PURSUING A SABRE,

BUT DOGGED BY A BOXCAR!

by Gerry Martas

With barely 30 hours of Sabre time, I did not expect to ever have anything to say in Sabrejet Classics. The article, "One Short Tour" in the Spring 1998 issue, however, provided an opening to add to Kingsley Purton's recollections.

That Summer I was a new member of the 93rd PBS, 439th FBW, at Selfridge AFB, Michigan. The 439th FBW was brought to active duty training, 3-17 August 1957, by AF Reserve Order #140, dated 28 June 1957. Squadron personnel traveled to and from the F-8611 training site in Memphis, Tennessee, on chartered four-engine airliners. For someone just recently off of active duty, this created the impression that the Reserves really operated First Class.

During that initial tour of AF Reserve duty, I eagerly looked forward to a checkout in the F-86 later that summer. First, along with one other lieutenant, I would have to complete the jet refresher syllabus in the T-33 Shooting Star. Our jet time consisted only of the eighty training hours flown at UPT, and I'd been flying C-119 Flying Boxcars on active duty.

The first week went exceptionally well, with plenty of flying. Then, unexpectantly and suddenly, the Secretary of Defense, took $5 billion away from the Air Force budget (about $45 billion in todays dollars!). For nearly a week, almost the entire Air Force ceased flying until the impact of this unprecedented action could be translated into 'flying hours remaining'.

A corollary ramification was the quick transfer of all fighter aircraft out of the Air Force Reserve and into the Air National Guard. Henceforth, the AF Reserve was to be relagated to flying transports!

By Christmas 1957, with C-119 'Flying Boxcar' transition well under way at Selfridge, several lieutenants and a few captains managed to transfer to Air Guard fighter units. For me, it was across the state line to Toledo, Ohio, where the 112th FIS was to re-equip with Republic F84F Thunderstreaks. (The freedom and ability of Reserve pilots to 'shop around' for fighter slots, and to choose civilian jobs to enable them to fill those slots, or resign, may surprise our active-duty-only counterparts.)

Three years elapsed before another opportunity arose for me to check out in the F-86 Sabre. In the Spring of 1960, after qualifying to fill a vacancy in the 137th TFS, New York Air National Guard (who were equipped with F-86Hs), I accepted civilian employment in New York. My goal to fly the Sabre was finally achieved. But my elation was brief. In January 1961, 1 received orders to go a Century Series airplane. The 137th was one of the first and few Air Guard squadrons ordered to convert to - TRANSPORTS! And incredulously, it was again to the C-119! It seemed like that machine, which I had flown on active duty, was persevering to do to me what its US Marine designation (R4Q2) sounded like.

I parted from the Air National Guard until I was able to obtain another fighter slot some months later.


No portion of this article may be used or reprinted without permission from the President of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association or the editor of Sabre Jet Classics magazine.


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