'Serving together makes us just that much stronger': 2 Maine families share long military tradition
BANGOR, Maine — For the Arnolds and the Gleasons, military service is a family affair.
The two Bangor-area families have members from multiple generations with decades of service within the Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing — known as the MAINEiacs — and members who joined the Army, Army Guard or Army Reserves, or who switched from one branch to another.
“The best part of my job is being part of another family, ‘The MAINEiac family,’” said Technical Sgt. Angela (Arnold) Adams of Orono, one of seven members of her family currently in uniform.
The Arnolds and the Gleasons have made the military their careers despite living in a state that only has one remaining active duty base, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery.
“They are living the ‘citizen militia’ tradition, the real Constitutional militia … which began with the muster of the first militia company in 1636,” retired Senior Master Sgt. Michael P. Gleason of Bangor said of the two families recently. “One hundred forty years before there was a country, the National Guard was already existing to protect the citizens.”
“Military family tradition is very strong throughout the Department of Defense and the Coast Guard, witness Sarah Smiley’s family history, but I think it’s strongest in the National Guard, both Army and Air,” Gleason said, referring to the BDN columnist who writes about being a military wife. “My wife, all three brothers-in-law, my son and daughter and a whole bunch of my family were in the Guard.”
Bangor — with its geographic location on the country’s northeast coast — has been and remains a strategic military location, according to Bangor City Counci lor Nelson Durgin, who joined the Air Guard in the early 1960s and moved to Bangor in 1967 when he became comptroller for the Maine Air National Guard.
He later became Maine’s Adjutant General and Commissioner of the Department of Defense, Veterans, and Emergency Management and retired from the Air Guard as a major general.
The city’s first airport, Godfrey Field, opened in 1927 and was acquired by the military just before the U.S. joined World War II and became the Bangor Army Air Field. It was renamed Dow Air Force Base in 1947.
Dow closed in 1968 and the base was sold to the city and became Bangor International Airport.
Both the Army National Guard base on Hayes Street and the Bangor Air National Guard base on Maineiac Avenue, located off Griffin Road, still call the former Air Force base home.
“There has been a long military heritage here in Bangor,” Durgin said.
The Gleasons’ military history started during World War II, when Mike Gleason’s father, Gordon P. Gleason of Canaan, tried to enlist and was told, at the age of 31, that he was too old.
“A year later, he was drafted,” Mike Gleason said. “During the Depression, he had been a radio operator on ‘tramp steamers’ running between Boston and South America, and the Army latched right onto that skill and he was assigned as a radio operator on a B-17 Stratofortress in the U.S. Army Air Force.”
To avoid being drafted in the Vietnam War, which would mean losing his choice in how to serve his country, Mike Gleason joined the military.
“I can’t say that I intentionally followed in my father’s footsteps. I enlisted in 1968 to avoid being drafted,” Gleason said. “At least as an enlistee one had some choices as to branch of service and job within that branch, whereas draftees went into either the Army or Marine Corps, and were assigned a job that branch deemed them able to serve. “
Gleason joined the Army and was based in Korea during the war. He joined the Maine Air Guard in March 1973, becoming a recruiter four years later, a post he held for a quarter century.
Gleason’s wife, retired Master Sgt. Della Gleason, joined the Maine Air Guard in 1981 and retired in 2008 and was followed into the service by the couple’s daughter, Amanda, and son, Abel.
“[Amanda Gleason] joined as a senior at Bangor High School, where she was part of the oldest Junior ROTC unit in the country, and she retired as a staff sergeant in 1996,” Gleason said. “Our son joined in 2002. He originally joined the Air Guard, in the Air Guard flight training program. He went ‘green’ on us and joined the Army Guard and is now apart of the 126th [Aviation Medevac] unit in Bangor.”
Gleason said he “was always proud to be and to be seen in uniform … even when spat upon in the Seattle airport as I was returning in 1970 from 14 months in Korea. I lucked out, and got sent to Korea instead of to Vietnam.”
“I remain proud of the uniform, and still do to this day on the odd occasion that I wear it,” he said, adding it still fits. “I was very proud when the rest of my family decided to join me and the Air National Guard. And I still am. Military life has been very good for and to all of us! I got to go places and do things to which I would never have otherwise been even exposed, much less participate.”
Even with all his overseas military service, the one major event that stands out in his career is his service in Maine during the massive ice storm of 1998.
“It was the first time as a member of the state’s militia that I was called to duty to serve the citizens of the state of Maine — a basic tenet of National Guard,” Gleason said. “It was very fulfilling.”
Rick Arnold’s draft number had already been called, so he had a very short window of time to make a change.
“I was drafted. I didn’t really have a choice,” he said about joining the military. “I didn’t want to go into the Army and I wasn’t a big fan of the Marine Corps either. My next door neighbor was a master sergeant, and he said, ‘Why don’t you join the Air Guard?’”
Arnold did just that in September 1972 and spent his 33-year career refueling aircraft, first fighter jets and then KC-135 air refueling tankers when the 101st transitioned from a fighter wing unit to an aerial refueling unit in 1976. He retired as master sergeant in 2005 and now lives in Scarborough with his wife, Brenda.
After getting a taste of the military life and liking it, he encouraged his sister Patti to join in October 1977, “and the rest followed.”
“He loved it out there,” retired Chief Master Sgt. Patti (Arnold) Dudley of Orono said of her older brother. “I looked into the regular Air Force, and he said check out the Guard first. So anyway, I did. I ended up staying right here. I have younger twin sisters, Angela and Tina, and they both joined after me.”
“I was very proud to be a MAINEiac, and still am as a retiree,” she said.
Patti Dudley was the first female Wing Command Chief for the Air Guard base in Bangor, and retired in 2004 after 27 years in uniform.
Technical Sgt. Angela (Arnold) Adams joined the 101st in 1986 and was joined by her twin, Master Sgt. Anntina “Tina” (Arnold) Michaud, in 1988. The twins continue to serve, as does their little brother, Dennis Arnold, who joined the U.S. Army in 1986 and is an Army Reservist in Lakeville, Minnesota.
Tina Michaud was selected Airman of the Year in 1991 and was given a ride in an F-16 Fighting Falcon for earning the accolade, something that still makes her husband, Lt. Col. Steven Michaud, jealous.
“They stayed with it and I think they could see it was more than just a job — it was a lifestyle,” older brother Rick Arnold said of his three sisters. “It was a good job for them.”
Patti Arnold married John Dudley and their son, Staff Sgt. Jordan R. Dudley, became a MAINEiac in May 2009. He said he “grew up immersed in the culture,” and knew exactly what he was getting into when he signed up with the Maine Air Guard.
The twin sisters each have a child who joined the MAINEiacs.
Tina and Steven Michaud’s son, Airman 1st Class Casey Michaud, joined the 101st in March 2013, prior to graduating from Orono High School, and their nephew, 2nd Lt. Dylan Michaud joined in April 2006.
Airman 1st Class Chad Adams, son of Angela and John Adams, joined the MAINEiacs in the fall and completed basic training in Virginia and technical school in Texas earlier this year.
He is in Alaska for training with his unit and was scheduled to return to Maine on Saturday, his mom said.
Everyone in the family talked about traveling all around the world and the country, and how proud they were of the reputation of the MAINEiacs as a hard-working, dedicated group of people.
“Everywhere I went I saw a MAINEiac sticker,” Tina Michaud said. “I even found one at a drive-up to a Burger King in Mississippi. Why are there MAINEiacs stickers all over? The Maine Air National Guard has been everywhere and they do a great job wherever they go.”
The team formed on the base becomes a family because of the job, she said.
“It is serious stuff,” Tina Michaud said, referring to defending the country. “You have to feel completely comfortable with the people you’re working with and know they have your back.”
The Arnold family has tallied more than 190 years in uniform, mostly with the Maine Air National Guard, and the Gleasons are at around 175, but that’s “not counting nieces, nephews and cousins,” Mike Gleason said.
“I love that my family is in the military and serving with me,” Angela Adams said. “We are an extremely close family but serving together makes us just that much stronger.”