My training took place at Rantoul AFB in Illinois. This was a 10 month course taught mainly by instructors from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois. I sat in a classroom from 8 AM to 3 PM Monday through Friday for 10 months straight getting bombarded with Calculus, Physics, and every imaginable atmospheric science subject known to man. Cherie stayed at home with Arnie at our little condo off the base. We made frequent trips to Chicago or to Belleville to visit, but generally we just concentrated on getting me through this course. In the spring of 1970 I graduated the course and we received an assignment to Charleston, SC. I was to work at the Latin American Forecast Center. Neither one of us was too excited about this assignment, but it was better than going to Viet Nam.
Cherie and I in our Charleston back yard.
Arnie took the picture
We rented a home in a “not so great” neighborhood near the Naval Base. I didn’t care for my job all that much, we didn’t really like where we were living, and although we liked the beaches along the Atlantic coast line, we didn’t care much for the City of Charleston. My first eight years of service were nearly over and I seriously contemplated leaving the service. I interviewed for a job as the TV weatherman in Nashville, TN, but they wanted to start me at a smaller station at just a little more than what the Air Force was paying me. When I got back to Charleston, Cherie informed me that she was pregnant, and so we decided to stick with the Air Force for yet another term. I reenlisted! We were only in Charleston for a year when the Air Force offered me a “Base of Choice” assignment. That meant that I would have the option of going anywhere there was an opening for a weather forecaster. I picked several places, but had to settle for Ellington AFB, Texas. I reckon that the “Base of Choice” thing was the Air Force idea of a joke, but this turned out to be a wonderful assignment.
I bundled up the family and dropped them off in Belleville with Cherie’s parents while I drove to Ellington by myself. The base is on the outskirts of Houston, Texas and was co-located with the NASA Space Center. Aside from a nasty lingering odor from the nearby refineries, I liked this assignment from the start. People reached out to me right away, and I spent my first evening in Houston dining with a fellow co-worker and his family. It was the first time I have ever eaten Mexican food, and it started a lifelong love affair. Ellington was a reserve base and my main responsibility was briefing the pilots that used our facility and working with the astronauts and their Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV). What a wonderful assignment. It was probably the most un-military place I’ve worked in and the astronauts were a great bunch to work with. I got to know all of them very well and it was a great feeling to be at a public function and have a man that has spent time on the moon call out to you and say: “Hey Arno, what are you doing here?”
Briefing Astronaut Pete Conrad, shortly before he
left NASA to work in the private sector
Houston, Texas is also the birthplace of our second child, Jennifer who came along on July 9, 1971, followed by Christopher in March 23, 1974. We had a great circle of friends here and we spent a lot of time with our kids, traveling, going to the beach, and playing in our spacious yard. Arnie started school here and had countless friends in the neighborhood. I even managed to take 3 weeks off during the summer of 1972 and again in 1973 and took a military flight to Europe. Two of my friends accompanied me on this backpacking adventure, but Cherie stayed behind with her parents in St. Louis. Life was good there in Houston, Texas.
Three of the greatest kids ever
I didn’t want to leave Houston and when my enlistment term ended, I decided to call it quits. One of the reservists that worked at our weather station was a full colonel whose civilian duty was as manager at one of the many NASA projects. When he found out I was quitting the Air Force, he encouraged me to put in for a job at NASA. The center was just starting a new project that entailed keeping an eye on crop production in the communist countries and they needed someone that was familiar with all kinds of meteorological products and was skilled at interpreting satellite data. I certainly fit that bill, and wasted no time putting in my application. It took nearly three months of waiting before I finally started the job. The rub was my education. I was competing against folks with Masters and PhD’s and I didn’t even have a BS. They wanted me badly enough to change the job description several times and eventually I got the job. That little snag should have gotten my attention and I should have settled down and gotten the course work I needed to get my BS, but I have always had a great dislike for school, and although I have spent most of my life taking one course after another, it was always course work that I was interested in, and I never went back to get the basic course work I needed to complete my education.
Cherie and I shortly before we left Houston
It was during my tenure at the Johnson Space Center, that I started to work with computers. Back then we used these huge water-cooled machines that didn’t have the computing power that my little laptop has now. I enjoyed my job at the Space Center immensely, but the project came to an end in 1977. I was given the choice of moving to Washington DC or taking a job at the Center for Environmental Assessments (CCEA) in Columbia, MO. I didn’t want to go to Washington, and Cherie looked forward to being closer to her family again, so we made the choice to move back to Missouri. I should also mention that both Cherie and I were very active working with a Christian Drug Counseling and Rehabilitation center there in Houston. We spent a good deal of time there on weekends and evenings. That was just one of the many things we were going to miss about Texas.