Air Force veteran flew C-130s in Vietnam | Local News


Today’s Veteran: Bill Brunson, 75

Residence: Saint-Simons Island

Service: Air Force, five years

Recognitions: Vietnam Service Medal; Vietnam Campaign Medal; Air Medal

Duty Stations: Vietnam; Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina and Stewart Air Force Base, Tenn.

His Story: Bill Brunson was an ROTC student at the University of Georgia who could have taken a military reprieve to go to law school.

Instead, Brunson opted to go on active duty as the Vietnam War unfolded. He had 20/20 vision and the Air Force needed pilots. He passed his physical exam and was assigned to 52 weeks of training to become a pilot.

After completing his training in C-130 Hercules turboprop transport aircraft, he volunteered to serve in Vietnam.

“I just thought I could contribute,” Brunson said of why he volunteered.

He had to wait two years at Pope Air Force Base

By the time his orders arrived, Brunson said the Americans were withdrawing from Vietnam, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t busy flying missions.

He flew what he described as a C-130 with “enhanced radar” which was essential to his missions of flying low under the radar to drop off and pick up special forces troops.

Brunson said his aircraft flew some missions at an altitude of 20,000 feet to conduct electronic warfare blocking enemy radar.

Fortunately, Brunson said he never saw much enemy fire in the year he served in Vietnam.

“Basically it was an uneventful period of service,” he said. “I was there at the end of the war to withdraw the special forces troops.”

Brunson said he served at different bases across Vietnam, performing missions almost every day with little free time. He was too busy to be afraid while serving in a war zone, he said.

“I was young and stupid,” he said.

He returned to the Pope Air Force where he helped coordinate aircrew training. In December 1972, Brunson said he had experienced what he called “the darkest period” of his life. A pilot called in sick and Brunson assigned another pilot to participate in an air combat training exercise that resulted in a collision between a C-130 and an F-102 fighter jet, killing four.

“I could have easily been on that flight,” Brunson said. “After that, I had to go out.”

Brunson said the Air Force taught him many lessons that he took with him throughout his life. And the friendships and bonds he made in the Air Force are lifelong, he said.

“There is no pretension in the Air Force,” he said. “It was a great experience, other than being away from home. I enjoy being an American every day.


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