Today’s veteran: Norman Batchelder, 74
Born: Lansing, Mich.
Residence: St. Marys
Service: Air Force, 26 years
Duties: Aircraft electrician
Rank: Master sergeant
Recognitions: Vietnam Service Medal; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal; Air Force Commendation Medal; Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Presidential Unit Citation; John F. Entrican Award
Duty stations: Vietnam; Japan; Germany; Spain; Lackland Air Force Base; MacDill AFB; Chanute AFB; George AFB; Patrick AFB; Sheppard AFB; Robins AFB
His story: It didn’t take Norman Batchelder long to realize he was going to make the Air Force a career.
He took shop classes in high school and wanted to work as an aircraft electrician. After training, he was sent to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. He didn’t want to serve there because he was raised in the Tampa Bay area and wanted a change of venue.
He served at MacDill for four years, re-enlisting while he was there.
“I really liked what I was doing,” he said. “I especially liked the camaraderie the military had.”
Shortly after he re-enlisted, he was sent to Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam, where he continued to work as an aircraft electrician. He only left the base one time to visit a village for a medical check of the inhabitants. The villagers were checked for diseases and given shots.
Luckily, Batchelder said it was relatively quiet around his base during his tour of duty there.
“It wasn’t like a war zone there until after I left. Two weeks later, the base got attacked,” he said.
His tour of duty was cut short when North Korea captured the USS Pueblo in international waters. His unit was sent to South Korea for two months, then to Japan for 18 months, where he said he felt more threatened than in Vietnam.
“We had lots of earthquakes while I was in Japan,” he said. “We had one nearly every day. One day, the ground looked like waves in the water.”
The job was especially challenging at times because Batchelder is color blind. Luckily, most of the wires on F-4 jets are the same color and have number codes, making it easy for him to identify the correct wires. Some relays, however, are color coded and he had to asked for a crew member’s help to identify the correct one.
“I always want to make sure,” he said.
After he served at George AFB and another tour at MacDill, Batchelder became an instructor, including tours of duty at Shepherd AFB and in Spain.
He ended his career in Germany, where he served as the superintendent of a training detachment for aircraft maintenance, as well as mountaintop communications training.
Batchelder said the decision to enlist in the Air Force and make it a career was the best one he could have possibly made.
“It taught me to look at things in a whole different light,” he said. “It taught me to think before I did stupid stuff. I had no problems following orders.”
Our Veterans runs Wednesdays. Contact Gordon Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or at 464-7655 to suggest a veteran for a column.