AFA holds annual Veterans Day Lunch

by Carl Bergquist
Air University Public Affairs

11/5/2010 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Montgomery's Chapter 102 of the Air Force Association held its annual Veterans Day luncheon Tuesday at the Maxwell Officers' Club, and the guest speaker was the former chief of staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.

A command pilot with more than 5,600 flying hours, retired Air Force Gen. Dr. John Shaud is currently the director of the Air Force Research Institute at Maxwell. He said he was "elated" to be the guest speaker for the event.

"The timing is just great with this being so close to Veterans Day and only a week away from the anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down Nov. 9, 1989," he said.
When the Berlin Wall was being built, Dr. Shaud was a first lieutenant and aircraft commander of a B-47 bomber crew, and when the wall came down, he was the chief of staff of the Allied forces in Europe at the North American Treaty Organization Headquarters in Mons, Belgium.

He said a lot went on in his career, and in the world, between those two moments in history.

Dr. Shaud said he was commanding the then-Air Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, when he received a call that he was going to Europe.

He said he arrived at the NATO Headquarters in July 1988.

"Learning NATO is learning acronyms," Dr. Shaud said. "And, for years, the Air Force was the deputy chief of staff of the Allied command, and that sounds great. I mean, that's a real Billy Mitchell moment, isn't it? But in reality, the chief of staff, who was Army, ran the show. We were able to change that, though."

He said it was the summer of 1988, and everyone was caught up in nuclear exercises that were important to the welfare of the countries involved. But, sometimes, politics got in the way of doing the job.

"One of the goals of the exercise planners was to get the political players who were involved in the decisions to be part of the exercises," Dr. Shaud said. "But often the politicians felt awkward participating in the exercises because they knew their opponents would use that participation against them. So, it was sometimes tough to get them to play."

He said in December 1988, he was traveling to a conference when he received a call from NATO Headquarters saying Mikhail Gorbachev had announced the Soviets were thinking of moving out of Eastern Europe. Dr. Shaud said the mood was one of elation, but they were cautioned "not to gloat and to keep their powder dry." He said the Soviet action left open "an almost 100-percent opportunity for mischief and violence."

"We continued our exercises and kept a watch on the situation from NATO Headquarters," he said. "But, after all they had been through, you can just imagine the emotion on the faces of NATO employees as they watched activities at the Brandenburg Gate on television."

In closing, Dr. Shaud thanked all the veterans and active duty members, who he described as "the best in the world," and said they would sustain the Air Force in the future.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, a guest at the luncheon, said he enjoyed Dr. Shaud's presentation and has always been impressed by him.

"To be in the company of a person who was there and lived it and who came here to tell us about it is really great," he said.

The mayor said he was in Germany at the time the wall came down, and Dr. Shaud's accounts of what happened there, and at NATO Headquarters in Belgium, brought back memories.