Robert D. Beckel
Lieutenant General Robert D. Beckel was commander, 15th Air Force, March Air Force Base, CA from 1990 until his retirement in 1992. The Fifteenth Air Force is responsible for the worldwide operation of the Strategic Air Command air refueling tanker force as well as two of the command’s strategic bomber units.
General Beckel was born in Walla Walla, Wash., in 1937. He earned a bachelor of science degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1959 as a member of its first class, and a master of science degree in international affairs from The George Washington University in 1971. The general completed the Naval Command and Staff Course in 1971, and National War College in 1975.
Upon graduation from the academy, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He received pilot wings in June 1960 at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., where he was the outstanding graduate of his class. He then completed jet fighter training at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. In August 1961 General Beckel was assigned to the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, West Germany, where he flew F-100s and F-105s.
The general next became a member of the U.S. Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds. From December 1965 to December 1967 he flew the solo position for the “Ambassadors in Blue” in demonstrations throughout the world.
While serving as flight commander of the 614th Tactical Fighter Squadron, South Vietnam, he flew 313 combat missions in the F-100 from December 1967 until January 1969. He returned to Nellis Air Force Base and Joined the 4525th Fighter Weapons Wing as an F-100 instructor. General Beckel served as executive officer for the wing commander and then moved to the 66th Fighter Weapons Squadron as an operational test and evaluation officer, flying the F-105.
The general attended the Command and Staff Course at the Naval War College from August 1970 to June 1971. He then was assigned to the Office of Legislative Liaison, Secretary of the Air Force, Washington, D.C., where he worked in the House of Representatives. In 1972 he became chief aide to Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He entered the National War College in August 1974. Upon graduation in July 1975, he served as vice commander of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Beale Air Force Base, Calif., and flew SR-71s and T-38s. There he became commander of the 100th Combat Support Group in October 1976 and, later, the 100th Air Refueling Wing. In August 1978 General Beckel transferred to K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, Mich., as commander of the 410th Bombardment Wing. In June 1979 he became commander of 7th Air Division, Strategic Air Command, Ramstein Air Base, West Germany.
The general returned to the Air Force Academy in February 1981 as commandant of cadets. In June 1982 he became director of operations, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. He transferred to Headquarters Strategic Air Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., In September 1984 as deputy chief of staff for operations, and in October 1985 became chief of staff. General Beckel was assigned to Europe in July 1987 as deputy chairman, NATO Military Committee, Headquarters North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Brussels, Belgium.
The general is a command pilot with more than 4,400 flying hours. His military awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Sliver Star, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with four oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and Air Medal with 15 oak leaf clusters. He was named to the Helms All-American basketball team in 1959 and was on the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and all-Air Force basketball teams in 1961.
- 7/11/1955 Graduated 1st class of the USAF Academy
- 6/3/1959 Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant
- 6/1960 Undergraduate Pilot Training, Vance AFB, OK
- 7/1961Jet fighter training, Luke AFB, AZ/ Nellis AFB, NV
- 7/1961-8/1965 9th Tactical Fighter Squadron/49th Tactical Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem AB, West Germany (F-100, F-105)
- 8/1965-12/1965 560th Tactical Fighter Squadron, McConnell AFB, KS
- 12/1965-12/1967 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Aerial Demonstration Team
- 12/1967-12/1968 614th Tactical Fighter Squadron/35th Tactical Fighter Wing, Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam (F-100)
- 1/1969-12/1969 4525th Fighter Weapons Wing, Nellis AFB, NV (F-100 IP)
- 12/1969-8/1970 66th Fighter Weapons Squadron, F-105 project test officer, Nellis AFB, NV (F-105)
- 8/1970-6/1971 Naval War College at Newport, RI
- 6/1971-6/1972 Liaison officer with the House of Representatives, Washington, DC
- 6/1972-8/1974 Chief aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon, Washington, DC
- 8/1974-7/1975 National War College
- 7/1975-10/1976 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Vice commander, Beale AFB, CA
- 100th Combat Support Group/100th Air Refueling Wing, Commander, Beale AFB, CA
- 8/1978-6/1979 410th Bomb Wing, Commander, K. I. Sawyer AFB, MI
- 6/1979-2/1981 7th Air Division, Commander, Ramstein AB, West Germany
- 2/1981-6/1982 Commandant of cadets, U.S. Air Force
- 6/1982-9/1984 USAF HQ, Pentagon, Washington, DC
- 9/1984-7/1987 Headquarters Strategic Air Command, Offutt AFB, NE
- 7/1987-2/1990 NATO Military Committee Headquarters, Deputy chairman, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Brussels, Belgium
- 2/1990-6/1992 15th Air Force, Commander, March AFB, CA
- 6/1/1992 Retired from USAF
Awards & Decorations
Defense Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster
Distinguished Flying Cross 1-with Valor Device and 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
Distinguished Flying Cross 2
Meritorious Service Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal
Outstanding Unit Award with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
Air Force Organizational Excellence Award
Combat Readiness Medal
National Defense Service Award with Bronze Star
Vietnam Service Medal with 4 Bronze Stars
Air Force Overseas Short Tour Medal
Air Force Overseas Long Tour with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
Air Force Longevity Service Award with 1 Silver/2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Small Arms Marksmanship Award
Air Force Training Ribbon
Republic of Vietnam Air Service Medal
Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Rating: Command Pilot – 4400 hours
Military & Civilian Education
- 1955 USAF Academy
- 1959 US Naval Academy
- 1971 Naval War College
- 1975 National War College
- 1971 MS/International Affairs, The George Washington University