WE SERVED: Billy Kaiser served, gained discipline in Air Force
Airman Billy Kaiser joined the Air Force at 17 and learned how to work on fighter jets and bombers. COURTESY
After service in the Air Force, Billy Kaiser, of Sperry, served with the Tulsa Fire Department for 24 years. COURTESY
The three Kaiser brothers from Kansas, Oklahoma, are Billy, left, who served in the Air Force; Kenny, center, who served in the Army in Vietnam; and George, who served in the Army. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
SPERRY – The youngest of three brothers, Billy Kaiser decided to take a different route when he joined the military.
His brothers, Kenny and George, served in the Army, but Billy shopped among the four military branches before joining the Air Force. He had dropped out of high school his junior year, at age 16, to work full time, but later realized he needed to find a career path.
“We were a pretty poor family. I was wanting nice clothes and a car, and I promised my mom I would go back to school the next year if I could just work. And I did, I worked for about a year, but I never went back to school, but I did realize that I needed to get back on the right track. I went down and took the test for the Air Force. Actually, I went to all four branches, but the Air Force recruiter was the best salesman,” Kaiser, who is now 63 and lives near Sperry in Tulsa County, said. “I enlisted in May of 1973 and served until February of 1977.
He first went to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and then to Shepard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, to learn how to work on one- and two-engine jet fighters.
“That was my career field, and that was why I joined the Air Force. They guaranteed me a job,” he said.
From Shepard Air Force Base he went to Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas, for two years.
“After a couple of years of sitting in west Texas, I volunteered for world-wide duty to get another assignment and they sent me to (South) Korea for a year,” he said. “I enjoyed the Air Force life. It was neat.”
While serving in Kinson, South Korea, he earned his high school diploma.
“I was part of the training command at Reese, which included T-37s and T-38s (jets), and then in Korea I worked on F-4 (Phantom jets) and fighter-bombers. Then I came back to Homestead Air Force Base near, Miami, Florida, and worked on RF-4s, which was a reconnaissance aircraft that carried cameras in the nose of the plane.”
He left the Air Force in Florida. He had gone in as airman basic and left the service as an E-4.
“They had a ‘dream sheet,’ which is what they called it, when you were coming back from a remote tour. That’s what Kinson, Korea was. They tried to give you the base of your choice if they could, to fit the need for your occupation to a vacancy. I thought Florida was good. I had never been out of Oklahoma to speak of, and I got to go to Florida the last few months,” he said.
He said the discipline he learned while serving in the Air Force helped him in civilian life and believes all young people should serve their country in some capacity.
“I know not everybody is cut out to serve in the military, but the country would be better off if they could find a way for our youth to serve whether it be in the Peace Corps or some other type of service to the country,” he said. “I grew up a lot. I went in at 17. My mom had to sign for me.”
He chose not to use the mechanic skills he learned in the Air Force in the civilian world and instead followed his older brother George into the Tulsa Fire Department and spent 24 years there. He retired as a district chief.
“So I kind of followed him around from his military service to firefighting. It was a great career. It’s a service. Looking back, I did get a lot out of serving the community and the country. It’s a source of pride. And, of course, a lot of firefighters are of that nature. They get a lot of self-fulfillment out of serving others, and you get a lot of self-gratification helping others in time of need,” he said. “I’ve always been proud of my Cherokee heritage, and of course I always took pride in my service to the country.”