“I knew by age 14 that I wanted to be a research scientist and a college professor. In my first year of college while taking Air Force ROTC (to avoid gym class) I took my first light airplane ride and handled the controls. A passion to become a pilot being paid to fly airplanes consumed me. Armed with a BA in Mathematics and the brown bars of a second Lieutenant I started on what turned out to be a 27-year career with the Air Force.
Following qualification as a fighter pilot (flying the F-100 Super Sabre, a single seat, single engine jet fighter), came a combat tour in Vietnam (148 missions) where I was also the squadron civic action officer working with a school, orphanage and leper colony – an immensely meaningful experience. After Vietnam the Air Force assigned me to a fighter squadron in England. It was here that the “dashing” fighter pilot met and started dating a fellow Air Force Captain, a pediatric Registered Nurse named Nancy from the base hospital.”(excerpted from Fred’s book, “Thanks for the Dance…” for more of their love story see the tab “Books by Fred Abrams”)
Fearless Fred logged 1000+ Hun hours while in service. Notably he was one of the keepers of “Ramrod” at Bien Hoa. (For those not in the know, the “Ramrod” was a huge python that became the unit’s mascot). He is also credited as the designer of the F-4 Puke patch for Lakenheath. Of his own admission he was downgraded from Hun to F4.
In Fred’s own words “I was part of the only USAF jet fighter mission in history to attack his own base. After the day long battle of Bien Hoa on Jan 31, 1968, I was part of the two ship that delivered napes and 500# HDs on the east end of Bien Hoa, effectively ending the battle. They were shooting at us as we took off to the east over the fighting and we waited quite awhile until there was enough separation between the enemy and the 101st airborne folks. When we got back to the squadron we were met my a lot of excited folks who had never seen the F-100 in action (crew chiefs and munitions crews) as we were releasing over the revetments in front of the squadron.”
While at Bien Hoa, Fred was also the Civic Action Officer for the 531 TFS, organizing support for an orphanage, school and leper colony. Fred then flew the Hun in the 492TFS at Lakenheath with deployments to Wheelus (Tripoli Libya), Cigli (Izmir Turkey), Aviano Italy, and Zaragosa Spain. While at Lakenheath he was one of the founders of the Lakenheath Aero Club and flew the club’s Cessna 150 solo from Wheelus to Lakenheath. He also purchased and restored a Tiger Moth and kept it tied down at the aero club using the triangle of grass in the middle of the airfield as his own private strip (eventually shipping the airplane to Ohio and flying it in the Dayton area for six more years).
Fred was in the first group of F-100 pilots to head for Luke to downgrade to the F-4. He designed and had sewn a batch of F-4 Puke patches and was the first to wear one to the Luke O’Club after “soloing” (meaning having a navigator in the back seat). That did not set well with the Wing Commander who offered a serious chewing out. From Lakenheath Fred went to AFIT at WPAFB and then to the F-15 SPO where he stayed (while “imminently leaving” for six years). In 1979-80 he was told he would be getting recurrent in the F-100 and would become the QF-100 Drone Program manager at Tyndall. To prevent him from leaving, he was placed on the SPO RPI position, sent to Edwards to check out in the F-15, and was on board the first F-15 delivered to Kadena.
In 1980 the Wing Commander put in a “by name” to have him transferred there to manage the conversion and become a mission-ready (rather than P-Qualed) F-15 pilot. TAC had promised 40 fighter pilots to ATC for UPT (since number of FAIPs was so high – over 60%). AFMPC discovered Fred was owned by Systems Command and current in the F-15, so they then went looking for the other 39. Fred flew T-38’s at Columbus MS and was the Ops Officer when he was pulled back to the F-15 SPO at WPAFB with short notice. He became the F-15E Deputy Program Manager for Logistics and stayed until 1986 when he got promoted out of that position.
Fred was on the F-15E program from the writing of the RFP through his Chairmanship of the Critical Design Review (CDR) for Reliability and Maintainability. He finished out his career in AFLC as the Director of Tactical Systems Logistics, Logistics Battle Staff Director for the Gulf War (90-91), and as the Re-engineering Project Manager for the merger of AFSC and AFLC (the Integrated Weapon System Management – IWSM – initiative).
He retired a month after AFMC was activated.
After retiring from service he worked for 5 years in the industrial sector and was granted 17 patents involving thermoplastic composites and graphic image molding. He then joined The Dayton Group, a project management consulting and training enterprise, and became President/CEO a few years later. When we asked what he wanted to be when he grew up he said “To be a grandpa”. He currently has six grandchildren (five from his two kids with his late wife and one with his new wife) with more on the way.
As an active Rotarian, Fred led an international project from 2007-2012 to provide sanctuary for AIDS orphans rescued from the most dangerous slum in Africa. The project established the sanctuary in the Kenyan countryside with renewable energy sources (wind, solar, and biogas) and access to water, food, education, and medical care. Since 2012 he has led two projects in Nigeria to provide solar-powered boreholes to give communities safe and abundant water. The second project has also involved replacing an open-pit latrine at a school with flush toilets, activating a community clinic, and building a science curriculum in the high school.
In his spare time, he still pursues his long-time (since 1957) hobby of Ham Radio. He and his wife Jeri are the authors of the only book of non-fiction written by an ordinary widow-widower couple on dealing the loss of one’s spouse (available on Amazon). The entire first chapter and other info are on his website at www.ThanksForTheDance.com He is currently in pre-publication on a second book (for children) on the adoption of rescue shelter dogs. Hun driver in Fred’s words was “the most rewarding experience you can imagine”.
- 1966 – 4517 TFTS Luke AFB, AZ (Hun checkout)
- 1967 – 355 TFS Myrtle Beach AFB, SC (F-100)
- 1968 – 531 TFS, Civic action officer, Bien Hoa AB, RVN (F-100- 148 missions)
- 1969-1973 – 492 TFS RAF Lakenheath, UK (F-100 then an F-4 Puke)
- 1974-1980 F-15 SPO (Managed worldwide F 15 deployment – SATAF Field Support).
- 1979-1980 RPI position, checked out in F-15, WP AFB, OH (F-15)
- 1980-1982 50 FTS Columbus AFB, MS (Ops Officer) (T-38)
- 1982-1986 F-15 SPO Deputy Program Manager – Logistics. WP AFB, OH (F-15)
- 1986-1992 HQ AFLC – Tactical Logistics, Vice Commander – Logistics Operations Center.
- Project Manager – AFMC Integrated Weapon System Management. WP AFB, OH
Awards & Decorations
Military & Civilian Education
- 1965 BA Math Washington Univ, St. Louis, MO/ ROTC
- 1974 MS Systems Management, AFIT (Residence) WP AFB, OH