National Guard October 2011 : Page 44

G UARD R OOTS : D ELAWARE Steve Canyon © 1961 King Features Syndicate Real Characters By Bob Haskell The first state admitted to the Union also has produced some true aviation pioneers, and a few other trendsetters STEVE CANYON COMIC strip from a half-century ago can still bring a tear to the eyes of those who admire military people who fly fast airplanes. It was dedicated to Delaware Air National Guard Lt. Col. David “Snapper” McCallister III, who was killed when his jet trainer crashed during takeoff at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., June 4, 1961. Cartoonist Milton Caniff’s poignant tribute to his friend seems a bit unusual until you dig into the Delaware Guard’s history. Then the cartoon becomes yet another aspect of one of this country’s remarkable Guard forces. Delaware Guard people have made distinctive marks on the entire National Guard culture during the 20th and 21st centuries. Among them are recently promoted Brig. Gen. Carol A. Timmons and the late Brig. Gen. William W. “Bill” Spru-ance of the Air Guard, and the late Col. S.B.I. Duncan and his son, retired Maj. Gen. William Duncan, and Capt. Beau Biden of the Army Guard. A Spruance is an iconic figure in the aviation community because he developed forward observation procedures for a general named Patton and because of his candid safety briefings after nearly dying in the same crash that killed McAllister. One Duncan or the other served for much of the 20th century. Timmons has become a role model among women who believe they are just as capable of flying airplanes in com-bat and doing anything else that men do. And Biden, Delaware’s attorney general and the oldest son of Vice President Joe Biden, is a rare contemporary example of people of influence who step up to military service and go to war. The Delaware militia was formed Aug. 5, 1655, to fight the Dutch, not the Indians that threatened colonial settle-ments in Massachusetts and Virginia. Delaware was part of the Swedish colony of New Sweden, and a Dutch force was preparing to attack Fort Christina where Wilmington, Del., is now located. Professional soldiers had previously defended the Swedes, but citizen-soldiers had to replace them. The Dutch captured the fort from the untrained civilians. But the seeds of the militia were planted on what became Delaware soil. Delaware militia soldiers became known as the Blue Hen’s Chickens during the Revolutionary War because they fought like their champion gamecocks that were descend-44 | Na tional Guard

Real Characters

Bob Haskell

GUARD ROOTS: DELAWARE<br /> <br /> The first state admitted to the Union also has produced some true aviation pioneers, and a few other trendsetters<br /> <br /> A STEVE CANYON COMIC strip from a half-century ago can still bring a tear to the eyes of those who admire military people who fly fast airplanes.<br /> <br /> It was dedicated to Delaware Air National Guard Lt. Col. David "Snapper" McCallister III, who was killed when his jet trainer crashed during takeoff at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., June 4, 1961.<br /> <br /> Cartoonist Milton Caniff's poignant tribute to his friend seems a bit unusual until you dig into the Delaware Guard's history. Then the cartoon becomes yet another aspect of one of this country's remarkable Guard forces. Delaware Guard people have made distinctive marks on the entire National Guard culture during the 20th and 21st centuries.<br /> <br /> Among them are recently promoted Brig. Gen. Carol A. Timmons and the late Brig. Gen. William W. "Bill" Spruance of the Air Guard, and the late Col. S.B.I. Duncan and his son, retired Maj. Gen. William Duncan, and Capt. Beau Biden of the Army Guard.<br /> <br /> Spruance is an iconic figure in the aviation community because he developed forward observation procedures for a general named Patton and because of his candid safety briefings after nearly dying in the same crash that killed McAllister.<br /> <br /> One Duncan or the other served for much of the 20th century.<br /> <br /> Timmons has become a role model among women who believe they are just as capable of flying airplanes in combat and doing anything else that men do.<br /> <br /> And Biden, Delaware's attorney general and the oldest son of Vice President Joe Biden, is a rare contemporary example of people of influence who step up to military service and go to war.<br /> <br /> The Delaware militia was formed Aug. 5, 1655, to fight the Dutch, not the Indians that threatened colonial settlements in Massachusetts and Virginia. Delaware was part of the Swedish colony of New Sweden, and a Dutch force was preparing to attack Fort Christina where Wilmington, Del., is now located.<br /> <br /> Professional soldiers had previously defended the Swedes, but citizen-soldiers had to replace them. The Dutch captured the fort from the untrained civilians. But the seeds of the militia were planted on what became Delaware soil.<br /> <br /> Delaware militia soldiers became known as the Blue Hen's Chickens during the Revolutionary War because they fought like their champion gamecocks that were descend ed from a blue hen famous for the ferocity of her offspring.<br /> <br /> The Delaware Regiment saw its first action during the Battle of Long Island in August 1776, holding off a British force that outnumbered it five to one and then escaping through a swamp with 23 prisoners. It joined forces with Maryland troops to form the rear guard while Gen. George Washington withdrew the Continental Army from Brooklyn to Manhattan. It remained in service for eight years.<br /> <br /> The 20th century produced many of the Guard heroes that are uniquely Delaware.<br /> <br /> McCallister joined the Delaware Air Guard in 1948 after flying with the famed 8th Air Force in Europe during World War II.<br /> <br /> He set a fighter record by flying his F-86 Sabre jet 1,922 miles in 3 hours, 30 minutes to win the USAF Association's Earl T. Ricks Memorial Trophy that is given to Air Guard members for outstanding airmanship. He was commanding Delaware's 142nd Tactical Fighter Squadron when the T-33 he was piloting crashed and exploded because of a mechanical failure in June 1961.<br /> <br /> Caniff, who did the adventure strip Terry and the Pirates from 1934 to 1946 and then drew the Steve Canyon strip from 1947 until his death in 1988, was McCallister's friend. McCallister was reported to be the model for Caniff's character Hot Shot Charlie in Terry and the Pirates.<br /> <br /> That would explain Caniff's poignant tribute after McCallister was killed.<br /> <br /> Spruance refused to wallow in self-pity after he was badly burned in the crash that killed McCallister. In fact, he based a no-nonsense presentation, "Flying Safety and Crash Survival," on what he did right and what he did wrong that June day.<br /> <br /> Spruance, who was 94 when he died in Las Vegas in January, estimated that he presented his safety message more than 1,500 times to more than 150,000 people. Others say he gave twice that many presentations. He received the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal after he gave more than 100 presentations to more than 10,000 people during 60 days in Vietnam in 1968.<br /> <br /> But he was well known in Delaware for other reasons. He became one of the founding fathers of the Delaware Air Guard in 1946, the year before the Air Force and Air Guard were officially born. He was the state's first assistant adjutant general for Air at the time of the crash.<br /> <br /> His World War II achievements were also impressive. As a second lieutenant in the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Benning, Ga., in 1940, for example, Spruance helped develop forward observation procedures for light aircraft with the use of radios, aerial photography and smoke flares at the behest of Brig. Gen. George Patton.<br /> <br /> CHANCE MEETING<br /> <br /> The two had met at the local airport while learning to fly their own airplanes. Spruance then moved on to the Army Air Force in 1942 at Patton's suggestion and flew 362 supply missions in the China-Burma-India theater of operations.<br /> <br /> He is, however, best remembered for his safety presentations that people claim have saved many lives.<br /> <br /> "I have many friends who are still with us today because of [the] remarkably effective Spruance flight safety programs," wrote one admirer in 2002, the year Spruance Hall was dedicated at the Air National Guard's Training and Education Center in Knoxville, Tenn.<br /> <br /> NGAUS honored the man in 1980 by assuming sponsorship of the annual William W. Spruance Safety Award that recognizes an Air Guard unit "judged to have contributed most significantly to accident prevention in the reporting year." Spruance also has been enshrined in the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame.<br /> <br /> So has Brig. Gen. Carol Timmons, the director of the Delaware National Guard's joint staff. She became the Delaware National Guard's first female general earlier this year.<br /> <br /> "It's a bigger change than I had imagined," Timmons says. "This is a much broader view of the world than being a part of flying and operations, where you're mission oriented. A lot more is expected of you."<br /> <br /> Timmons has expected a lot from herself during her 34-year military career. Few people have worked harder or jumped through more hoops to earn their wings and to fly airplanes in combat.<br /> <br /> "There is nothing worse than being told you can't do something because of your gender, not because you're not qualified," she said.<br /> <br /> Timmons insists she didn't set out to become a pioneer or a role model for other women. But she has acknowledged that becoming Delaware's first Air Guard woman to fly sorties in a war zone "places a sense of responsibility on your shoulders. I was very aware that I was among the first women to do these things."<br /> <br /> All that she really wanted to do was fly tactical airlift missions in Delaware Air Guard C-130s. That door, however, was not open to women when she enlisted in February 1977, less than a year after finishing high school.<br /> <br /> Col. Jim Sulpizi, the Delaware Army Guard's state aviation officer, told her she could fly Army Guard helicopters, Timmons recalls.<br /> <br /> She went for it, earning her commission at the Army Officers Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga. Timmons got her helicopter wings in June 1981 and flew UH-1H "Hueys" in Delaware until 1984.<br /> <br /> Still, she wasn't flying Air Force transports. So, she transferred into the Air Force Reserve and learned to fly C-141 jet transports. She served with the 335th Military Airlift Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., until June 1991. She flew combat support missions during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.<br /> <br /> By then, Timmons explains, the idea of front lines and safe rear areas was as obsolete as Sopwith Camels. The brass opened the door for women to fly in combat.<br /> <br /> Timmons transferred to the Delaware Air Guard's 142nd Airlift Squadron in New Castle and became its first woman C-130 pilot. She really lived her dream from March to July 2003 while flying Operation Iraqi Freedom missions from Saudi Arabia into Iraq.<br /> <br /> "We were shot at. We flew at low levels. We worked our tails off," says Timmons. "It was the right place and the right time to do what I was meant to do."<br /> <br /> By the time she finished flying C-130s in February 2009, Timmons had earned a Bronze Star for her four months as deputy commander of the 455th Expeditionary Operations Group in Afghanistan.<br /> <br /> FATHER & SON<br /> <br /> Some of Delaware's prominent 20th century Guard soldiers began cutting their teeth on the Mexican border in 1916. Col. S.B.I. Duncan was one of them.<br /> <br /> Silas Blake Irwin Duncan, who was born in a lighthouse beside Delaware Bay, enlisted in 1911 when he was 17. After serving as a company first sergeant on the Mexican border, he saw action as an officer during both world wars.<br /> <br /> He served in France during World War I with the 59th Pioneer Infantry Regiment. He began World War II with the 198th Coast Artillery on the island of Bora Bora, but health problems forced him to leave the Pacific.<br /> <br /> He got to Europe in time for the Battle of the Bulge. He came home as a colonel and commander of the 9th Army's anti-aircraft artillery group in December 1945, according to his son, and he was heavily involved in reorganizing the Delaware Guard until he died of a pulmonary embolism eight months later.<br /> <br /> Maj. Gen. William Duncan followed his father's footsteps through a military career that began when he entered West Point in 1948 and included service in Korea during that conflict.<br /> <br /> He studied medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, and joined the Delaware Army Guard as a Medical Corps major in 1963. He ended his career in 1987 as the two-star commander of the 261st Signal Command (Theater Army).<br /> <br /> The Delaware Army Guard's aviation support facility in New Castle has been named the Duncan Readiness Center, and Army and Air Guard enlisted people are presented the Colonel S.B.I. Duncan Leadership Award every year.<br /> <br /> Capt. Joseph Robinette "Beau" Biden III quietly hoed his own row as a citizen-soldier while deployed to Iraq during his first term as Delaware's attorney general. He began his year of active duty a month before his father was elected vice president.<br /> <br /> Vice President Biden's oldest son maintained a low profile as a legal officer among the 110 members of the 261st Signal Brigade who served at Camp Victory for 10 months during their tour from October 2008 to October 2009.<br /> <br /> Captain Biden didn't ask for and was not given any special considerations, Delaware newspapers reported.<br /> <br /> He joined the Delaware Guard in 2002, when he was 33, and was elected Delaware's 44th attorney general in 2006, about two years before he went to war. His father spoke for all parents when the 261st returned.<br /> <br /> "As a parent, as a father," the vice president said, "I can't tell you the feeling I have in welcoming home my son."<br /> <br /> Bob Haskell is a retired Maine Army National Guard master sergeant and freelance journalist in Falmouth, Mass. He can be contacted at magazine@ngaus.org. <br />

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