Fort Drum employee marks half century of service
June 13, 2008
From "I Like Ike," through the Cold War, to the war on terrorism, one Fort Drum employee has given back to his country for half a century.
Edwin D. Booth, an air traffic control assistant at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield, has served in the U.S. Air Force and as a Department of Defense civilian employee for a combined time of 50 years.
"It doesn't seem like 50 years has gone by," Booth said. "But when I take the time to stop and really think about it, it is like 'wow, 50 years really has gone by.'
"I never planned it, that's for sure," he added.
Booth joined the Air Force as an airfield operations specialist in 1955 just two weeks after graduating high school in Phoenix.
"I had always been interested in airplanes," Booth said. "I started building model planes when I was 9 years old, and my stepfather had been in the (Army) Air Corps during World War II.
"I joined and stuck with it, and kept signing back up every time they asked me to," he added.
After completing basic training at the former Sampson Air Force Base near Geneva, his next 20 years would take him across the country to Lowry Air Force Base, Colo.; Fairchild and McChord Air Force Bases in Washington; McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.; Maguire Air Force Base, N.J.; and England Air Force Base, La.
He also was stationed at bases in England, Italy and France and served four tours in Vietnam.
During his overseas tours, he also became involved in two sky diving clubs in England.
While stationed in England, he married the former Christine Irwin, a native Briton, 41 years ago. He and his wife had three sons. Their son John also has served 20 years in the Air Force, giving the father and son a combined 70 years of service to America.
As an airman, Booth not only served with pride, but also with distinction. After only two years, he was awarded the Soldier's Medal for heroism in an incident involving Class V explosives in March 1957 at Deep Creek Air Force Station, Wash. He also received a Bronze Star in 1971 for actions in Vietnam.
Retiring from service as a master sergeant after 20 years, Booth worked as a deputy sheriff for 17 months before the call of duty beckoned him back to become a civilian employee at Griffiss Air Force Base in central New York's Mohawk Valley.
Booth worked at the Rome air base for 20 years and four months before it closed due to base realignment and closure. On July 6, 1998, he began working airfield operations at Fort Drum's WSAAF.
"We lost an awful lot, and it was a definite heartbreaker when Griffiss closed," he said. "The Army and the Air Force may kid each other, but the bottom line is that we both come together and get the mission accomplished."
An aircraft enthusiast, Booth said he looks forward to the upcoming Centennial Air Show on Fort Drum later this month.
"I have a real love of old aircraft, in particular, the B-17," Booth said. "I am absolutely looking forward the air show. I have been to a lot of them over the years, and they never get old.
"To some people they may be just aircraft, but for the veterans and enthusiasts, they are so much more," he added.
Some people whose careers have spanned half a century might decide to retire and take an around the world cruise, but Booth said he presently has no such plans.
"I haven't really established a retirement date. I will probably do this until I get sick and tired of driving up and down the road," said Booth, a resident of Ilion. "It is basically a two-hour drive each way, and it gets a bit much in the wintertime, but I just love being around airplanes.
"I doubt I would change anything," he added. "Here is a kid originally from Ilion, who moved to Phoenix. I would never have been able to travel and see what I have seen (if I had not joined the Air Force). It has been a great flight."