Hard work key for Brandenburg
Editor’s note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles profiling those who have ever served in the U.S. military, be it overseas or stateside. Every Thursday, a new profile will be published in the T-R.
ALBION — Marshall County veteran Garry Brandenburg has always been intrigued by airplanes, so it wasn’t a stretch that the former Bremer County farm boy wanted to enlist in the Air Force after high school graduation in 1963.
“I wasn’t ready for college — I needed to ‘grow up’ and get settled down,” Brandenburg said. “Military service taught us how to work as a unit, but it was the work ethics that I learned as an Iowa farm kid that paid off in the Air Force.
“As a farm boy I learned that if you had a job to do — you did it. So in the military I was not afraid of hard work or working hard in the heat,” he said. “This proved to be of great value as the officers never bothered me like they did others who did not want to work”.
Brandenburg’s basic training was at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and then he moved on for tech training as a munitions specialist – training in small arms, missiles and bombs – at Lowry AFB in Colorado.
“Basically our unit was in charge of the component parts of anything that went boom, bang, made a large flash or exploded,” Brandenburg laughed.
Brandenburg shared that he arrived at Oxnard Air Force Base on President’s Day 1964. He was part of the Air Defense Command for the West Coast flying an F101 VOODOO. He was there for 13 months.
Then it was off to Korat Royal Thai in Thailand — 100 miles northeast of Bangkok. Brandenburg said this base was one of several bases that supported defense of Thailand and Southeast Asia. He said there was lots of airplanes to take care of including F105 Thunderchief and the F4 Phantom (such as the one that stands at the American Legion post in Marshalltown).
“Our job was to make sure that the munitions systems on these planes worked. It was long hard work in very hot and humid conditions,” Brandenburg said. “Our day began at 4:30 p.m. and we worked until 7:30 a.m. We worked 16 hours on and then had 32 hours off, as we got the planes loaded for the pilots to fly the next day.”
Following his year in Thailand, he came back to the states where he was stationed at Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota. Here he worked with B52’s – the Air Force eight-engine jet bombers which could carry 108 bombs each.
During his time there, his unit did a TDY in Guam at Andersen AFB from January to March of 1967.
“We worked six days per week – 16 hour days – uncrating 3,000 bomb pins per day. Due to the rain, sunshine and heat we had every day while we were there, the powdery soil turned into two to three inches of mud,” Brandenburg recalled. “The one day a week we had off we tried to do laundry,” he said.
Following his honorable discharge in 1967, he came back to Waverly and took a job with the Algona Kossuth County conservation district before being accepted into Iowa State University in 1968 and graduating with a degree in fisheries and wildlife biology.
On June 1, 1972, Brandenburg became director of Marshall County Conservation – a job he held for 32 years and one month before retiring. He still writes a column “Outdoors Today” for the Times-Republican.
“I have a lot of respect for those who put their life on the line to protect our freedom,” Brandenburg said. “I also highly recommend military service to any high school student who is not sure of what they want to do after graduation and have the equivalent of the GI Bill to pay for their education.”