New York man recalls assignment with fighter squadron

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MINOT, N.D. (AP) – When Robert Haring received orders for Minot Air Force Base he thought “great.” He liked the outdoors – mountains and forests.

When he arrived at the Minot airport, he said there were no mountains or forests.

“But I could see Minot AFB about 13 miles away,” he recalled.

Haring, a retired chief master sergeant who resides in North Tonawanda, New York, provided information about his military career to the Minot Daily News.

He joined the Air Force in January 1960, completed basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas, and completed technical training in the aircraft maintenance career field at Amarillo AFB, Texas, in May 1960, before arriving at Minot AFB, where he was assigned to the 32nd Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (CAMRON) as an apprentice crew chief.

The squadron performed all the maintenance on 5th Fighter Interceptor Squadron aircraft.

When Haring was at the Minot base, Lt. Col. Jack Broughton, a West Point graduate and former leader of the Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, was 5th Fighter commander.

“He commanded respect!” Haring said. “Part of my job was to assist a pilot strapping in and preparing the launch. I sent Col. Broughton off many times. No matter what aircraft he was in you could always tell it was him because he had his flying helmet chrome plated. One other thing I remember about him was he drove a beautiful red Jaguar convertible sports car.”

He recalled the squadron adopted a pair of lynx kittens obtained from a local farmer. The kittens’ mother had been killed. The kittens became the squadron’s live mascots. The squadron’s nickname was “Spittin’ Kittens,” and it had a patch with a lynx on it.

“I had several opportunities to play with the kittens. They were a lot of fun, although they could be pretty rough,” Haring recalled.

Haring married Vonna Sorenson, a local girl, on June 19, 1962.

“I remember I had to make an appointment with my commander and ask permission. That is the way it was done during those days,” Haring recalled.

The two were married at the Ward County Courthouse in Minot by Judge Halvor Halvorson Jr.

“The girl that was supposed to be our witness was late so one of the Courthouse staff was pressed into duty. The lady’s name was Emily Eide. Her name is on our marriage certificate,” Haring related. “We were presented a small gift basket, compliments of the City of Minot, containing various sundry items.”

After a honeymoon, he said, they moved into an apartment in Minot. He worked at the base and Vonna worked at the JC Penney store on Main Street.

Cuban Missile Crisis

An incident that Haring said he recalls while at Minot AFB was in October 1962 when the United States and Cuba engaged in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“The Russians had placed missiles in Cuba that had nuclear warheads and President Kennedy demanded that they be removed,” Haring said. “I was deployed to Hector Field, Fargo, North Dakota, with six of our F-106 interceptors to sit runway alert. Eventually, the Russians gave in and agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba. Thank goodness!”

He said he will always remember Nov. 22, 1963.

“I was leaving home to work the afternoon shift at the base and Vonna was on her lunch break (at B&B; Drug). Listening to the radio I learned that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas and was in critical condition,” Haring recalled. “When I got to the base Col. Broughton had called a ‘commander’s call’ to brief us on what had transpired. Col. ‘B’ informed us that President Kennedy was in his motorcade, had been shot and did not survive. He said that this was a grave blow to the country but the country was strong and we could get through it. Col. ‘B’ urged us to mourn the loss of our leader – but to carry on. Duty, Honor, Country. I found his words inspiring!”

Haring was discharged from the Air Force in January 1964. He and Vonna left Minot and moved to New York.

Haring joined the New York Air National Guard’s 107th Fighter Group in 1965 as a full-time crew chief working on the F-100C Super Sabre.

The unit was called to active duty in January 1968, and in June 1968, he deployed with the unit for a one-year tour to Vietnam, assigned to the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Tuy Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam.

When he was on temporary duty to Cam Ranh Bay Air Base, Vietnam, their son, Jeff, was born.

“The Red Cross notified me that I was a father and they would try and set up a shortwave call to Vonna. We did speak briefly but the connection was intermittent and you had to say ‘over’ when you were done with a sentence. Anyways, we were both happy to have a healthy boy,” he said.

The Air Guard unit left Vietnam in June 1969 and returned to its base at Niagara Falls, New York.

Haring resumed full-time employment as an air technician with the 107th from 1969, continued as a crew chief on unit F-100C and then F-101B aircraft.

In 1972 a second son, Brian, was born to the couple.

Haring bid on a position in quality assurance in 1980 and in 1984 was picked for the position as quality assurance superintendent. During the 1984-1995 timeframe, the unit flew F-4C, F-16 and KC-135R tanker aircraft. Haring retired from the military in 1995 with the rank of chief master sergeant. The couple’s son, Jeff, lives in the North Tonawanda area and their son, Brian, works in Fort Worth, Texas.

Minot is always part of the Harings’ life.

“Almost every summer we would drive back to Minot to visit Vonna’s father, friends and relatives,” he said.

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