30 November 1957 – Capt Benny Lacombe is killed when he unsuccessfully attempts to bail out of Lockheed U-2A, 56-6704, Article 371, 13 miles SE of Laughlin AFB. Ejection seats had not yet been fitted to U-2s at this point. The history of the U-2 program is fraught with fatalities and crashes. “CIA pilots Wilburn S.
Gary W. Fredricks
Gary Fredricks was born and raised in Ottawa, Kansas. He graduated from high school in 1956, and then he attended the University of Kansas. While there, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve. After attending the University of Kansas for two years majoring in Aeronautical Engineering, he entered the U.S. Air Force in 1958 as an Aviation Cadet. He was an honor graduate, received a regular commission, and chose to become a fighter pilot.
His military experience included over twenty-five years with the U.S. Air Force in increasingly challenging and responsible positions. His assignments included operational tactical fighter pilot, tactical fighter unit plans/administration, tactical fighter training instructor pilot, electrical engineer, chief of engineering and maintenance for a major air defense satellite program ground station acquisition and activation, squadron operations officer, wing chief of standardization and evaluation, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) command and control analyst and war headquarters architecture planner for Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE), Wing Deputy Commander for Operations, Wing Vice Commander and Wing Commander.
He was stationed at Luke AFB, Arizona, during three duty tours, the last one as Deputy Commander for operations of a wing that included U.S Air Force aircrew training in the F-4 aircraft and German aircrew training in the F-104 Aircraft. His final assignment before retirement was Commander of a tactical fighter wing with over 2000 personnel, 72 assigned F-4 aircraft, and an annual operating budget of over $10M ($FY84). His mission included a worldwide operational commitment that took his wing as far as Greece and Korea and tactical fighter training for both U.S. and German aircrews. During his tenure as Commander, his wing and its squadrons won several significant awards and scored exceptionally on all operations and management inspections.
His Air Force career allowed him the opportunity to work closely with many people, both enlisted and officer, and to develop a deep and lasting appreciation for their dedication, sacrifice, and service to our country. During his Air Force career, he received an accelerated promotion, flew over 200 combat missions in Southeast Asia, and received 32 awards and decorations including the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, 3 Meritorious Service Medals and 11 Air Medals.
Following retirement from the U.S. Air Force in 1984, he had a successful second career in the defense electronics industry with General Dynamics, Hughes Aircraft and Raytheon lasting nearly 20 years. His final 10 years of full-time employment were spent leading, managing and directing a wide-ranging industry team in the production of the Tomahawk Cruise Missile and related products and services to meet U.S. Navy and Royal Navy warfighter requirements. As the Raytheon Tomahawk Program Director for Production, he was responsible for a $300 million a year business unit with 500 Raytheon employees and a large number of both large and small subcontractors and suppliers stretching across the country and into Canada and the United Kingdom. Following retirement from Raytheon in 2003, he spent another three years consulting for the government on the Tomahawk program.
He is a life member of the Air Force Association (AFA) the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and a member of the American Legion. After retiring from Raytheon in 2003 and moving from Tucson to Phoenix, he was able to increase his active participation in veteran’s service organizations (VSO). His subsequent service in MOAA included president of the Arizona Chapter of MOAA, president of the Arizona Council of MOAA Chapters and six years on the national Board of Directors of MOAA. He has served as Unified Arizona Veterans (UAV), a consortium of over 40 Arizona VSOs, vice-chairman, and chairman.
He completed a six-year commitment, including service as its chairman, to the Arizona Veterans Advisory Commission, providing advice to the Governor and the Arizona Department of Veteran Service on veteran-related issues. In 2010 he was inducted into the Arizona Veteran’s Hall of Fame.