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Veterans’ Voices Honoring our men and women in uniform By MARY DRENNON Special to the Tribune-Herald W hen it comes to war, weather can play a critical role in the successful outcome of an operation. From the approach on D-Day during World War II to the cold of the Korean War, having the proper weather data can greatly affect the outcome of any military battle. China Spring resident Tom Guest, 85, knows only too well how important weather is when it comes to military strategy. He spent 20 years in the Air Force working in weather service. You might say his upbringing helped prepare him for his military career, as Guest, who was born in Pioneer, Texas, traveled extensively growing up with the family. His father worked for a petroleum company, and Guest was an “oil brat” who went with the family wherever there was work. Moving mostly throughout Texas ― including Eliasville, South Bend, Crane and Penwell ― Guest attended high school in Odessa in 1953. He thought he would be going to the Korean War, but a truce was signed, and he enrolled at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Tom Guest spent 20 years in the Air Force, working in the weather service that would track and forecast conditions and assist in planning military operations. U.S. AIR FORCE Guest immediately joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force in 1957, just a year after he married his sweetheart, Sandra Plummer. “I went there to be a fighter pilot,” he said, laughing at the memory. Instead, because he was strong in physics and math, they offered him meteorology. Guest was a part of the Air Weather Service. At the time, weather balloons, radar, maps and observation were all that were available. Everything later would be computerized and satellites would begin to provide crucial data. Among his many assignments, Guest served from 1958 to 1961 at Tokyo Weather Central in Japan. He attended Squadron Officer School in the summer of 1963 and then went to Texas A&M, where he earned a master’s degree in meteorology. His most harrowing trip was to Vietnam in 1967 to the Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon. During this time, he was promoted to major. He worked in weather units that tracked all the weather for the Air Force. Guest was there for the start of the Tet Offensive in January 1968. They knew the Vietnamese were going to celebrate a holiday, and they began to hear what they thought were fireworks. “Then you realize it’s not fireworks,” Guest said. “Then you started hearing machine guns.” When they went off base in a jeep, Guest would be the passenger who carried the machine gun. On the way back in, they were stopped by the military police and made to lie in a ditch for two hours. Once they got back on base, they had to contend with a sniper who had climbed a Photo by Mary Drennon 1,000-foot-tall radar tower. Although he never fired his weapon, he took incoming fire more than once. “It got to the point where I really wanted to fire it,” he said. The Viet Cong were holding the end of the runway, and Guest said helicopters from the 101st Airborne came in and attacked the VC. Guest remembers taking a lot of incoming fire, especially 155 mm rockets. “It would come in and just shake the heck out of us.” There were plenty more assignments and schooling after Guest left Vietnam. Other assignments included serving as a weather briefer in Nebraska; a detachment commander in Barksdale in Louisiana; a weather inspector at Scott AFB in Illinois; and a squadron commander back at Barksdale. Guest attended Air War College and became a colonel in 1979. His favorite trip during his service was to Germany in 1981 at Kapaun Air Station in Kaiserslautern. He had responsibility for the 2nd Weather Wing. As commander, he worked with Germans and Britons in a NATO mission, among other things. His wife and son got to go with him. Guest was director of operations in Bellevue, Illinois, followed by chief of staff at Scott AFB before his retirement. Retiring as a colonel in 1987, he earned a host of medals over his 20 years of service, including the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, an Air 574 Youngblood Road, Waco, Texas, 76706 • 254.662.5571 • JRoof.com Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm, a missileman badge and the Legion of Merit. Guest moved the family to Stephenville, where he joined the Masons. He returned to college and earned a master’s degree in teaching, followed by enrollment in a Ph.D. program, which he quit when he ran out of funds from the GI Bill. Guest eventually became a Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Texas Masons. He stayed until his retirement in 1980. Between the two careers, Guest has met a lot of wonderful people and has plenty of good memories. “I enjoyed my service,” Guest said. “I got to see the world and got to meet a lot of people. I got to be a fly on the wall to a lot of events that happened because I was a weather guy.” Clarification: A sentence in last week’s story on Douglas Stockton should have read “In 1992, Stockton retired as a master sergeant after turning down a promotion.” “Veterans’ Voices,” featuring stories about Central Texas veterans, publishes every Sunday. To suggest a story about a Central Texas veteran, please email voicesofvalor@wacotrib.com. “Veterans’ Voices” is proudly sponsored by Johnson Roofing. At Johnson Roofing, we believe in America and proudly stand behind the men and women of our armed forces.

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