By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
A former 71st Flying Training Wing commander shared his memories of Enid and serving overseas during a speech Thursday to Air Force Association Enid Chapter 214.
Retired Maj. Gen. Edward R. “Buster” Ellis spoke during the AFA quarterly meeting at Oakwood Country Club. He was visiting Enid because he is featured speaker at the graduation ceremony for Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 13-02 at 10 a.m. today at the Vance Air Force Base auditorium.
Ellis served as 71st FTW commander from July 1995 to February 1997. He retired in January 2006 as commander of 19th Air Force.
Ellis shared his memories of service with the group of about 40 people, including one from when he first arrived on the base.
“I can remember how I almost let some really, really good people down by not holding them up to a higher standard,” he said.
A base inspection had showed one area of the base, the financial management group, had unfavorable ratings. Ellis said he told the group the next time the inspectors came through he wanted them to have the highest ratings among all FM groups.
One of leaders in the group later came to Ellis, asking him to sign a letter stating Vance’s FM group would not be competing in servicewide competition.
“I can remember sitting there with the pen and the cap off,” Ellis said. “For whatever reason I said, ‘We’re going to compete.’”
Ellis said he almost told the group he would give them everything they needed to succeed.
“Whatever you guys are going to do training-wise, I’m going to do with you,” he said he told the group.
But when it came time to train and run, “It was like McHale’s Navy out there.”
That group he nearly allowed not to compete went on to be named the best group in the entire Air Force.
While stationed overseas, Ellis said he learned the lesson to never let his crocodile mouth overtake his canary rear end. He said he would fly with pilots in tankers and would have a chance to talk to the pilots.
On one such trip he asked the pilots where they trained, and one of them said Vance.
“He said he was there around 1995 and told me his IP (instructor pilot) was so and so and another IP was so and so,” Ellis said. “Eventually, he turned to me and said, ‘What did you do there, sir?’ Evidently, not much.”
One of the things Ellis said he remembers most about Enid is the support it gives the base.
“In the years since I’ve been gone, I’ve been a walking advertisement for Enid,” he said. “I am always ready to match community support with community support because I can tell you there is none better.
“It’s not among the best. It is the best.”
Ellis said he’s been several places since Vance that were professionally good, but none were as good as Enid.
“Thank you. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for what you do for the base,” Ellis said. “Literally, it is an investment in our country.”
Ellis is a native of Montgomery, Ala. He entered the Air Force in July 1971 after receiving his commission through the University of Alabama ROTC program.
Throughout his career, he held a number of command, flying and staff positions. In 1999, Ellis served as night director of the Balkans Combined Air Operations Center in Vicenza, Italy, during Operation Allied Force.
In 2001 he was assigned as commander, Combined Task Force Operation Northern Watch at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, enforcing United Nations’ sanctions on the Saddam Hussein regime in northern Iraq. There, Ellis commanded a task force comprising A-10A, C-130, E-3B, EA-6B, F-16CG, F-16J, F-15C, F-15E, KC-135E/R and Royal Air Force Jaguars.
Senior Writer and Air Scoop Editor Jeff Mullin contributed to this story.