Jack the bus driver - part of Vance's history

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Dave "Chaw" Clinton
  • 25th Flying Training Squadron commander
When a pilot flies that final sortie, 20 years or more after the first one, it is traditionally quite an event. 

There are squadron, group and wing commanders, family, friends and numerous squadron mates crowding the flight line holding champagne and cameras, all anxiously awaiting the arrival of their celebrated pilot. 

As the pilot taxis the aircraft to its parking spot for the final time he drives it under a huge water arch formed by two fire trucks. It is quite a sight. After the pilot climbs out of the aircraft, he is sprayed down with a fire hose, usually by his wife and kids -- a well-deserved culmination for an aviation career. 

A few weeks ago there was another type of retirement ceremony here on-base. It went almost un-noticed by the base in general. 

It was a small ceremony, mostly co-workers, family and a handful of older pilots. Jackie Cash was retiring -- "Jack the bus driver" to the pilots. There were very kind words from those he worked for and those who knew him, farewell presents from his friends and co-workers and some coins and signed lithographs from the flying squadrons. All in all, it was very well done by the folks in Transportation. 

None of this probably surprises you. Here's some things that might:
· Jack drove the flight-line for over 43 years in a row, starting in 1966.
· When he came to Vance I wasn't even born yet.
· A postage stamp cost 5 cents.
· Vietnam was still something new.
· The first Super Bowl was yet to be played.
· Notre Dame still had a good football team.
· A whole generation of young adults were doing things that society is still trying to recover from. 

It was a long time ago. One squadron commander tried to do the math and estimated that Jack drove pilots up and down the flight line for well over 1 million miles, one mile at a time. 

He supported the training of future chiefs of staff of the Air Force, future astronauts and thousands of Air Force pilots. Think about the history of Vance as seen through his eyes. 

But here is the most impressive fact of all: Jack never missed a single day of work in those 43 years -- think about that for a minute. I find that truly amazing and can't quite seem to wrap my mind around it. 

I have a pilot call in sick almost every day. Most of us measure the time period between missed days in weeks. Jack measured it with decades. 

Jack didn't wear an Air Force uniform but he served this base, this country and he served with more dedication, day in and day out, than most could begin to muster. 

There have been more than 30,000 pilots go through Vance and Jack was there to provide his services for over two-thirds of them. He is part of Vance history. 

By the time he retired he had doubled the average Air Force retirement years of service. Jack didn't get water arches from a fire truck -- but he should have. 

Take time to look around you at the great people doing great things. You might be surprised at what you learn. I was.