PLATTSBURGH — U.S. Air Force retired Brigadier General Thomas G. Tobin surveyed the ongoing restoration of the B-47 Stratojet in the Clyde A. Lewis Park in Plattsburgh.
He was in town with about 300 of his closets buds, their spouses and assorted family members at the FB-111 Reunion here through Sunday.
There was a time when he was responsible for every inch and everything that went on both sides pre-roundabout when he was 380th Bombardment Wing Commander at Plattsburgh Air Force Base.
“I was impressed by the new filling station (Maplefields) that they built over by the old gate,” Tobin, a Nebraska resident, said.
“We needed the filling station, but the way they put the matching brick or almost matching brick so that it fits in, it’s gorgeous.”
He said he was crushed when PAFB was shuttered during the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure.
“I had just retired, and I testified twice before the BRAC commission to save it, actually testified three times,” Tobin said.
“We won the first two, but we lost the third one. I think it was all political because they wanted to keep McGuire open.”
Plattsburgh was not only beautiful but under appreciated in his estimation.
“They thought we got all this snow in the Adirondacks and got all this snow in Vermont, it couldn’t possibly be nice weather on the west side of Lake Champlain,” Tobin said.
“But, it was. The snow dumped in the mountains here, cooled over the lake, and dumped in the mountains over in Vermont. It was the best kept secret in the world. You got stationed at Plattsburgh, you wanted to stay.”
He did two tours of duty here, the first time in 1971 as an FB-111 crew member, and was a squadron ops officer until the middle of 1974.
He left for Vietnam, then to Air War College and over to Pease AFB, N.H.
“I came back in ‘79 as the wing commander,” Tobin said.
“I got to be here 26 months as the wing commander, best assignment I ever had in the world.”
Then he retired from Chièvres Air Base in Belgium.
“But they had a ceremony here for me at Plattsburgh, when I retired,” Tobin said.
“It was lovely.”
Retired Maj. Gen. George Larson, and his wife, Jan, were assigned twice to PAFB.
“The first time I came was as the Combat Crew Training Squadron commander, ‘80-’81, then I went back to SAC (Strategic Air Command) headquarters for a different assignment and came back here as the wing commander, 1983-85,” Larson said.
“I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. This was the best time I had in the Air Force. Great bunch of people, beautiful base, beautiful place to be.”
He and his wife lived in the big house on the Oval the second time around.
“Our oldest daughter, Michelle, graduated from high school here in Plattsburgh, so it holds a really special place in her heart,” Jan said.
“She was hoping to come back for the reunion, but she teaches school in Jackson, Wyoming. Our oldest sons, Brock and Brett, came here for the ROTC Training Camp. They were in the barracks across the Oval, and every morning like at 5:30 they marched by our house.
“They would do push-ups in front of our house and wake us up in the morning. It was awesome. They all went to high school here. They all loved it here. I think it was the best time of their Air Force lives too.”
The last time retired Gen. Earl T. O’Loughlin was in the North Country was at the 2007 FB-111 Reunion.
He was assigned as wing commander from 1974 to 1975 at PAFB.
His memories here include winning the Fairchild Trophy for Best Bomb Wing.
“First time for the FB-111,” O’Loughlin said.
“I have lasting memories here. Many things happened here that were good because the people went to work, decided the mission. When you get people motivated, they do wonders.”
AULD LANG SYNE
On a bench in the Clyde A. Lewis Park, he watched his peers wander between the static displays of the FB-111 and B-47 or depart on wine-tasting and brewery tour buses.
“I love this,” O’Loughlin said.
“I had a special relationship with Clyde Lewis. The Clyde Lewis Air Park is a significant thing. He devoted his life to it, plus he was a hero himself, a Silver Star, during World War II, two tours in B-17s.”
The downside of coming back is that many of his friends have passed on.
“Bill McBride, Roger Forrence, Clyde, Joe Bornstein — that was the crew,” O’Loughlin said.
“Everything they did, I never saw anything that wasn’t positive. Plattsburgh, I thought, was probably one of the most cosmopolitan little towns as far mixing of people that I’ve ever been in. It’s been fun to get back.”
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