'Calvin The Commando'

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 him……………Gene Rossel

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 life.

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 me balanced."

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.