Former Vance wing commander began career as navigator-bombardier

  • Published
  • By Phill Stuart
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- In difficult times such as these, taking a look back at the outstanding Air Force leaders who earned their wings at Vance Air Force Base can provide not only a sense of stability, but also hope. One such leader is Maj. Gen. Donald A. Rigg.

Born in 1934 in Portland, Oregon, Rigg served with distinction as a pilot during the Vietnam War, and throughout much of his career he was instrumental in the training of new Airmen and Air Force pilots.

Rigg attended Oregon State University under the Air Force ROTC program and was commissioned upon his graduation in 1956.

He entered active duty in February 1958. After completing undergraduate navigator and navigator-bombardier training he was assigned to the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, Royal Air Force Station Alconbury, England, and Toul-Rosieres Air Base, France.

In 1963, Rigg returned stateside and attended pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, staying on as an instructor pilot after receiving his wings. Following his tour at Williams, he continued training new pilots, this time at both Randolph and Perrin Air Force Base, Texas, from 1966 to 1969.

In 1969, Rigg attended Air Command and Staff College and F-4 transition training at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. After completing training, he was assigned to Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand as an F-4D/E instructor pilot, squadron assistant operations officer, and wing chief of operations and training.

Rigg returned from Southeast Asia in June 1972 and continued developing Airmen as an operations staff officer in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans, Headquarters Air Training Command, Randolph Air Force Base.

While at Randolph he also served as chief rated officer for career development, deputy chief of the Rated Officer Career Management Branch and commander of Detachment 2, 1400th Military Airlift Squadron, Military Airlift Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

After graduating from Air War College, Rigg returned to ATC headquarters as chief of the Base Support Division and was later chief of Operations, Training, Education and Readiness Division for the ATC inspector general.

In July 1980, Rigg moved north of the Red River and continued developing future Air Force pilots as the 71st Flying Training Wing commander at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

After completing Portuguese Language training, Rigg was assigned to Lajes Field, Azores, in 1984 as commander of the U.S. Forces, Azores, and commander of the 1605th Military Airlift Support Wing.

Then he was assigned to be director of aerospace safety, Headquarters Air Force Inspection and Safety Center, Norton Air Force Base, California before serving as the deputy inspector general of the U.S. Air Force, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force in Washington, D.C.

In 1988, Rigg returned to ATC headquarters and Randolph as deputy chief of staff for technical training before finishing his career as the deputy commander, 6th Allied Tactical Air Force in Izmir, Turkey.

On Aug. 1, 1992, Rigg retired from the Air Force with more than 5,500 flying hours including 128 combat missions. His decorations included the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Portuguese Medal of Military Merit, First Class.

Rigg died in 2018.