Vietnam flying ace tells JROTC students: Let dreams take flight
October 25, 2007
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Standing in front of a projector screen before 22 Kaiserslautern High School students, retired Air Force Col. Chuck DeBellevue explained the sequence of a U.S. jet missile hitting its target during a dogfight in the Vietnam War.
DeBellevue, the last active-duty Air Force ace when he retired, spoke Tuesday to three Air Force Junior ROTC classes, showing videos of U.S. fighters downing MiGs and explaining that the war he fought in 40 years ago is the same type of battle U.S. forces are in today.
His presentation kept the students glued to their seats.
“DeBellevue brings to life what we are talking about in the classroom,” said retired Air Force Col. Leon Stamm, a senior aerospace science instructor and teacher of the class DeBellevue addressed.
“And the kids have been excited, we even had some come in from other classes.”
During his combat tour in Vietnam, DeBellevue logged 550 combat hours and flew in 220 combat missions as a weapons system officer behind the pilot in F-4 fighter jets. He was the first weapons systems officer, and the second person overall, to become an ace during the Vietnam War.
“On each of the missions I flew in, I had a 100 percent chance of dying,” DeBellevue said. “If I got shot down and taken prisoner, the best I could expect was being beaten every day. Yet, I still went out there.”
DeBellevue paralleled the war in Vietnam with the one in Iraq, saying the two have similar enemies and a similar importance for America.
After his time in Vietnam, DeBellevue returned to the States and trained as a pilot, earning his wings in 1972.
During his presentation, DeBellevue told the class about his duties as a weapons system officer and the responsibilities of other members on and off the flight line.
He also told the Junior ROTC students that what he learned in the classroom years ago helped him chase his dream of a career in the Air Force and of becoming a fighter pilot. He said those values and lessons still help him today.
Stamm said the presentation should help his students even if they don’t go into the military.
“He’s telling them to try and envision their future and know they can succeed with hard work,” Stamm said.
“I hope students take from this that they can do anything if they try, and try hard,” he said after his talk. “I wanted to fly. If they think they can do it, they might.
“These kids are our future, they need to be well-versed. The values I learned are still important.”