disconnect that often exists between teaching, learning, and technology. Everyone would work together as a team to model life-long learning and relationship building within the whole community. Students would love coming to school because they know that everyone is working together toward common goals and they feel like their ideas are valued and they are valued as persons.
How do you deal with failure? (Your own and that of your students)
Jerry Blumengartner explained to me that failure is actually First Attempt In Learning. It’s okay to fail, but we must have perseverance. We need to consistently work toward our goals, because there are times we will not be successful, but if we keep striving with perseverance we will eventually succeed. Even a “failure” can be viewed as a success. If we don’t take risks, try new things, and fail, we cannot be successful. Think of babies, they learn to crawl after many failed attempts, they learn to walk only after falling a lot. You cannot make progress in a video game without trying and failing a number of times. Failure is a part if life, every one of us needs to have the fortitude to keep trying.
How will 21st century competencies be developed in your students? (Provide examples both with and without technology)
Students in my classroom will become digital citizens by learning how to leverage the Internet effectively, efficiently, and ethically. We all need to keep up with the real world by being involved in the world and using the tools that others use in the world. Why? Because the world is the classroom today and we are all building connections that are helpful now while remaining flexible and adaptable. Change in the world is the only constant and we all need to be able to handle that change. Dr. Tony Wagner came up with a list of seven essential survival skills that are based on research. We should embrace those skills and make them the focus of our learning communities. These skills or competencies are applicable to technology and working with others in face to face situations. Dr. Wagner’s essential survival skills are always at the forefront whenever I am planning learning experiences.
Have you built a Personal Learning Network (PLN)? Why or why not?
I have built a PLN that Rocks! I believe that my PLN is centered around many people who are actively engaged in moving education forward. Whether they be researchers at the university level, teachers at the elementary level, or administrators across the globe I am constantly challenged to think and become a better person. Right now Twitter and Google+ are the main components of my PLN. While connecting with and collaborating with awesome teachers across the globe is important, it is also important to develop close working relationships within a school and district. A forward thinking PLN is a must for everyone in every field.
In what ways will you challenge your colleagues and the principals thinking?
First off, we need to eliminate the attitude that we are doing something because we have always done that. We need to constantly be evaluating whether or not actions we take will be of direct benefit to the students. It’s important to challenge each other to become better. Establishing a culture where sharing what works and presenting classroom techniques/strategies to each other will hold people accountable for their professional learning and the learning of colleagues. Monthly book clubs, game nights, and twitter chats will help our community bond more deeply.
How will you differentiate instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners in your class?
I believe that every student needs to have an Individual Learning Plan. I can also meet the diverse needs in today’s classroom by being prepared, making learning relevant, and allowing for student choice and voice. Keeping in touch with my PLN and reaching out with questions that can help my students also helps me to differentiate for diverse learning.
Take 10 minutes to prepare yourself to lead the interview panel in a conversation about an emerging educational topic of your choosing.
I would lead a conversation about gamification. What beliefs does the team have towards games and gaming (beneficial or not)? How does the team view this technique and would they support a teacher trying this technique?
I would also try to get a bead on where the team stands on assessment, ILPs, and pushing the boundaries of education.
The questions that I answered come from Mr. Greg Miller’s blog post The New Look Teacher Interview
I have been scouring the Midwest for social studies positions for about a year and a half. I have sent out well over 200 resumes and applications and have had over a dozen interviews. The interview process and the reasons administrators give for not offering a job range anywhere from pre-canned E-mail responses to ridiculous qualities that I could never compete with. Quite honestly, I am fed up with the entire application and interview process. I am at the point where Justin Tarte was last summer when he wrote this post, Read My Blog, Not My Resume. I will however add a question to the mix, can you see me on your team?
Let’s assume that I am seeking to work for a particular school district and/or administrator. Let’s further assume that since I have 15-16 years of teaching experience that I pretty much know the kind of people I would like to work for and I know my abilities and limitations. I always do my homework by investigating the districts and administrators BEFORE I even fill out an application and submit the requisite resume. I have already determined that the district (including student demographics) and the administrion would be a “good fit” for me. I mean why would I go through the laborious time consuming process of filling out an application, answering screening questions, and tweaking my resume and letter for a position I would not want, working for people I would not like, somewhere I don’t want to be, and doing something I might not be able to handle?
I am not a wet behind the ears greenhorn just looking for that first job so I can get my foot in the door of education. I mean, come on folks, I’ve been in the game for quite a while and I have continued learning, changing, and adapting to the ebbs and flows of our profession. If you can’t learn, change, and adapt, you cannot be a teacher in today’s connected world.
Anyone can look good on paper and possibly smooth talk their way through an interview, but what is that person’s digital footprint look like? What have they been doing currently to advance the profession and student learning? Do they actually engage with people on a national or international level? It is imperative in today’s world to establish a professional learning network and a robust transparent digital presence. The online presence of a person shows, in a very open and vulnerable way what is important to that person.
Go ahead and Google your name to see where your digital footprint leads. Better yet Google the name Timothy Scholze and check out my digital footprint. I am proud of what I have out there in cyberspace because I take the risk to stand behind what I put online. Take a look at what I have to offer and then ask yourself, can you see me on your team?
Teaching is a noble profession, but leaving a teacher to deal with EVERYTHING in a school setting is not fair. Teachers need support!
I recently taught for a semester where there was no collegiality between some staff members. A member of the teaching staff decided to turn our school into a political firestorm and a teacher popularity contest. That teacher is the only one participating in the contest so that teacher wins. While other teachers work tirelessly to enforce school rules, acceptable behavior, and learning, one teacher turns the students against the other teachers.
It is highly inappropriate and not very professional for a teacher to become friends with middle level students. Now, don’t get me wrong here, because we do want to develop meaningful and lasting relationships with our students, but there is a fine line that teachers need to walk between friendship and friendliness. It is also very unprofessional to put down a fellow teacher with students. Professional relationships require a collegial attitude and teachers need to approach students and teaching as a team. The days of the lone ranger, I close my door and teach, are gone. No teacher has ever made real progress in education by thinking that what they have is best for the students and nothing can be learned from other teachers.
As teachers, we should always strive to bring our “A game” for the students we teach and for the teachers we work with. I made it my mission to Teach Like A Pirate (@burgessdave) this school year, but it shocked me how easily one person could knock the wind right out of my sails. When students refuse to learn, refuse to behave, refuse to follow directions, refuse to participate what can a teacher do?
New teachers, please do not scoff at your colleagues in front of your students. Please do not commiserate with your students negatively about another teacher. Try to learn from everyone around you. That old teacher that everyone complains about just may be able to impart some kernels of wisdom if you don’t take the effort to make life more difficult for that teacher.
What did I learn from my semester in negativille? Surround your self with great people and if you can’t find those great people nearby, then leave to find them. Life is too short to be surrounded by negativity. Sometimes in order to live life to its fullest we need to go back to our roots and reboot.
Great Kit – Excellent Price
Pros: Quality, Bargain Price
Best Uses: Hobby, Experimenting, Learning electronics
Describe Yourself: Enthusiast
Primary use: Personal
Was this a gift?: No
This is an EXCELLENT kit in both price and quantity to go along with the Make: Electronics book. Instead of scouring the Internet or catalogs for all the individual pieces, RadoShack has come up with a real time saver for those of us just getting into electronics. Some of the pieces are very difficult to even find and order online. This kit would also be ideal for after school STEM activities. An awesome kit at an affordable price. All you need are a few tools and you’re on your way to MAKE something cool.
Goal setting has never been one of my favorite tasks as a teacher. In fact, the goals I have set over my career were always related to what an administrator or school district has deemed important. There always had to be a connection from my goals to the building and/or district goals.
This year, I get to set my own professional development goals. I set the bar pretty high, but I feel that as a teacher I should be held to a higher standard than most people in other professions. I am fortunate to work with 7th grade students, in a state where teachers are pushing the boundaries of education, and I am connected via social media to world renowned professionals.
I think that with the proper administrative support and a little pushing from my PLN, that I can achieve my goals. I know that I will not be able to accomplish my goals over night, but I think that they are definitely achievable if I arise each day with the proper mindset.
Goal #1: I want to be a positive role model for my students, fellow staff members, and my PLN.
This goal should be in everyone’s top five list. Like most of you, I have students from all walks of life and every type of family situation. Many of my students have not had positive male role models in their lives. I feel that I need to live the Gospel message every day and try to walk in the footsteps of giants. I want every one of my students to be successful in world history this year. I want every student to see how history influences their lives every day, that they matter in this world.
Just showing up with a positive attitude each day and a fully realized plan is half the battle. I mean, anyone can do those two things on a daily basis, right? It sounds easier than it actually is, but the commitment should be there. Leading by example should be a positive, easily achievable goal also, yet it is taxing when there are so many unmotivated people. It feels like the energy is literally being drained from the body because of the reactions and actions of a few. As a teacher I need to fight this unmotivated drain by getting all my students as excited about learning as I am. I need to be the model.
Goal #2: I want to gamify my classroom and course.
I never thought that I would even be thinking in gaming terms to try and motivate my students. I have just begun researching gamification and I find that through others successes I can model their success and help bring new life to my students and their work in my classroom. I am hoping that student achievement, motivation, and self-directed learning will increase as I develop the gaming aspects into my class.
I definitely need to be on the lookout for fresh resources and collaborate with people like @MrDPasion, @avantgame, Dr. Kurt Squire, and @constances. If you think of any others, please let me know via twitter (@scholzet) or in the comments section. I definitely am going to begin doing this with my current students, but I need to work out how to make it work with an antiquated grading and reporting system.
Goal #3: I aspire to become a sought after keynote speaker on topics like Social Studies and S.T.E.M.x, Massive Multiplayer Classrooms, the #flatclass project, and Educational Technology in the Middle.
I know that with this particular goal I might have to start small. I mean, I don’t see ISTE knocking on my door any time soon, but that is what I aspire to be. Not only do I want to be an awesome teacher, but I want to share my joys and sorrows, my passion for teaching with teachers who might be doubting their own abilities. Teachers who don’t believe that they have a creative bone in their body. Teachers who want to make their classrooms and students ROCK! Can I really be that guy? Someone once said that nothing is impossible, so I figure that if I surround my self with the right people, that they just might help me make this happen, I mean stranger things have happened, right?
Goal #4: I want to reach the pinnacle of education by receiving a doctorate degree in educational technology.
There is a professor at NC State (her name escapes me) who is working on developing lessons on the Grand Challenges of Engineering. Not only would I like to be helping her develop and try those lessons with my S.T.E.M. Design students, but I would like to become a teaching professor of educational technology for pre-service teachers. I know this one is down the road somewhat, but I believe in long range planning and I need to walk the walk with my students. I’m not the most brilliant mathematician in the world (statistics aren’t me according to my most recent GRE scores), but I have skills in research and I believe that my research should be action research in my classroom any way. If it happens, I will have achieved my ultimate educational dream. Will the learning end? Nope, it will always be pushing me forward because I will never know enough.
Goal #5: I want to be the best S.T.E.M.x Social Studies Teacher in North America! It could happen.
I figure that I should set the target out there, for it is better to aim and miss than to have never tried. Someone said that once. Also, in reading Dave Burgess’s (@burgessdave) book Teach Like a Pirate, I found that as a teacher I should not be afraid to want to be the best. Parents, students, and school districts would rather have someone who is constantly seeking to improve and to be the best than to have a group of mediocre teachers who are just there for the vacations and a pay check.
In order to achieve this goal I will need to observe Awesome social studies teachers at work. I need to see how they interact with their students, how they present their students with learning opportunities, and I need to see how they find the energy and stamina needed for greatness.
I’m just a middle aged man who grew up in the Midwest and moved to North Carolina to live out my passion for teaching. I have a great wife and four awesome kids. Why would I set such “lofty” goals? I want to model for my own family that they can achieve anything they set their minds to.
This post is dedicated to my oldest daughter, Anastasia, who as a freshman in high school is dreaming and achieving and living life to its fullest. She is the inspiration in my life and continually pushes me to be a better father, husband and teacher. Thanks, Stickers 8-)
I was recently hired to teach 7th grade social studies for Vance County Schools in Henderson, North Carolina. What an adventure! Nineteen straight hours on the road from Western Wisconsin to North Central North Carolina! Google Maps said it would only take 15 hours 30 minutes! Way off Google, way off. I slept like a baby for sixteen straight hours afterwards. After reading Teach Like a PIRATE by Dave Burgess. I am ready and excited to meet my fellow shipmates, captains, and crew members. I will be involved in an early high school STEM program in a 1:1 laptop setting with iPod Touches available for checkout.
It seems as though many teachers are trying to change the acronym STEM to make sure that their content areas are not left out. For those of you who may be living under a rock or if you truly do not know, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. Some programs have added an A to the acronym. The A stands for the Arts and the acronym becomes STEAM. I also watched a presentation from ISTE 2013 where the presenter added the letters R and A making STREAM the R stands for reading and research. I even toyed with the idea of writing a post about the importance of social studies in a STEM program. I guess that would make it STREAMS. We shouldn’t leave out foreign languages or English/ Language Arts, or what about physical education? Would the new acronym become STREAM FLAPS ( Science, Technology, Reading, Research, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, Foreign Language, Language Arts, Physical Education, and Social Studies)? It can become a rather tricky business and many people can feel left out.
Hey, my Social Studies class is getting the axe!
We social studies teachers should not be worried about losing our jobs because of STEM initiatives. I understand STEM from the perspective of the National Science Foundation (NSF). “The NSF uses a broader category to define STEM subjects which includes subjects in the fields of Chemistry, Computer and Information Technology Science, Engineering, Geosciences, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, Social Sciences (Anthropology, Economics, Psychology and Sociology), and STEM Education and Learning Research.” (Source: Wikipedia)
According to the NSF’s broad definition of STEM social studies is an area that is included and I believe, that by extension, history and government are also included in a well rounded STEM program. “(In education) STEM generally supports broadening the study of engineering within each of the other subjects, and beginning engineering at younger grades, even elementary school. It also brings STEM education to all students rather than only the gifted programs.” (source: Wikipedia) It would be a gross oversight to exclude the fields of history and government because we do not want a nation of highly educated engineers and scientists who have no concept of how our government runs and the history that led up to our present situations. Just think about all of the engineering feats throughout history that created giant leaps in technology and quality of life for humans. For example aqueducts, the printing press, the compass, the astrolabe, etc. History and government cannot be left out of the STEM equation, however, there definitely needs to be more of an interdisciplinary or team integration/collaboration approach.
What about Foreign Languages and the Arts?
We all know that in order to compete in a global market, we need to understand other languages and cultures, so I believe that taking the study of foreign languages from the equation would also be foolish. Communication and collaboration across the world are necessary and we will still need people who understand the nuances of foreign languages. Where should I even begin with explaining how important the arts are in a STEM program? I think one name should suffice here, Steve Jobs. Just take a look at how Apple takes technology and integrates design to present a product that is practical and aesthetically pleasing. This cannot be done without creative artistic people. Arts programs should not be on the chopping block for any reason or any program! We simply need to have people who are creative and artistic, people who create wonderful music, who create stunning works of art, people who sculpt and build.
I do not think that we need to add any extra letters to the STEM initiative as people in STEM careers still need the other curricular areas in order to function fully in society. As for reading and research. . . I ask one question, how do we solve real problems without being able to read and research? The letters are not necessary to make sure that a content area is included in STEM. All current content areas are necessary in a well developed STEM program. I think many teachers’ fears about the focus on STEM are unfounded and that adding letters to the acronym are not the answer. Be the best teacher you can be and let your students engage in real world problem solving. A person is never too young to learn how to solve problems and understand engineering concepts. Get your kids out there creating, making, coding, experimenting and be supportive of their passions.
I come from a long line of soldiers that extends back to at least the American Revolution. Myth or historically accurate, I’m not quite sure but I heard it from my mother who heard it from her mother. Apparently, I am somehow related to Ethan Allen, leader of the Green Mountain Boys of New Hampshire, who captured Fort Ticonderoga from the British in 1775.
Skip ahead one hundred ten years and my great grandfather Anton Scholze leaves with his family, including my four year old grandfather Benno, from Prachen, a German hamlet in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, for a better life in America. My great grandfather, Anton, is said to have left the great Empire because he did not want his boys to become, “cannon fodder for the Fuhrer,” nor did he want his boys to take up arms against their German brethren. Ironically, all but one of my grandfather’s sons, my father and uncles, served in the United States military defending freedom, liberty, and independence in World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War. One of my uncles was actually part of the first group of Americans to liberate his father’s birthplace and his grandfather’s hometown of Prachen, now part of the Czech Republic. Altogether, I had one uncle serve in the Army in the European Theater throughout World War II, one uncle in the Army in the Pacific Theater, and one uncle ready to ship out with the Marines to the European Theater just as the war ended. Two of my uncles received the purple heart for their service during the Korean Conflict with one of them giving the ultimate sacrifice of his life. My father served with the 32nd Engineers, Wisconsin Army National Guard during Vietnam and one of my uncles served with the Marine Reserves throughout the same war, surprisingly, neither one of them were shipped out to Vietnam during their service.
When I was in high school I had dreams of becoming a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. I had enough of school by my senior year that I decided to take a non-traditional route to becoming a pilot by enlisting in the Air Force hoping to eventually earn my bachelors degree, become a licensed pilot, and then head to officer training and a billet as a pilot. I thought that the best path was to become an air traffic controller, that way if the pilot idea fell through, I would have a career to fall back on. Well, when I went for my enlistment physical, I was told that I did not have the depth perception that was necessary for an air traffic controller. I had to choose between a weather specialist or a command and control specialist. At this point I chose the command and control specialist path because I would work with pilots and commanders to make decisions impacting all aspects of national defense.
I left for Basic Military Training on July 21st 1986. I was again put through an Air Force physical where they found that I in fact had no deficiency in my depth perception, but it was now to late to switch back to becoming an air traffic controller. I left that same day for Lackland, Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for six weeks of grueling training. I was assigned to the 3706th BMT Squadron, Flight 8265 Drum and Bugle Corps which was the only mixed gender squadron at Lackland at the time. I played the baritone in the corps which excused me from other types of duties like Kitchen Patrol. Other than playing at two training graduations and one parade in San Antonio, members of the Drum and Bugle Corps had to accomplish the same physical requirements as everyone else. The only problems I had throughout basic training was that I could not accomplish every part of the obstacle course, but everyone could pass up to two obstacles, and I used up both my passes. All airmen were supposed to be able to do 30 push ups by the end of basic training and there is where I had trouble. I could only do about fifteen or maybe twenty and when we did our final physical training my Instructor looked the other way for my last ten to fifteen push ups allowing me to pass basic training.
BMT ended in September and I was then assigned to a squadron at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi for command and control specialist school. After six weeks of training at Keesler, I was assigned to the 375 Aeromedical Airlift Wing at Scott AFB near Belleville, Illinois. I was allowed some leave time before having to arrive at my newly assigned base, so I flew home and we drove to Scott AFB where my parents helped me move into my new digs.
The 375 AAW was part of Head Quarters 21st Air Force, located in Florida, which reported to Military Airlift Command (MAC) which was at Scott AFB. It was all a bit confusing as our Wing was located on the same base as the MAC HQ. So to go up the chain of command the 375 AAW at Scott AFB had to go through 21st Air Force in Florida to take care of matters that pertained to the MAC which was about seven blocks from our command post. The 375 AAW was responsible for aeromedical airlift worldwide and had configurations for every type of Air Force cargo aircraft. In the command post at Scott AFB, I was responsible for just Continental U.S. (CONUS) missions involving aeromedical airlift in the C-9A, C-21A, and C-12 aircraft. My wing was also tasked with moving VIP’s around the country mostly with our C-21A aircraft which was basically a Leer jet that could be configured for minimal aeromedical airlift.
In late 1987 or early 1988, I attended NCO Preparatory Course and graduated in the top five percent of my class earning a distinguished graduate award. I also participated in a Wing exercise for the Air Force Inspector General and his staff. They were so impressed with the way I did my job that I was recognized by the IG via an Outstanding Performance Award.
In the summer of 1989 I participated, as a search and rescue duty officer at the Combined Forces Command Post, in Exercise Ulchi Focus Lens (UFL) which is a Republic Of Korea (South Korea - ROK) – US Combined Forces Command (CFC), ROK governmant, simulation driven, OPLAN-oriented command post exercise (CPX) conducted annually. UFL is held in the late summer, August / September time frame. The timing is such that the bulk of the summer personnel rotations are complete. I spent between 30 and 60 days in South Korea. Lesson learned, never go out drinking with helicopter pilots!
Ulchi Focus Lens is CFC’s large scale war fighting command post exercise (CPX). It is an annual ROK-US combined forces government military exercise designed to exercise, evaluate, and improve crisis action measures and procedures for the combined war plans in the defense of the Republic of Korea in accordance with OPLAN and Supporting plans. It provides an opportunity for commanders and staffs to focus on strategic, and operational, issues associated with general military operations on the Korean peninsula. Ulchi Focus Lens is a CPX with the tactical situation portrayed through the use of computer simulation models and master scenario events list. It is the world’s largest computerized command and control exercise.
In December 1989, we embarked on Operation Just Cause, where Panamanian leader General Manuel Noriega was captured and brought to the U.S. I received orders for Elmendorf AFB in Alaska, but I would have to extend my enlistment by eighteen months. I turned the orders down as I was already enrolled to attend UW-La Crosse and pursue my degree in geography education. I did, however, decide to transfer to the Minnesota Air National Guard upon my discharge from the regular Air Force.
On July 21, 1990 I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force and began weekend warrior duty with the 133rd Airlift Wing (MAC). This was primarily a C-130 wing and they worked some aeromedical airlift and carried paratroopers around the U.S. Outside of those two operations, I have no idea what else the wing was involved in. Two days a month of work and two weeks in the summer didn’t allow me the time necessary to process fully the mission of the wing. The nice thing about the ANG was that I not only was pulling in anywhere from $300 – $400 per month while attending college full-time, but the state of Minnesota reimbursed me fifty percent of my tuition upon successful completion of each semester. In May of 1992, I wanted to be involved in a fighter wing operations so I found a billet in the Wisconsin Air National Guard based at Truax Field in Madison.
I began my tour with the 115th Fighter Wing (TAC) in May of 1992. We started out with A-10 Warthog’s which are an air to ground assault aircraft with a machine gun that can turn the largest of vehicles into a heaping pile of scrap in less than 15 seconds. At some point the Wing transitioned to F-16′s. The summer of 1992, I spent two weeks at Volk Field/Camp Douglas working aircraft operations. I was promoted to an E-5 or Staff Sergeant. I spent my one weekend a month and received the same college benefits as I did from the Minnesota ANG. In the winter of 1992, it was decided that I would go on a mission to Mombassa, Kenya in the summer of 1993. With Operation Desert Storm still in operation, the Mombassa mission was cancelled and I was asked to volunteer for 90 days in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Being a geography major, it was too great an opportunity to pass up as people could only get into the country via invitation. So, at the end of the spring semester of 1993, I began my trek to Saudi Arabia.
The desert is hot, but it is a dry heat. The heat doesn’t seem to have quite the impact that humidity does. I could walk or run around Eskan village, twenty minute drive from the air base, where our Air Force troops where housed. The rumor was that the prince had the village built for a group of bedouins who eventually moved on and after it was cleaned up, three to five soldiers would share a house. Every house looked exactly the same! The only distinguishing feature was the address, in Arabic, outside the front entrance. Each house had the essentials and the back opened onto a shared courtyard. There was an entrance to the roof, and I spent a great deal of off duty time contemplating life on the roof of our house. The thing that surprised me the most about the village was seeing cats roaming around. I guess that when I thought desert, cats never entered my mind.
At the Riyadh Air Base, I worked in the wing command post for the 4404th Wing (Provisional) attached to the Air Combat Command ACC formerly TAC. I received some computer generated flight plans occasionally and alerted base agencies of Scud missile exercises and heat alerts. I traded with one of the airmen that I was there with so that I worked twelve hour night shifts. 6 pm until 6 am. Four nights on three days off. My main duties on the night shift entailed setting mouse traps, disposing of mice, turning down the lights, kicking up my feet, and watching television. I would leave about midnight to get some chow, putting the phones on hold and propping the back door to the command post open until I returned. No one ever noticed that I had deserted my post every night for a meal run.
Near the end of my tour in Saudi Arabia, the captain in charge of the enlisted personnel told me that I would need to extend my stay another one to two months. I told him that in no uncertain terms was that going to happen as I had college to get back to and if he had a problem with that, he could gladly take it up with the Adjutant General from Wisconsin. Things got kind of dicey and I was a little bit insubordinate, but I prevailed and was released from active duty after my 90 days were up. I was unceremoniously honorably discharged from the Wisconsin Air National Guard on July 21, 1994. This brought my total time in the active Air Force to 4 years, 3 months with two honorable discharges and 3 years 9 months divided between the Minnesota and Wisconsin Air National Guard again with two honorable discharges.
Thus ends my Air Force story. It includes only the high points, but it was truly an honor to serve my country for eight years. The dividends for those eight years are still paying off. Somehow, as long as I am a resident of Wisconsin and attend a Wisconsin school, the Veterans Administration picks up all but $100 for every class I take. And, I can still take around 115 credits at that rate.