Vet visits NAFB first time in 75 years

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Boisterous laughs and smiles as wide as the sea engulfed the room as  friends and family surrounded a wooden conference room table to hear 92 year old Jobie Hammock recall decades-old memories of his time in service.

Hammock served at the Las Vegas Army Airfield -- which is now Nellis Air Force Base -- in 1945, and recently visited his "old stomping grounds" for the first time in 75 years.

Although age may have slowed him down physically, Hammock's memory remains sharp.

"I swore in September 27, 1943. I had been out of high school for three years," Hammock said. "Ever since I had been knee-high to a duck my ambition was to be an Army Air Corps fighter pilot, but at that time you had to have a college degree to get into training. The effects of the depression were still going on in 1943 and going to college was completely out of the question for me."

Hammock began his Army Air Corps journey by heading to basic training at Keesler Field, Mississippi, in October 1943.

After basic training, Hammock received orders to a college training detachment at the University of Mississippi in January 1944. Three months later he received orders to Altus Army Air Field, Oklahoma. In June 1944, Hammock reported to the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center which led to him to Harlington, Texas, for airfield gunnery school, but he ultimately attended bombardier school.

"I was hoping to get into pilot training," Hammock said. "By the time I got in, you had to practically be able to walk on water to make it into pilot training."

Hammock laughed adding, "They had (psychological) and reaction tests and you had to score three (sets of) nines to qualify for pilot training. I had only one, so I chose bombardier because I thought it would take less math because I had never taken any math. As it turned out, there is just as much math in bombardier training."

By March 1945, Hammock graduated bombardier school in San Angelo, Texas, earned his commission as a second lieutenant, and was soon assigned as a bombardier instructor.

"I was an instructor for about three months after that," Hammock said. "They used to tell us 'Cross your arms. Now wave your hands because two out of three of you aren't going to be here.' My class graduated almost 150 out of 195 that had started."

After instructing, Hammock received orders for an overseas assignment in July 1945. Twenty days later, his orders were cancelled and he was being diverted to Las Vegas Army Air Field.

"I was sent here supposedly to do a B-29 central gun control officer class and I was supposed to start class the day after Japan surrendered," Hammock said.

With his class cancelled, Hammock left for home in Charleston, West Virginia, in September 1945. In November 1945, Hammock was released from active duty with an assignment to the Army Air Corps stand-by reserve unit.

"I looked into the Guard but they only had one slot available at the time which was a supply officer and I was told if you had larceny in your heart that's a great place to be," said Hammock. "So, I joined the Reserve."

Hammock retired from the U.S. Air Force as a major in February 1983, and for several years he wished to revisit each base he's been assigned to, to see what became of them.

Hammock's family, led by his daughter and son-in-law Patricia and Alan Cuomo, was planning on taking him to each of his old bases in chronological order, however, they realized it would be too large of an undertaking and decided to give him a gift certificate instead, which he used to come to Nellis AFB.

"He is 92 years old and it was around Christmas time and you start to run thin on gift ideas," Patricia said. "He doesn't need another shirt or tie, so what are you going to do? We had been hearing for years that he would really like to go back, so we gave him a certificate and it said 'you are entitled to one round trip to Nellis Air Force Base,' so that is how all of this got started. Ultimately, we would love to take him to other bases he has been to."

Hammock finished off his visit to Nellis AFB with a tour of the Thunderbird Museum, and before departing, shared his thoughts on his visit.

"Coming back here has been wonderful. I am so grateful for how cooperative, accommodating and nice everyone has been, it has been perfect," Hammock said. "I only hope that I can make my way toward the other bases I was assigned to as well."

Hammock currently resides in Ventura County, California, waiting anxiously for the opportunity to revisit all his past-assigned bases.