Academy Missile launches officer’s career
By Master Sgt. Dean J. Miller
In the course of any Airman’s career, opportunities to step-up to a leadership challenge present themselves. Experts on leadership believe these early events, and how they are handled, are key to developing character that often defines an individual. Class of 1973 Graduate, Maj. (retired) Donald Rightmyer, is a classic example.
As a cadet, Rightmyer stepped up to many challenges. Often these would merge his two greatest passions: history, and Air and Space power. As a cadet, he was honored to bring the silver goblets of the Doolittle Raiders to their Annual Reunion in 1972 where he met General Jimmy Doolittle and other surviving Raiders; it was an event that left a profound impression on the 21-year-old Rightmyer. Rightmyer also chaired the Cadet Heritage Committee, a place where air power and history often merged. It was in this capacity he found himself on Dec. 9, 1971, center stage outside Clune Arena, side-by-side with Brig Gen. Salvatore E. Felices, then Strategic Air Command’s deputy chief of staff for materiel. Rightmyer was named to represent the Cadet Wing at the dedication of the Academy’s new Minuteman III ICBM display, a gift from SAC.
“I remember that day so clearly,” said Mr. Rightmyer, retired since 1993. “That dedication just brought one more really important element of Air Force mission and heritage to the aircraft, the weapons, and statues already displayed at the Academy.
“These displays both preserved and demonstrated our heritage,” said Mr. Rightmyer. “I thought it was so important when SAC gave us that missile, and I was privileged and honored to represent the Cadet Wing at the ceremony. It was one of many really, remarkable things I got to do as a cadet.” Rightmyer, today a retired cold-warrior in his own right, is reflective as he contemplates the retirement of a Cold-War icon he help dedicate, “There’s a note of sadness as we see the aircraft and weapon systems we trained and served in being retired. But, there’s also a huge feeling of accomplishment for the service these aircraft and missiles allowed us to provide to our nation’s defense through our years of service in the U.S. Air Force. As we walked by the Minuteman III missile and various aircraft at the Academy on a daily basis, they reminded us of the rich heritage of air and space power which the Air Force has forged. I am very encouraged by the young men and women who have passed through the Academy since I graduated and continue in that same tradition of service to our country today.”
From the Academy in 1973, Lieutenant Rightmyer, with a degree in military history, went on to serve as an F-4 aviator, flying in Korea, England and Germany. He served as a historian in the Headquarters Air Force History Office and later served as an intelligence officer on the Soviet Awareness Briefing Team in Washington D.C. In 1983, he returned to flying, this time in F-111s at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Later, Rightmyer served as editor, TAC Attack Magazine, Tactical Air Command’s Safety Publication, a war plans officer at 16th Air Force in Madrid, Spain, and as editor, Air Scoop, U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s Safety publication, before his retirement in 1993.
Today, Mr. Rightmyer is a State Government employee in the city of Frankfort, Kentucky, serving as editor, Kentucky Ancestors, a quarterly publication of the Kentucky Historical Society. He resides in Danville, Kentucky.
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