Michael Stepler Interview

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From: Michael Stepler (MS) Medium: Digital Video Date: Monday, May 9, 2011 Place: Home of Michael Stepler, 3410 North Huntington Road, Marion, Indiana 46952 Collected by: Cameron Stepler (CS)

CS: This is Cameron Stepler interviewing Michael Stepler at 3410 North Huntington Road. Do I have permission to interview and share this with the Library of Congress and Wikimarion?

MS: Yes, most definitely.

CS: Okay. Now to start, when and why did you enlist in the military?

MS: That’s a good question. Um, I was eighteen, uh, I needed, well I thought, uh, I needed more education or to pursue more education and at the time I wanted to travel as well, so rather than, uh, going to school right out of high school, I elected to, uh, join the military.

CS: All right. How was your basic training?

MS: Basic training was, uh, it was different. I spent, uh, six weeks in San Antonio, uh, from August to, uh, September which is the hottest, uh, period down there. Uh, so, it was a little bit of getting used to the, you know, acclimatizing myself to the conditions of Texas. Um, it was, uh, it was kind of, uh, it was a good experience for me. It was really my first time away from home. Um, while you’re there you have to adapt to the conditions, um, meet, uh, many different people coming from, uh, varying backgrounds. So, uh, it was uh, overall it was an enlightening or enriching experience for me at the time.

CS: Very nice. What branch did you enlist in?

MS: I enlisted in the, uh, Air Force. I mean, it took me several, or I took time in deciding which branch I wanted to, uh, enlist in. Quite frankly, I’m not a big camper and I’m not a big swimmer so that pretty much eliminated both the, uh, Army, the Marines, and the Navy, so, the Air Force it was.

CS: Heh, all right. What rank are you now?

MS: Currently I am a technical sergeant, uh, in the Air National Guard.

CS: Uh, what exactly does that entail?

MS: As far as…?

CS: Duties.

MS: Duties? Uh, on active duty a technical sergeant would, uh, mainly be concerned with supervisory duties. Any ranks below that are more of a worker/supervisor aspect and on down to just plain worker bees.

CS: Oh, okay. On to the war; you were in the Desert Storm Conflict. How was that?

MS: It was, uh, it was different. At first I was stationed in Loring, Maine at the time. Um, we activated the wing, deployed to Diego Garcia. Um, you know, being that far away from home, I couldn’t say or I didn’t feel I didn’t feel it was my personal right to not want to go at the time because it didn’t make sense not to. I spent so many years training and, uh, developing the skills and what not that were necessary to maintain aircrafts. There was really no other, um, reasoning not to go, or rather to go. So that’s what we did, we packed up and we headed to, uh, Diego.

CS: All right. So you were stationed in Diego Garcia. Were you ever sent to Kuwait?

MS: During Desert Storm/Desert Shield, no. Um, mainly, our wing operated out of the island. It had a contingent of 24 bombers and approximately, I’m guessing, 15 to 20 tankers, uh, stationed on the island at the time so all of our sorties were generated right off the island. They took anywhere from 12 to 14 hours at a time.

CS: Okay. What were your specific jobs in Diego?

MS: On Diego? Mainly my responsibly, because I was a staff sergeant, was, uh, supervisory worker aspects of it. Um, at times I was responsible for 10 to 15 for individuals below me to insure that work was accomplished in a timely manner and, uh, we didn’t hold any of the, uh, sorties up.

CS: Very nice. Well, what did you do in your free time on Diego?

MS: That’s interesting. Being on Diego Garcia, you’re in the middle of the Indian Ocean so as you can imagine, there’s a lot of time on the water, and we did that. Any free time that we’d, uh, we’d relax, we’d gather up our snorkel gear and we’d head to the lagoon and we’d snorkel for hours at a time. Most of it was doing that, and also you could get a charter fishing boat, surprisingly enough. So, deep sea fishing while at war. It was an interesting time.

CS: All right. And most recently, you participated in Operation: Iraqi Freedom. How was that?

MS: Once again, uh, eye opening experience. Don’t really want to go to an area where you’re actively, uh, in harm’s way. But you can’t say no. You’ve spent too much time and effort building the skills and the knowledge base once again to not go there, not support your country, and to do the best job you can to keep the planes in the air and flying.

CS: Where exactly, if you are at liberty to share, were you stationed in Iraq?

MS: I was stationed at a base, uh, just north of Baghdad. It was a rather large contingent. We shared a base with not only the army, which was basically their base, we just operated off the runway there, it was also a mixed bag of Navy and Marines there as well, so that had a fairly nice mix of service members.

CS: Very nice. How exactly did you occupy your free time while you were in Iraq?

MS: Iraq, while you were off work, you wanted to relax. We worked 12 hours a day, six days a week. Any off time we had, I spent either in the gym on the treadmill running, or the one luxury we did have was this location had an Olympic size swimming facility so I spent a lot of time in the pool.

CS: How long were you stationed in Iraq?

MS: I’ve been there twice. The first time was a short stay, only about a month and a half. The second tour was three months I spent in Iraq.

CS: Have you ever had the misfortune to encounter any armed fighting or assault?

MS: Well, I can’t say I was an active participant in it, of course while we were in Iraq, we occasionally had incoming rounds. But they really weren’t directed rounds as such, they were more or less random shots, they were just harassing kind of fire, kind of near the base.

CS: Where all have you been stationed?

MS: Well, I’ve been stationed in several different locations. Right out of basic training, I went to Fair Child Air Force Base in Washington State. And I spent roughly on and off, I spent two different, two separate occasions at Fair Child, but in total length of time probably roughly five years there, working on B-52s at the time. From there, I was fortunate enough to get an assignment at Bentwaters, England. I was stationed on a sister base at Woodridge. They were conjoined bases, so to speak. They flew A-10s out of Bentwaters. From Bentwaters, I spent another short stint to Fairchild, back on the bombers, working back shop which was all the line replaceable units they pull off the systems they get repaired in a consolidated maintenance silk squadron. From the second time in Fairchild, I spent a year in South Korea working, of all things, U2s. That was an interesting time. You’re talking going from normal aircraft maintenance to top secret facility to work on very sophisticated equipment which was really a very good time that I spent over there. Made a lot of contacts in the electronic warfare industry, good friends that were technical advisors and technical reps from the different companies that we worked with. From Korea, I came back state side to a base, another bomber base in Loring, Maine and that is where I finished up my active duty career. From Loring, that’s when I transferred to the Air National Guard here in Indiana and I’m stationed in Ft. Wayne. While I’ve been at Ft. Wayne we’ve been to several different locations. My first major overseas trip from Ft. Wayne was to an airfield outside of Cairo, Egypt. We had a joint exercise with the Egyptians which was an interesting time there. We got to do a little tour in Cairo around a lot of the different ancient monuments and such. Also, being at Ft. Wayne, we’ve done two separate deployments in regards to Southern Watch, which was a base out in the middle of the desert in Saudi Arabia. A lot of long hours worked, very hot, extremely hot over there. I couldn’t believe the temperatures. Also we’ve done one trip which was a very good trip to Singapore. An exercise called Singapore… Singapore…? It can’t be Singapore Sling… But that’s all I can think of… Oh, it’s Singapore Commando. We operated there with the Singapore Air Force. And it was a mixed culture over there. You wouldn’t believe the varieties of people from all over the East, the Far East. Once again, another very hot location. Seems to be we always get sent some place that’s temperature wise out that’s extremely out of the norm for Indiana folks. And once back from there to Iraq, so as you can see, I’ve been quite a few places. Well-traveled, so to speak. Great mix, or great, I wanna say, variety of people I’ve met in the thirty years I’ve been in the military. From there we’re still looking at other locations of possibly deploying. We currently have A-10s here at Ft. Wayne so it changes up the mix a little bit for us a few more locations we could go to so.

CS: Well, thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure interviewing you.

MS: Well thank you, I appreciate the time you’ve let me have.

CS: All right.