I'm proud to have served four year in the United States Air Force, 1951-1955. It was a defining time in my life. I was just out of college, and the USAF weaned me away from the family hearth in many ways—in other words, I did a lot of growing up! I was assigned an interesting job, worked with a great group of guys, and came home with the GI Bill in my pocket and a different direction in my life as I returned to civilian life.
However, I’ve never thought of myself as a "vet." To me that title should be reserved for those who risked their lives in a combat theatre. I served during the Korean War—but in the US and Europe. (Actually I was trained to go to Korea, but for whatever reason was sent to Germany to serve.)
I served in the United States Air Force Security Service (USAFSS) in an intelligence gathering enterprise. After training in San Antonio, Texas, I was assigned to the 6910th Security Group in southern Germany. Our training and work was highly classified, and we could never tell our friends and family what we did. I’ve especially regretted never being able to tell my parents. However, as the 20th century ended, we’ve watched as many of the “secrets” we guarded so carefully have been revealed in books and movies, or been officially declassified.
After our four-year enlistment, most of us returned to civilian life and gradually lost contact with each other. However, when I got on the Internet in 1995, I organized a group of my USAFSS buddies as the USAFSS 6910TH 50's Group. I started an e-mail list and we posted a website to share old pictures and personal remembrances, published newsletters, and held two great reunions. However, I think most of us would admit, we have longed to tell our family and friends something of what we did. So, after more than 50 years, I decided to "tell our story," at least as I remember it—for pride and posterity, I guess. I've not revealed real secrets, and only skimmed the surface of what was a very complicated intelligence gathering mission, so I hope it is not too lengthy a read.
I'm proud of my small part in defending our country, and immensely proud of the men and women with whom I served. In the American tradition of "citizen soldiers," most of us served only four years, but we did our jobs well, and, we would do it again in a heartbeat, if called on.
A/1c Ray M. Thompson - USAFSS 6910TH SECURITY GROUP
An UPDATE on the USAFSS:
The United States Air Force Security Service (USAFSS), that many of us in knew in the late 40's and 50's, has changed over the years... During the post WWII era, and well into the Cold War era, USAFSS personnel were mostly assigned to forward-based locations around the world. Beginning in the 1960's the USAFSS, evolved into the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency (AF ISR), in order to meet changing technological demands and the exponential increase in the electronic spectrum now a part of the mission. Thus, the mission has transitioned to what is now largely a rear-based, remotely-linked operation, mixed with frequent deployments under the Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) concept. Like the USAFSS, the AF ISR Agency is in the fight every day—whether CONUS based or out front in some remote deployment. Personnel are still deployed to hot spots all over the globe, based on specific Combatant Commander Requirements, which are exercised on a continuing basis in the global War on Terrorism. (FTVA Newsletter, June 2009)