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One man’s effort to keep Air Force heritage alive

  • Published
  • By Cadet 3rd Class Justin North
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
It's a hot and humid July day at Sheppard. The occasional sound of a T-38 can be heard overhead. While on the ground, Airmen-in-Training march to their classes and everything goes on as normal.

One man makes his way to the Sheppard Club with his suitcase filled books, papers, pictures and other historical artifacts from a well-lived life, full of achievements. He embodies 20 years of service and 60 years of Air Force heritage.

This man is retired Maj. Wayne Kuschel and he witnessed the birth and maturity of the Air Force. Based on what he's seen he attends Air Force-related events, ready to share his knowledge with a group of eager listeners.

Major Kuschel has been visiting the base and sharing his Air Force heritage with Sheppard since 1980. He said he speaks at these events because he wants to illustrate his experiences.

Major Kuschel said he enlisted in the army in 1940 at age 16 seeking a better life.

"(I was) earning $6 a month and working from (4:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.)," he said. "I wanted something better."

With no more than an eighth-grade education, he completed a 20-year military career. Major Kuschel went from private to major, graduated from the first Air Force pilot class, made 24 permanent changes of station, and flew 50 different aircraft.

He said some of his greatest memories come from being a part of the first pilot class.

"(The first pilot class) was really put together well," he said. "The friends and the camaraderie, you couldn't beat it."

Of the 50 different aircraft he flew, Major Kuschel said the B-25 was his favorite aircraft because of its reliability and safe flight; however, his most memorable flight was when he was a B-50 crew member and had to bailout.

Major Kuschel was 110 miles north of Goose Bay, Canada, when the plane experienced engine failure and the aircraft became too hard to control. The pilot ordered the crew to bailout and gave the "mayday" distress signal.

At 700 feet above the earth Major Kuschel left the aircraft and parachuted towards the ground. Ahead of them were five days in the Canadian wilderness. After those five days, the 16 members of his crew returned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. for rest and recuperation.

Major Kuschel said his greatest military achievement was working for Strategic Air Command in Guam. During a training exercise, he was part of a 19-minute takeoff with 16 B-47 bombers, a record which was never broken. He said there was a sense of pride in getting the job done well.

Major Kuschel not only has had much success in the military he is also a published author. All of this experience has left Major Kuschel with several great stories and a wealth of knowledge. At his friends insistence, Major Kuschel decided to put it all down on paper and wrote "Against All Odds".

He said he wants his readers to, "come away with (his) experience and know they can go through the same struggles with limited schooling and achieve," he said. "They can become masters of everything."

When asked how the Air Force has changed, he remarked, "the Air Force is so much bigger and more powerful now," he said. "There are some good people filling the jobs."

Major Kuschel said if he could re-enlist today he would. The only thing he would change would be to continue on to high school and have a college education before enlisting.

He now tries to give back to the service that he feels has given him so much. He spends much of his time at Sheppard's Heritage Center and regularly visits numerous people on base. He speaks at many different events, all with the purpose of giving back, he said.

If you would like to purchase the book contact the Heritage Center at 676-2787.