As part of my continuing efforts to honor veterans, here’s the latest entry. This week, I interview retired Chief Master Sergeant Danny Prichard, who served 31 years in the Air Force, and at the time of his retirement, he had more time-in-grade than any Chief in the U.S. Air Force. (Fourteen years as a Chief.)
At one point, he even served as Command Chief Master Sergeant for the entire Pacific Theater. Here’s the interview:
Where were you born?
I was born in Kings Lynn, England. My dad was in the Air Force, married an English girl (my mom). I was born in my mom’s home town. We moved every 2 or 3 years, so no hometown to speak of.
I served all over the world. Assignments in Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi; Shimaya, Alaska, San Vito Air Station, Italy; 3 assignments in Misawa Air Base, Japan; 2 assignments Clark Air Base, Philippines; 2 assignments Osan Air Base, Korea; Kelly Air Force Base, Texas; Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; Kadena Air Base, Okinawa; and Fort Gordon, Georgia.
In addition to where I was stationed from 1973-2004, I had multiple deployments to deployments. I was the only person able to use prototypes of various deployable direction finding systems, so I got to go to a lot of “hot spots” to help our special operators find the bad guys. I was not in special ops and have huge respect for those troops in all services. I just helped them out when I could.
I retired as a Chief Master Sergeant (E-9) after 31 years of service. At the time of my retirement, I had more time-in-grade than any Chief in the U.S. Air Force. I wore the Chief stripes for over 14 years.
Who was your childhood hero?
What made you want to join up?
I joined in 1973 because I couldn’t find a decent job (I was roofing houses at the time and making $1.60 an hour breaking my back). I figured I’d join for 4 years, save some money, and get out. My goal was to buy a van and drive around the country. Almost 31 years later I had different goals. I still haven’t purchased that van.
Tell us some of the big lessons you learned from serving.
Some of the big lessons I learned from serving. Actually, most of the important lessons in my adult life were learned because I served. Here are a few. Good friends and family are more important than anything else in life. If you’re going to allow someone to cover your back, you better trust them. Never make a deal with yourself where losing is acceptable. You can love people you may not agree with. My family kept me grounded … without them I may have gotten reckless enough to get myself killed.
What was your most harrowing experience, that you’re willing to share?
I’d have to say two of my most harrowing experiences.
1) During Desert Storm we were running to get behind the sandbags when the scud missile alert sounded. As I’m sure you know that’s when we were under attack from scuds.
Those things were very unpredictable and usually they didn’t hit what they were aiming at. But I just knew one was going to land on my head. As we were heading to the area that was sandbagged, I stepped in a hole (wearing all my gear) and felt something snap in my back. I could barely walk but I managed to get to the “safe” area.
I actually finished my deployment in serious pain but I finished. I found out upon returning to Kelly AFB in Texas that I had broken my back. Basically cracked a disc. It has never fully healed and surgery isn’t an option.
2) The other harrowing experience was in the Philippines. Filipino special forces and police were looking for a “sparrow” (basically an informer) for the New People’s Army. They knew this guy had given the NPA information that led to the slaughter of a bunch of Filipino cops. I was driving to work, came around a corner, and as luck (bad luck) would have it, I came across the Filipino cops, who had this guy cornered in an alley.
Just as I came around that corner I witnessed a Filipino cop execute the bad guy with a shotgun. Almost cut him in half. Obviously he wasn’t supposed to do that. Before I could react, he turned and pointed the shotgun at me.
I’m in my car but he’s just a few feet away and he had me cold. I seriously thought he was going to kill me because of what I’d witnessed. We stared at each other for a few moments and then more people showed up and I backed up, turned around, and was able to get away.
I’m not sure I wish those who didn’t serve understood anything more than they do. My son served in Iraq/Afghanistan and witnessed his best friend who was manning the 50 cal in a Humvee turned to red mist by a sniper. He also experienced killing other people.
I’m so very proud of his service, but I’d give anything for him to not have experienced that. We do it so others don’t have to. Maybe more than anything, I wish civilians understood the price my family paid when I was gone so often for assignments or deployments.
Are there any service members that you know, or served with, that you’d like to honor their sacrifice by naming?
I’d like to honor Tech Sergeant Marty Flynn who died when the RC-135 he was in crashed killing the whole crew. I’d like to honor Staff Sergeant Mike “Cowboy” Hagar who was murdered in the Philippines.
I’d like to honor Command Sergeant Major Jerry Lee Wilson, who was killed in action in Mosul, Iraq. There are more, but those three men were close friends. I miss them every day.
And I’d like to honor my dad, Senior Master Sergeant Maynard Prichard, who died of complications due to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Share with us a story of a leader who inspired you while you served.
Plenty of people inspired me while I served. But the person who stands out was Chief Master Sergeant Paul Weyandt. He received two distinguished flying crosses for heroism by pulling people out of burning aircraft on two separate occasions.
He was the best person I ever met in the military. He survived three tours in Vietnam and flew countless missions. Then he went home on leave and was killed in a car wreck. Sometimes life just isn’t fair. I think about him every day.
What do you wish for the country?
I guess I wish the country could start to pull together like we did after 9/11. I’m not optimistic.
I wanted to thank Chief Danny Prichard for sharing just a small slice of his very long service to our great country. As I’ve said before, I really enjoy spotlighting the great sacrifice that so many have made for this country.
And in that line of thinking, I need your help. If you know a veteran you’d like to have honored, then please email me. Veterans seem to NEVER nominate themselves. lol. So, if you have a father, mother, brother, sister, friend, family member, etc, please reach out to me.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stan R. Mitchell
P.S. Comments are open below. Love hearing from everyone, but if you say something stupid, attack someone, etc, I will delete your comment with a quickness. Sorry. My bar. My rules.
About me: My name is Stan R. Mitchell and I write fast-paced novels. No, I mean blistering fast. With great suspense & twists. To date, I’ve written ten books. You can find them here: amazon.com. #USMC #SemperFidelis