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Fred Horky
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Fred Horky

At the time of our April 27th, 1956 graduation from pilot training (in my case, at Webb AFB) Fred hadn’t yet taken the plunge of signing on for USAF career status, so the first assignment was to Troop Carrier, now known as Tactical Airlift.  This was to Pope AFB in North Carolina, flying the venerable Fairchild C-119.  Flying hours added up fast in those days, so by mid-1958 Aircraft Commander status had been attained. 

 

Those were the days of Sputnik and the “Space Race”, so missiles were the hot ticket de jour.  When his engineering degree opened the door, Fred took the opportunity to go to Europe with the Martin Mace (TM-76A then, later MGM-13B) system.  First there was a year of training, starting with a PCS to the first officer class on the system at Lowry AFB in Denver.  This was followed another PCS to launch crew training at Orlando AFB, FL.  The system was brand new and training was combined with final acceptance testing, so his crew was fortunate to have two live launches while on TDY to the desert test range at Holloman AFB, NM.  In July 1959 the unit deployed the Mace to Sembach Air Base, Germany.  

 

In Germany working up to operational status with the new system was very demanding, but there was time for the required “proficiency flying”, at first in the venerable “Gooney Bird” (C-47).  This included excitement like Berlin Corridor checks (and visits to pre-wall Berlin itself, of course!) and other treats of those forgotten times of “weekend cross-countries”.  For the last two years Fred was attached for flying to a small, specially-equipped, mission-coded T-33 unit at Sembach.  Their mission was to provide “simulated missile” training for ground-based weapons controllers who would guide the older TM-61 “Matador”, then still operational with other missile units.  Considering that these “sim-missile” missions were flown in very tight airspace confines next to a very hostile border, this “behind the lines”, additional duty flying was some of the most exacting of the career!

 

All was not work, however; as during this period (which included the eyeball-to-eyeball Berlin Wall Crisis) Fred also courted and married his wife.  Married her twice, in fact!  Fred and Miss Linda Paul were first married in a civil ceremony by the local burgermeister, and again the next day by the chaplain on base.  (Unlike “stateside”, overseas the Chaplain’s service has no legal standing.)  Linda was an Air Force civilian employee working at Sembach. A French major in college, she’d gotten the job right after graduation, as she considered Europe to be a lot more adventuresome than teaching school back in the ‘states!  She had first worked at Dreux AB in France until that base was closed, and she transferred to Sembach where the two met.

 

At the end of the missile tour in 1962, Fred was anxious to get back to the cockpit, and the assignment turned out to be to the same squadron, on the same base (Pope) that he had left four years earlier.  In his absence the 464th Troop Carrier Wing had converted from C-119’s to the C-123, which had been the slowest butt of all jokes in the Air Force ..until 1962.  On arrival Fred found many of his old friends were either in, going to, or just back from six month TDY’s to a strange place called Vietnam.  (In fact, the Pope C-123’s and the Hurlburt Air Commandos practically had a private little war there for a time!)  In Vietnam, the ugly-duckling C-123 found the war that it had been designed for, except that nobody had known it before.  In April ’63 there was a second squadron TDY deployment, with Fred flying a Charlie-Ace-Deuce-Tray with its two engines across that big four-engine ocean: a long trip at 130 knots!  The six months at Danang had many adventures.  When the Pope crews returned, they left the C-123’s there with permanent-party replacements, and Pope converted to brand new C-130E’s.

 

There followed many adventures and deployments with the “Herk”.  Among them was with a 1964 deployment with a TDY “rotation squadron” to Europe, from which the squadron further suddenly deployed to Africa on “Operation Dragon Rouge”.  This was the combat airdrops in the former Belgian Congo of a battalion of Belgian “Paracommandos” that the Pope crews had flown from Europe to the Congo, the task force being sent to rescue a couple of thousand multi-national hostages that had been held for months and were being threatened with massacre by rebel forces in a very vicious civil war.  Among other awards for that mission, the parent 464th TCWg won the Mackay Trophy for 1964.

 

With more than a thousand hours in the C-130 in a little more than a year, in late 1965 Fred was selected for the C-130 flight test unit at the big logistics command depot at Robins AFB, GA.  Soon after arrival he attended the C-141 school at Tinker, and after return to Robins was testing all models of C-130’s, plus the C-141, the latter just coming to the depot for their first overhaul. 

 

In 1967 Fred was selected for graduate school under AFIT, but there was a hitch.  The USAF Chief of Staff had decreed that no pilot could go to grad school without a PCS to Vietnam first!  Fred had the almost six months TDY (but not PCS) in ‘nam in the C-123, plus numerous missions on TDY in SEA in C-130’s during the first big buildup in 1965 in Vietnam; however the latter missions were flown in-country while based outside Vietnam, so that time didn’t count.  So before going to graduate school a short-fuse PCS to Vietnam was required to finish out the requisite number of days for that elusive PCS credit!  So short-fuse, in fact, that there was virtually no leave or prep time on either end of the tour, in order to get back for the start of school the next summer.

 

On arrival for his “operations officer headquarters assignment” in the 834th Airlift Division in Saigon, on interview his earlier in-country combat experience in both C-123’s and C-130’s earned him a further reassignment as a “TALO”, as in “Tactical Airlift Officer”!  Thus while working for the 834th, he was stationed out in the field with the airlift “customer”, in this case the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi.  And then, shortly thereafter, the famous Tet Offensive of 1968 started.  Lots of excitement!

 

In June 1968 Fred PCS’d back to the U.S., arriving in Atlanta for AFIT at Georgia Tech on the same day, due to the Int’l Date Line, that he had departed Bien Hoa.  Going straight from a combat zone to a college campus in 1968 was something of a cultural shock!

 

After graduation from Georgia Tech in 1970, the maintenance duty commitment attached to the AFIT assignment first meant completing the Maintenance Officer school at Chanute.  This was followed, over the next several years, by several positions in maintenance with C-130’s at Little Rock AFB.

 

In 1974 Fred was selected for Military Assistance advisory duty, which meant first attending the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey, California; followed by assignment to Caracas, Venezuela as the aircraft maintenance advisor to the Venezuelan Air Force.  This was a most interesting assignment, but when in 1977 the assignment orders back in the states was to a SAC northern-tier base, it was time to turn in the blue-suit in favor of civilian life.  The Horkys had very much enjoyed their tour at Warner Robins when he was in flight test there, so that became the “final PCS”.

 

A couple of years after retirement Fred hired on with Lockheed at Marietta GA, as a reliability/maintainability engineer.  The work was on a classified, “black” program in an informally named “Skunkworks East”.  The project was eventually cancelled, but to our knowledge is still classified, so nothing more can be said about that.  During this period Linda continued teaching French in Warner Robins High School, so Fred commuted each week to a condo in Marietta for the Lockheed job.  When the Lockheed program was cancelled, it was decided that all this travel wasn’t really necessary, so Warner Robins became “home” for good.

 

In the meantime Marilyn, the first of the couple’s two daughters, followed her dad to Georgia Tech (in fact having been born in Atlanta when Fred was a Tech student) and is now working as a software engineer.  Second daughter Elizabeth became a lawyer, and now works for a major cell phone tower company, on national tower siting and zoning issues.

 

Fred had been smitten by Corvettes since the first ones appeared in 1953, but had to wait until finally getting his first (a ’64 convertible) after returning from that first Vietnam tour in 1963.  After forty-one years, he still has it!  The garage is now pretty full, since the ’64 shares space (stacked on a lift) with a second ‘vette, a ’98 convertible, in one bay of the garage.  Thus, you’ll understand why the Horkys are heavily involved in local Corvette club activities!  

 

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