Air Force Veteran Reflects on Lessons Learned Flying in Vietnam

by Quentin Blount

Today we are taking a moment to honor Bill Brunson, an Air Force veteran who flew C-130s during his tour in Vietnam.

75-year-old Bill Brunson was born in Albany, Georgia, although nowadays he resides on St. Simons Island right off the Georgia coast. He recently spoke to The Brunswick News about his five years of service in the United States Air Force. Boy, oh boy, does he have a story to tell.

Bill Brunson first began his military career as an ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) student at the University of Georgia. He told the outlet that he was all set to head on to law school, and even had a military deferment that he could have accepted if he so wished. But Brunson had other things on his mind. He chose to go on active duty as the Vietnam War was still being fought. The Air Force need more pilots, and Brunson thought who could they get better than him? He had 20-20 vision after all.

Bill Brunson passed his initial physical. Now it was time for him to go through more than a year’s worth of training to become a pilot. When asked why he decided to volunteer in the first place, Brunson had a simple, straightforward answer.

“I just thought I could contribute,” he said.

The young Air Force Veteran went on to complete his training. He had been flying a C-130 Hercules turboprop transport aircraft. So, what did he do next? Well, you probably guessed it — he volunteered to serve in Vietnam. But his orders didn’t come down right away. As a matter of fact, Brunson had to wait for two years at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina before he got word that his time had come.

Air Force Veteran Picked Up and Dropped Off Special Forces Troops

When Bill Brunson finally got his orders, he said that the United States was pulling troops out of Vietnam. However, they still needed him to come in and fly some missions.

Brunson said it was his responsibility to pick up and drop off Special Forces troops. To get the job done, he was flying what he described as a C-130 with “beefed up radar.” Luckily enough, he didn’t actually see much enemy fire during his missions.

“Basically, it was an uneventful tour of duty,” he said. “I was there at the end of the war pulling Special Forces troops out.”

When it was all said and done, Brunson found himself receiving multiple recognitions. These include a Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and an Air Medal.

“There is no pretense in the Air Force. “It was a great experience, other than being away from home. I’m appreciative of being an American every day.”