Brubaker passed up college life to enlist in the Air Force

Editor’s Note: This article is part of The Inter-Mountain’s Unsung Heroes series for 2019, which features veterans in our area sharing first-hand accounts of their military service.

RED CREEK — Like many teenagers, Ronald Brubaker dreamed about attending college. However, after graduating high school in 1947, and enrolling in college, he decided that he no longer wanted to attend but desired something more. So, he enlisted in the United States Air Force.

“I finished high school in 1947 and started going to college, but I didn’t make the football team so I said, ‘I’m leaving!'”

Brubaker explained that he started his college career with the right mind set, but it wasn’t the right timing. He felt he was guided to a different path at that time, and that everything happens for a reason.

“I knew many people that served, especially during the second world war, so that’s what I decided I needed to do,” he said. “I picked the air force.”

After enlisting, he went through training, working numerous jobs related to air craft supply, and being sent on trips all across the country. Brubaker served for “four long years,” as he put it.

During his time in the Air Force, Brubaker achieved his highest ranking of staff sergeant.

“I usually worked on air craft supply. The first job I had I was in a fighter squadron, and worked in the supply unit,” he said. “I was supposed to train as a mechanic, but I worked in supply instead. There, we would order parts that the mechanics would need for the airplanes, and we would order their tools for them. Later on, I was transferred to the base supply squadron where we would order supplies from the depots that would come in to our base.”

Brubaker emphasized that when they went on trips to different bases, the higher authorities never gave location options. Further, they never got the opportunity to choose where they were stationed and were rarely informed of where they were being sent.

“You never had a choice of where you went. You would never know where they would send you. I went to San Antonio Texas at Lackland Air Force base, as well as Scott Field Illinois,” he said.

“I was supposed to train as a radio mechanic; however, they made me take a color blind test and I didn’t pass it, so they wouldn’t let me. Then, they sent me to Selfridge Michigan Air Force base where I told them I wanted to be a mechanic,” he said. “They assigned me to a fighter squadron, but they had me working in a supply room where they would have you order parts for the planes. I saw the mechanics having grease all over their clothes and I was like, ‘I don’t want to do that.’ So, I always worked in air craft supply, the fighter squadron and the base supply.

“My favorite part of my job was being able to work with the supply system. Also, I would occasionally meet old friends that were on duty on the same bases that I was on every once in a while. But, generally I met new people, which was exciting.”

When Brubaker returned to his home after being discharged from the Air Force, he showed extreme dedication by never giving up on his goals, which included earning a degree in business education, even while he was serving in the Air Force. As he took college classes he worked for an insurance company for about a year.

“While I was on duty and after I got out, I always took college courses part time. After about a year, I went to college full time and finished a four-year program in business education,” he said.

“I went to two different teachers colleges, one in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, and another in Indiana, Pennsylvania.”

After he finished college, he spent many years working at a university in Maryland.

“Overall, I don’t know that being enlisted changed me, but I developed good habits for working and everything. Saving money, they taught you how to save when you weren’t making much,” he said.

Even though it has been many years since Brubaker served in the Air Force, he likes to stay involved and still makes time to visit some of the bases where he was stationed He even attends reunions to keep in contact will some of his former Air Force acquaintances.

“We still go back to Michigan to visit the bases. Especially at Oscoda Michigan, that’s a resort town on Lake Huron. It’s a very nice area. Brings back memories,” he said.

Brubaker currently lives in Red Creek.

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