Memories land at Castle Air Force Base in Atwater for reunion

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comJune 21, 2013 

— Stories about the aircraft that flew regularly out of Castle Air Force Base, and the personnel who maintained them, will be at the forefront this weekend during a reunion at the former base.

More than 100 people are expected to attend Saturday's reunion of the Organizational Maintenance Squadron on the base flightline.

The base may have closed in 1995, but the memories made in more than 50 years of operation continue to be shared by active and retired Air Force personnel.

Bill Glaser of Merced spent his entire military career, 17½ years, at Castle, retiring here in December 1995 rather than transferring to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, where B-52 airplanes were being relocated.

"I loved the weather here," Glaser said. "My kids were born here. I made lots of friends out there."

A bomber crew chief, Glaser is one of the organizers of the reunion, which begins at noon and stretches into the afternoon with a 4 p.m. barbecue.

John Daggett of Midwest City, Okla., was stationed at Castle from 1987 to 1992; From Chico, he wanted to serve at Castle because it was close to home. His brother also was stationed at Castle in the early 1970s.

A KC-135 Stratotanker crew chief, Daggett said the Air Force was like a big family, and he met many nice people while stationed in Merced. He's now a civilian employee for the Department of Defense at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma, doing maintenance on KC-135 aircraft.

The reunion was expanded to include anyone who served with the 93rd Bombardment Wing at Castle. The OMS squadron was responsible for keeping the planes airworthy, including refueling and defueling operations.

Cliff James of Merced was the 93rd Bomb Wing's maintenance control officer at Castle, overseeing the efforts of 2,300 personnel in four squadrons. He retired Feb. 1, 1984, at Castle, as a lieutenant colonel, after 32 years in the Air Force.

"It was just wonderful," James said. "It was the most rewarding job I ever had; I loved it. I spent a lot of time on the flightline."

For more information about Saturday's reunion, email bill.glaser@aol.com.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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