Pat Hatch's PhotoJournal

Je Ne Regrette Rien, by Edith Piaf

This was my assignment out of pilot training, UPT Class 67E, Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, Texas, in February 1967. I graduated second in my class, but first in flying, for which I was awarded the Commander's Trophy, awarded each class to the student with the highest flying average. So I graduated high enough in class standing to hold the F-100, since there were 10 of the F-100 slots available and only eight training bases. Otherwise the most desirable slots were two F-106s and 3 F-102s--and I knew I had no chance for those--but that just meant that there were a total of 15 airplanes that I was bidding on. Assignments were awarded based on class standing, but also on date of rank. And being that I was a lowly second lieutenant, a Captain would outrank me in the case of a tie. But with eight bases, there were potentially 15 guys ahead of me. So it was close. The guy in my class that graduated first, due to his high academic scores, was Captain Dennis Sombke, may he rest in peace. He got one of the F-106s and went on to the ADC (Air Defense Command) which meant that he didn't have to go to Vietnam, an added benefit to the delta dart assignment. Dennis had been a navigator up until he got the pilot training assignment. Most of us were 2nd lieutenants but there were a few Captain ex-navigators in our class.

You will notice in the photo above that this is a 2-seat F-100. I was to report to Cannon AFB for gunnery school and then on to my F-100 unit. My T-38 instructor at the time had a friend who went this same route and it turned out that after gunnery school he was assigned to the back seat of an F-100 (call sign Misty) in Vietnam. The Mistys were FAC airplanes (forward air controllers) with a not too stellar survival rate in Vietnam according to my information at the time. Plus there were plenty of back-seat F4 assignments in my class, and I was not keen on any "back-seat" jobs. So based on that rumor, I was able to change to the next best airplane in our class lineup: the C-130. Later when I was in Vietnam flying C-130s, I ran into a classmate of mine that had probably gotten the F-100 assignment that I had relinquished, and he was happy to be flying single-seat F-100s out of Tuy Hoa--the same base that I was based at. So you can say that you have no regrets in your life, and you shouldn't, but to this day I wish I had taken that F-100 when I had the chance!

A footnote to this story is that an old friend of mine, David Tokoph from El Paso, TX, had acquired a 2-seat F-100 when I ran into him again around 2005. He and I had been in business off shore, he in Mexico and I in Costa Rica, when we first met and struck up a friendship based on our mutual experiences in Latin America. David had become very successful, and built quite a War Bird collection in El Paso and had kindly offered to take me for a ride in his F-100. Unfortunately, he was killed flying his T-28 on August 14, 2015, before we could arrange the ride.

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