A/2C Billie R McLeod, Denver Colorado. November 5, 2013.
I was born near Plain Dealing, Louisiana where my father(Kenneth McLeod Sr. was a sharecropper. The farm owner's wife was really good to my mother(Abilene Mcleod) and so she let her name me. This has resulted in a lot of Ms Billie McLeod mail. I have very few memories of this time, one is rain on a tin roof and another is my mother parching peanuts in the oven for us.
When the big war started (WWII) my dad, of course, joined the Navy We went to live with my mother's mother in Shreveport. After basic training the doctors decided he had something wrong with his back and he received a medical discharge. Since most men his age were in the service a lot of jobs opened up. He got a brakeman's job on the railroad and we moved west to El Paso, Texas. With the job came steady money and health insurance.
During elementary schools we moved a lot. I was in eight different elementary schools. Southern Pacific had what they called a section. My dad worked from El Paso, Texas to Carrizozo, New Mexico. We lived at both ends of the line. While there we became friends with the Garrison's. They had a boy the same age as my brother. Oddly enough by the time I got to high school I wound up with the same people I went to the 1st grade with.
While in high school I worked summers for Mr. Garrison. He was a general contractor and we did many things. We put up and maintained a lot of windmills. We had two that were 24ft across the fan that took us a week to pull and put new seals in. We built a house in Lincoln, New Mexico for a Philidelphia lawyer. While we were there we built the stage for the Billy The Kid pageant that they have every year the first weekend in August. If we hadn't had drought I would probably still be in New Mexico but when no one has water no one has money. I graduated from Ysleta High School in 1957 and we moved to Denver, Colorado the next day. I looked for a job for a couple months and then decided to join the Air Force. (good decision). I went to Basic Training a Lackland AFB in San Antonio. Texas then mechanic training(Reciprocating-one and two engine) at Sheppard AFB,Wichita Falls, Texas.
After that I was assigned to a unit that was setting up a Air Force Reserve Unit at Alvin Callender Field, a new joint reserve base just across the river from New Orleans. I went home to Denver on leave and then rode down to New Orleans with my Dad in his truck. The company he was working for hauled Colorado onions down and South American bananas back up. When I got there it was snowing so bad that couldn't see the Ferry Terminal. At the beginning we were based at the 8th Naval District right on the river. The base was still under construction. Eventually we moved out to the base. Our barracks were in the office buildings that formed the sides of the hanger. The base was the result of the local senator deciding he wanted a base in his district(swamp). (He was the head of the Senate military appropriations committee). Our runway was plus three feet and the hanger minus one.
At night the Nutria (a muskrat like animal but with a tail like a rat) would come into the parking lots. They were going to be flying C-119C's. We started out with only a C-45 for all the pilots to get there time in to qualify for flight pay. Made a couple of friends who would go to Dreux with me, James Johnson and Doug Delongpre. By that summer we had all of our C-119's and went to Ellington AFB, Houston, Texas for summer camp. While there I got to ride a C-119C to Denver and see my family. Eventually all the civil servants that were going to be the core of the Reserve Unit were hired and us regular Air Force people were now surplus.
I was promoted to A/2C and in February 1959 I got my orders to Dreux Air Base, APO 84. I had no idea what a 11th TCM squadron was or what they did. Of course you all know that it was a Troop Carrier Squadron flying C119G's at Dreux Air Base. After a couple of months of school and moving airplanes here and there, they asked me if I would be a Flight Engineer. Not knowing any better
I said yes. So I went on flight status and as a result was never at Dreux for more than a couple of days at a time. By this time the long routes were being flown by C-130's so the normal procedure was first day to Chateroux to load up the continue to the other bases. Up down, up down, then about dark you stopped for the night. Make sure the plane was fueled, struts wiped down and closed up. Off to transient quarters. Up early the next morning and do it again. The only good trips were to Athens, Oslo, and Warsaw (Copenhagen RON). Athens was up in the morning and off to Istanbul, unload, load, refuel then off to a inactive WWII field on the Dardanelles which is the narrow strait that connecs the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara.
You made a pass on the field to run the sheep off and then landed. In the hills around there were listening stations for Russian radio. We brought food and othe supplies in and hauled out tapes. After that it was Esmir and refuel with 100/130 gas(normal was 114/145). You had to burn this off before you got back to Athens so somewhere between Esmir and Athens if you pilot was not watching the engines would sputter and sometimes quit if he didn't change tanks quick enough. You were usually half asleep by this time and it would really wake you up. Do this a couple of days then make a swing to Heraklion on Crete. Boy the Mediterranean was beautiful. Next day back to Dreux. In 1961 the Air Force was starting to build up in Viet Nam and they were looking for ways to save money. Deactivating Units was one of the options and the C-119's were outdated and being replaced by the C130's so the squadrons at Dreux were deactivated. Those who were willing to extend or had three years to serve were transferred to other units and the rest were discharged.
I went back to Denver and started looking for a job that would allow me to go to school. I worked for Cudahy Packing for the summer and started school at the University of Colorado in September.
Shortly thereafter we had a possibility of another Berlin air lift and President Kennedy decided he couldn't do without me. On recall, I went to Tulsa, Oklahoma to the 388th Periodic Maintenance Squadron. During the Berlin Crisis of 61-62 we flew C97's from Travis AFB to Saigon, while the active duty units stood by for the expected airlift. I make A/1C and by August of 62 was released. I started college again then my dad's gas station got in trouble and I quit to help him. Another year later the I was married with a kid on the way and the station was sold. I went to work for Sundstrand as machine operator. While there I obtained my A and P license from the FAA (the FAA qualified me to take the tests based on my Air Force Experience which saved me a lot of money and time. This involved working a full job and going to school also. Even though I was qualified to take the test I wanted to pass it on the first try so I went to Emily Griffin which was a school that trained people in many trades. When a job opened up at Frontier Airlines I took it. While at Frontier I went to CU and got my BS E.E. (Class of 73) and moved up to engineering. Again, this involved working and going to school. Not home much.
In 1976, my wife decided to look for greener pastures and I was a single parent with an eight and a twelve year old. I immediately found out that there is no such thing as a nonworking wife. I had to do it all. I don't want to give anyone the idea that was a bad decision looking back I would have left me too. The kids kept me two busy to look for another wife. The first time I tried it was with a woman I worked with who raced endurance races. Fifty or one hundred miles in a day. I was the pit crew. When they came into check stations it was my job to have the water, food, etc. ready. Mostly it was listening to the horse say "Save from this crazy person" That fell through about two weeks before the wedding. Twenty three years after I started Frontier went bankrupt I moved over to United Airlines in Chicago. It took me three years to get back to Denver. I retired in 2001. Spent my first two years commuting to Phoenix sharing care of my mom with my sister, Liz. In 2003 I was back in Denver and had been diagnosed with bladder cancer. Starting taking treatment for that, a year later they found cancer in my left kidney, goodby kidney. We have been slowing working our way from every three weeks to once a year for my rechecks. Both of my boys live in the Denver area, also my daughter-in-law and two grandkids, Connor and Shannon. Also have two step grandkids, Lindsey and Dustin. Lindsey works up north and Dustin is in the Army at Fort Carson. Been doing family things ever since.
In April of this year Chuck and I started this website to remember our time at Dreux. My son gave me the website for my birthday, that is, he paid for a year on GoDaddy web hosting service and bought the name dreuxairbasefrancememories.org. I think he got tired of listening to us talk on the phone.He said as loud as we were we really didn't need the phones. We decided at the beginning to be inclusive instead of exclusive. We wanted everyone who remembered Dreux on our website and still do.