Mike Dillingham

A framed photograph shows Mike Dillingham (right) boarding a KC-135.

BOSSIER CITY, La -- Mike Dillingham was given tons of responsibility as a young Air Force enlistee in 1966, as the U.S. ramped up combat involvement in Vietnam.

"If our society today understood what we went through this world would be a lot better off because we were total strangers working for the same goal," Mike said.

Mike was assigned to be a crew chief, starting out with B-52's. He made sure his bomber and everything on it was good to go.

"I was on the flight line one day, one time for three days before I got to go lay down because the airplane was broke so bad that I had to stay with it. It was my airplane. It was my responsibility. And I wasn't about to leave it until it was ready to go," Mike said.

And sometimes, Mike got that experience of flying -- on B-52 bombing missions.

"It was amazing when they would release 104 bombs, you could actually feel it vibrate and gain altitude," he said. "The most fun that I ever had on a bombing mission over Vietnam was one night we hit a fuel depot and we lit up the sky. It was a major hit."

Mike later transferred to the KC-135 tanker, refueling those B-52's and lots of other warplanes in the air -- including the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. He was in the Vietnam war theater on and off for six years.

"I can look back on what I did with pride because we did what we needed to do and got it done," Mike says.

The KC-135 also gave Mike some special duty at Barksdale Air Force Base, to help America return to space.

"We were instrumental in the space shuttle program," Mike says of something he believes that a lot of people here are unaware of.

He explained that the first space shuttle astronauts came to Barksdale as part of their training. They had to learn to fly a modified KC-135 so that they could take turns experiencing weightlessness.

"I did a familiarization course so that they would be qualified to fly the EC 135, which they were doing parabolic flights for, and they lovingly call that airplane the vomit comet."

It was a historic way for Mike to begin wrapping up 20 years in the Air Force.

"I wouldn't change it. Except to change places with them space shuttle programs and hit that shuttle and go out there for a while," Mike said pointing to outer space.

Mike is still traveling today -- but on the road. He shuttles cars sold by local dealerships to customers all around the region.


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