Paul Wayne Godfrey's Military Career

Department of the Air Force | United States of AmericaMy first duty assignment in the Air Force was Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. Just over two weeks after I arrived on base my first daughter Shelli was born. I thought, can life get any better? The next day, Hurricane Camille hit the Gulf Coast and showed me how bad life could get.

My first mission as a military leader was to take brand new Air Force enlistees on a search and rescue effort to help people devastated by the largest hurricane to ever hit the US coast. I shall never forget the devastation I saw; nor will I forget the efforts of the people of the gulf coast of Mississippi to rise above it and recover what they had lost. Such is the American spirit.

My military career began at the Air Force alternate command post and was followed by a stint at a flight training base in Texas, where our daughter Kristin joined our family.

I was a commander of the isolated mountaintop base on Levkas Island in Greece when the dictatorship of Papadopoulos was replaced by General Gizikis and then a democratic government under Konstantinos Karamanlis, terrorists threatened US bases in the Mediterranean, and Greece and Turkey went to war.

I served in Frankfurt, Germany with the US Army V Corps as a special operations officer at the Direct Air Support Operations Center.

I worked three years in the Tactical Air Command Inspector General office inspecting tactical fighter bases and separate tactical command, control, communications, and intelligence units to ensure they were operationally ready.

I next commanded RAF Martlesham Heath in England and the strategic unit assigned there for two years before I relocated to Kaiserslautern, Germany to head the implementation of the command, control, and communications effort to place ground launched cruise missiles (GLCM) in five countries in Europe.

Six new GLCM air force bases were planned to counter and thwart the Soviet short ranged nuclear missile military threat. In this job I learned about tough negotiations with many competing interests. I negotiated with NATO and with the Italian, German, Dutch, Belgium, and British foreign governments from the local to the national level. Getting their agreement to share the costs of our strategic telecommunications infrastructure at the six new air force bases was one of our hardest fought achievements.

To ensure critical deadlines were met, I was chosen to assume an operational role as a commander at Florennes Air Base in Belgium, one of those six we built from scratch. This would be the deployment base of the first cruise missiles on the European mainland.

After the Soviets blinked in Europe, I was assigned to the US Central Command and placed in charge of the theater communications system for the command in the Persian Gulf. I was primarily a strategic and operational planner in that job, but was afforded the opportunity to work closely with our Arab friends in that region of the world.

I also coordinated the efforts of the Army, Air Force, and Navy in procuring and providing a digital, satellite linked strategic command and control infrastructure for the Commander-in-Chief of US Central Command. The deploying of the first node of that system to Bahrain signaled the beginning of the successful culmination of that effort.

In my next job as Chief of Defense Data Networks in Europe I was part of the globe spanning team planning and implementing the military digital data networks world-wide. This was the immediate fore runner of the internet we know today.

I also saw the Berlin Wall come tumbling down, and, shortly thereafter, I was able to see the implementation of my USCENTCOM plans in the Desert Thunder and Desert Storm operations that reversed the invasion of Kuwait by Sadam Hussein's Iraqi military.

What turned out to be my final job in the Air Force was as a group deputy commander at Tinker Air Force Base near Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, there I experienced what the doctors called a "myocardial angina event," thought to be brought on by stress and high blood pressure. I just remember serious chest pain and erratic heartbeats. Although I have subsequently found that this is easily controlled with medication, at the time it caused me to re-evaluate my life.

With the Soviet Union dissolved and with most major military threats in the world apparently gone, it was clearly time for me, along with many others, to leave the military and find a less stressful profession. So, on August 31, 1992, I retired from military service.

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