Retired Georgia fighter pilot shares experiences

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Stan Coleman
  • Public Affairs
"I was just a South Georgia farm boy who didn't know anything about ROTC nor ever considered being a pilot in the Air Force when I arrived at the University of Georgia," said retired Air Force Colonel Anthony "Tony" Cushenberry during his visit to Dobbins Air Reserve Base Jan. 9.

Colonel Cushenberry's introduction to the Air Force ROTC program in 1953 during his college years and his first pilot experience led to a 27- year career which included 125 combat missions in Vietnam; an assignment at the Air Force Academy as an Air Officer Commander and his return to the University of Georgia as Professor of Aerospace Studies and Commander of the Air Force ROTC program in 1983.

Colonel Cushenberry was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame April 26, 2003.

During the January unit training assembly the retired colonel was the featured speaker for the 700th Airlift Squadron's monthly Air Warrior briefing.

Surrounded by fellow pilots and Airmen of the 700th and accompanied by his wife, Marie, and his son, Chris, Colonel Cushenberry shared the experience of being forced to bailout due to an engine failure while flying his 19th mission in his F-105 jet aircraft during his first tour in Vietnam.

"When I returned from Vietnam, I was assigned to the Replacement Training Unit," he said. "In that unit we taught pilots to effectively perform their combat missions and survive.

"Being a fighter pilot is an attitude," said the colonel. By today's standards, many of our "pioneers in military aviation would not have been senior leaders. They would have been weeded out as captains." (Colonel Cushenberry was reflecting on today's standards of being politically correct in contrast to the early pioneer fighter pilots.)

Colonel Cushenberry's presentation included insight regarding his experiences, humor, and a respect for the pilots who are presently serving in the Air Force.