The following article came from the June 1966 Airman Magazine and
is a story of what makes up Air commandos. Calvin Florian was not only a
good friend of mine but made sure that I exited the aircraft when we made
jumps at Range 52 at Eglin AFB, FL. He was a man of reassurance. We served
together at Torrejon AB, Spain and he helped me when I was assigned to Spain.
Calvin is no longer with us but he had that personality, tenacity and endurance
which Commandos are made of. He left a son and someday I would like to meet
After nearly 20 years in a relatively "soft" job as an air operations
supervisor-much of it behind a desk-40 year old Calvin A. Florian decide
to change his way of living. He got married. He bought a sports car. He moved
to a house on a beach in Florida. And perhaps even more dramatic, he joined
the US Air Force Air Commandos as a combat controller. That was nearly two
years ago and now, he says, that he's happier than he's ever been in his
I watched the wiry master sergeant hustle across a runway, then through
some Florida scrub turf to a small, mobile control tower at Holley Field.
No walking for Florian. He double-times everywhere to keep in shape, part
of the Air Commando rule of running a few miles every day. But more important
to this 20 year-plus veteran is the fact that he gets to use his brains and
his hands as a combat controller.
"We couldn't see the 0-1Es landing on that far end of the strip,"
he said, "so we got out of that control shack across the way and started
building this one." We were standing in it, four of us, and Florian and TSgt.
J. L. Caldwell were putting in some power equipment while awaiting the arrival
of the Forward air controller(FAC) trainees from Hurlburt Field. The men
had scrounged the plywood, plexiglass and other materials necessary to build
their small tower. The top portion, including the floor, is hinged to the
bottom box. The two men said they could break it down, fold it up, and load
it on a small truck in a hour. They're proud of their handwork.
I doubt that Florian is typical of most Air Commandos, except that
they all seem to share certain traits-imagination, ingenuity, industry and
instant response. His wings and blue beret are more than proud badges. To
Florian, they're symbolic of a strenuous personal effort.
Joining the Air Commandos is tough enough for a man in his twenties,
but at Florian's age, to just jump out of bed one day, admit you've had it
easy for 20 years and make a decision to strike out for uncharted islands,
takes guts. Most of us wouldn't do it.
Their work was interrupted suddenly when the first FAC student pilot
radioed that he was approaching Holley Field. We saw the small 0-1E in the
distance in the clear Florida sky. Holley is one of those remote facilities
adjacent to Eglin Air Force Base. A small unimproved landing strip, Holley
Field is out in the boonies where future FACs can learn to fly the Bird Dog
and practice making targets and directing A-1E air strikes. Three tent structures
serve as an operations center, maintenance office, and lounge for instructors
and trainees-when they're not practicing takeoffs and landings.
Florian and seven other members of the 319th Air Commando Squadron
recently jumped from a C-47 in pre-dawn darkness on Eglin range 5. They spent
five days hiking 65 miles, reconnoitered two airstrips, made a second night
jump and completed several other training missions while carrying 50 pounds
of ammo, communications gear, rations and bedding on their backs. Mud Boots
II was their own exercise--"just to stay ready," they said.
"Heck no it's not easy," Cal (the Commando) Florian admits. "These
kids walk as fast as I can run and it's all I can do to keep up." The "kids"
snort their disbelief.
"When I graduated from jump school, Florian said, "they put these
wings on my chest, then they had to put another set in my right hand to keep
Florian doesn't look as though he would fall over quite that easily,
but I think he meant it when he said it was tough keeping up with the kids.
In 17 months he mad 68 jumps although he was TDY during half of that time.
But he loves a challenge. That's why he's an Air Commando.