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"Saddam gave up because the 644th Bomb Squadron had landed." (Video Interview, 50:57)

   Bruce S. Wong
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Bruce Wong [2007]
War: Cold War; War on Terrorism, 2001-2009
Branch: Air Force; Air Force
Unit: 366th Fighter Wing
Service Location: Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho; Arlington, Virginia; Washington, DC; Europe
Rank: Colonel
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Taking a cue from his father, an Air Force officer, Bruce Wong joined the ROTC program at the University of Oregon and eventually entered the service. Wong was disappointed at several stages of his long career--when he wasn't assigned to flight training, when he was assigned to B-52s rather than fighters. But he maintained a positive attitude as a team player and rose through the ranks to several senior positions, including commander of a B-52 squadron which he claims was instrumental in bringing the Persian Gulf War to a swift conclusion.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (105 min.)
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»Wings of War
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
Born into Air Force family, father in Air Force, spent youth as Air Force brat; he and his three brothers have all been in the Air Force; father was enlisted man, so that was the perspective he got. (01:16) In college, first semester, he was dead-set against the military, then did an about-face; he realized he admired the way his father came home to talk about solving problems at work; joined ROTC whose office had been firebombed recently; met an officer whom he bonded with; asked for a scholarship; military was looked down upon by many of his peers; joined a fraternity that was more tolerant. (05:03) Officer orientation course at Lackland AFB; first experience with open bay barracks; learned his assignment had been changed from flight training to ICBMs because of force reduction; learned what was best for the team, not the individual. (03:24)
Knew the missile program was not for him; made it known that he wanted to fly planes and got into navigation training; excited about new assignment, knew he wanted to fly fighters, disappointed by his posting: B-52 bombers; once again, understanding that this was best for the Air Force. (04:01) At an air show when Mount St. Helen's erupted; had to cover and tape up aircraft to protect them from ash; not long afterwards, they got an alert that indicated this was not an exercise but a real mission; scrambling to get ready with mixed emotions, including anger; after 30 minutes, alert called off; turned out to be someone mixing up tapes; proud that they acted so professionally at a time of crisis. (03:59) Transferred to SAC headquarters, where he would run assignments; not happy but understood that the Air Force defends democracy, does not practice it; working more closely with peoples' lives and families. (01:08)
Asked to become commander of bomber squadron; Persian Gulf War breaks out; 644th Bomb Squadron plays major part in winning the war quickly; spent "interesting times" training and executing operations; had to escort some bodies back; working with Honor Guard to inform families of deceased airmen; came back from war to learn his base was closing; hands-on approach to dealing with people whose lives were changed; contrasting formerly negative attitude toward the military with newly respectful view after the war; making do with paltry pay, no complaints; embarrassed to be honored at post-Gulf War parade at which he thought the real heroes weren't there. (07:22) Asked to become senior officer of nuclear command center; was not a full colonel at time, required for that post; got "frocked," which means "you get to wear the rank but you don't get any money;" dealing with Navy and Army as well as Washington, DC brass, including the President; hosted a Russian defense ministry official and generals; gave them some briefings; first time "meet your adversary" occasion; Russians could not understand why less than senior officers had so many responsibilities. (09:35) Assigned to be wing commander chief of staff, relocating to Boise from Washington, DC; report-in date is Sept. 1, 2001; saw his name on billboard outside the center; 10 days later, the attacks on New York and Washington; getting early information from cable news; believed the right thing to do was "generate the force;" he and other officers believed they had failed the country because they had allowed this to happen; put on state of readiness so when call came from Washington, they could say they were prepared. (07:24)

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  October 26, 2011
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