Today we will be spotlighting, Richard “Rich” D. Powell Jr.
Richard served in the United States Air Force, from 1967-1971 as a Weapons Mechanic/Loading and completed his service as a Staff Seargent.
A weapons loading crew is made up of four Airman, and there are seven load crews per fighter squadron. He worked three of the four positions during his enlistment. Richard worked mostly as the Crew/Team Chief and worked as the number two man (cockpit man), three men (munitions prep man). Richard missed the military structure and after discharge from the Air Force he enlisted in the Army National Guard and Retired after 22 combined years of military service as a First Sergeant.
In addition to schools and training duty stations, Richard served two tours in Vietnam during the war as a well temporary duty tour in Spangdahlem Airforce Base (AB) Germany, as part of Operation Crested Cap, a NATO organized exercise.
“In Vietnam we were always shorthanded and working 12-to-14-hour days or till the job was done. Maybe a day off every couple of weeks” shared Rich. He recalls the intensity of it, knowing that every mission was critical, and the occasional rocket, mortar, or sapper attack made it real. There was a meaning and the mission. During the deployment to Germany, they loaded live nuclear weapons, first and only time other than training it was a real-world mission.
Richard recalls, “I have never worked with a finer group of guys. Of course, we were all in our late teens, early 20’s, we learned responsibility, accountability, and working together. That did not mean we didn’t disagree or fight, because we did. Let some outsiders try something and he had to fight us all.” In those days 462’s weapons guys had a rather big attitude about things and other people and at the time were very vocal about it. The camaraderie, brotherhood, and bonding with others was all part of his service experience.
For Richard’s distinguished service he was awarded the Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with “V” device, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, Air Force Longevity Award, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the Maintenance Skill Badge.
Richard was discharged in January 1971 and went back to school and earned an associate degree in Forestry from Modesto Junior College where he met his wife. He transferred to Cal Poly in 1972 and while going to school during the day got a job working as a Correctional Officer with the Sheriff’s Department. After a year he was promoted to Deputy Sheriff. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Sacramento State and spent the next 35 year working in law enforcement.
Richard tells us his military experience taught him self-discipline, accountability, responsibility and the importance of doing things right the first time when given a task. Additionally, it taught him to be loyal and to be committed to doing what’s right even if it’s not easy.
Richard has remained very active in our local community between his many volunteer commitments with 4H, Friday Night Live, Grizzly Youth Academy, Central Coast Veterans Memorial Museum, Post #66, and the Central Coast Honor Flight. Richard is a lifetime member of the American Legion and Vietnam Veterans Association.
Thank you for your service, and the endless hours you’ve dedicated to volunteering in our community.