A Brief Summary of My Life
by Col. Edward Stellini
The following is a brief summary of my life, with emphasis on the career-changing decisions I made before, during, and after my Air Force career.
I was born on December 3, 1929, in Detroit, MI, six weeks after the Stock Market Crash. I am Elias and Eufrosina Stellini’s last of their four boys. My parents were immigrants from Malta and were not very well educated. We were very poor, my father never earned much money throughout his life, and he died from lung cancer resulting from him being a cigarette chain-smoker when I was 15.
When I was 4 years old, my mother enrolled me in grade school by lying about my age. My progress in school was accelerated by several events. At age 6, I skipped half a grade and, instead of going to high school, I attended a trade school, which was a 3 1/2-year course. I graduated from trade school and by attending night school for two years, I was able to receive sufficient credits to graduate from high school at age 16.
Against my mother’s wishes, I chose to go to college. My mother wanted me to continue in the tool and die trade and work in a factory. I began college at age 17, and by going to summer school, completed the 4-year course in 3 1/2 years, graduating at age 20. While in college, I paid my own tuition and college expenses and helped support the family by working part-time jobs. I took flying lessons for a short time but stopped when I felt I couldn’t afford to continue.
I went to work at GM Fisher Body Division as an Engineering Artist shortly after the Korean War began. While I had been interested in aviation since I was 8 years old, after seeing the movie “Men With Wings”, I hadn’t planned to join the Air Force. I intended to continue working at Fisher for the foreseeable future. With the start of the War, and the Military Draft still underway, I was concerned that I would be drafted into the Army. Though very patriotic, I felt that I should join the Air Force since I was sure that I would eventually be drafted, and being a rather short person, I preferred to fight with my mental abilities rather than with my physical abilities. I made my first career-changing decision – to join the Air Force.
I entered the Air Force as a private, completed basic training, and began pilot training. On graduation from flying school, I went to instrument training, gunnery training, and reconnaissance training. I went to Korea during the last months of the war and flew combat missions as a tactical reconnaissance pilot in RF-80s. After the War, I made my second career-changing decision – to volunteer for an assignment at another base to help set up an instrument school. This provided me with an opportunity to accumulate a great deal of flying time, mostly as an instructor pilot. I returned to the US and was again assigned to a reconnaissance unit, but shortly thereafter, I made my third career-changing decision – to volunteer to become a flying aide to a general and a full-time instructor in T-33 and B-25 aircraft.
During this assignment, I met my future wife and began dating her regularly. I then made my fourth career-changing decision – to become a regular officer and commit to an Air Force career. I informed my former employer, GM, that I would not be returning to civilian life. Once I decided that I was going to make the Air Force my career I felt I should get a more demanding job. This was my fifth career-changing decision – to become a fighter pilot. I transferred to Myrtle Beach AFB, SC, and proposed to my girl. She was reluctant to commit for a while but eventually agreed to marry me.
At Myrtle Beach Air Base I was selected to be one of the first six pilots to check out in the F-100 and I served in the squadron as a Flight Commander. After a few months, I was transferred to another squadron as a Flight Commander. My assignment was to a very demanding trans-Atlantic deployment and temporary duty in Turkey for two months. This was the defining experience of my Air Force career. A few months after this deployment, I was presented with an opportunity to take an important high-profile position in the Wing. This was my sixth career-changing decision – to accept the position as the Chief of the Wing Standardization Branch.
In January 1960, I was transferred to the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing in Okinawa, first as an Assistant Flight Commander in a fighter squadron and then to the position in Wing Headquarters as Chief of Tactical Evaluation. After a while, Headquarters requested that I become a member of a group of flight examiners that would evaluate the commanders, operations officers, and fight examiners at all the bases in the theater. This was my seventh career-changing decision – to accept the position as a flight examiner in the PACAF Stan/Eval Group.
July 1963 found me returning to the US and attending Air Command and Staff College. I volunteered to enroll in the concurrent George Washington University graduate program in Business Administration and received an MBA. I was assigned to the Pentagon in the Air Force Command Post and shortly thereafter I was offered a position on a new study group to develop a method for determining worldwide air munitions requirements. This was my eight career-changing decision – to become a member of the Nonnuclear Consumables Annual Analysis (NCAA) Study Group. I was promoted to Major at age 34.
With the introduction of the Kennedy Administration and the new way of determining military requirements, operations research became the wave of the future. I became very interested in the business of doing studies and felt that I would like to do this for a living after retirement. I discovered that Alain Enthoven, the Assistant Secretary for Defense/Systems Analysis, had set up a new course of instruction for a group of military and civilian personnel called the Defense Systems Analysis Program.
This was a Masters degree program that started each June. I applied through the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) for the course and was accepted for a class beginning in June 1968. However, because of the timing of the class entry date, I would have to go to Vietnam in April 1967 to get back in time for the class start date. This was my ninth career-changing decision – to go to Vietnam immediately in a staff position rather than to go to F-100 retraining and then to Vietnam in a flying position, which would have me back in the US too late for the June 1968 class.
In Vietnam, I served on General Westmoreland’s staff at HQ MACV as an operational staff officer. I traveled extensively throughout Vietnam on Army helicopters and was there for the Tet Offensive, the most widespread battle of the War. I received the Bronze Star Medal for my service. I returned to the US and entered the University of Rochester for the Defense Systems Analysis Program. I completed the DSAP with a master’s degree in Business Administration and in Systems Analysis. While at U of R, I was promoted to Lt. Colonel, at age 38. During the last weeks at U of R, I made calls to Air Force Personnel to try to get an assignment at the Pentagon in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Studies and
Analysis. This was my tenth career-changing decision – to get an assignment at AF/SA.
I served in AF/SA for four years, during which I led several high-level studies. The most important study was the revised NCAA that I was involved with at the Pentagon on my first tour. This study received high-level review and was instrumental in changing the way the Air Force calculated what War Reserve Material (WRM) to buy for the worldwide stockpile. During this assignment, I was promoted to Colonel, at age 42, and became the Chief of the Tactical Systems Division. I was awarded the Legion of Merit, one of the military service’s highest decorations.
My next assignment was to Wright Patterson AFB, OH, where I served in several Director positions during the six years at this station. I was the leader in a number of studies pertaining to tactical weapons systems, primarily fighter aircraft. In 1979, an old Air Force friend who was a vice president at the BDM Corporation offered me a job. This was the eleventh career-changing decision I made – to retire from the Air Force. I took the job and worked at BDM as a military systems analyst. After three years, I was laid off because there wasn’t enough work in my area of expertise – tactical air operations analysis.
A few weeks later, I was offered a job at Science Application International Corporation (SAIC). In this job, I led a number of studies and was either a Task Leader or an analyst on other studies. I worked at SAIC until 1993, and for the next two years, I was an employee consultant but did not work. I retired from SAIC in 1995. I kept all the stock I held in my Retirement Plan and cashed in the funds. The value of the stock had risen significantly.