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95th Officer Candidate Company Visits 171st

Group of Vietnam veterans pose for a photo in front of a KC-135 aircraft.

Vietnam Veterans from the 95th Officer Candidacy Company pose for a photo in front of a KC-135 aircraft assigned to the 171st Air Refueling Wing in Pittsburgh, July 25, 2019. The veterans toured the Pennsylvania Air National Guard unit in celebration of their 50th anniversary of graduating from Officer Candidacy School. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Bryan Hoover)

Tech. Sgt. Michael Bullister holds a radio up during a briefing to Vietnam veterans

Pennsylvania Air National Guardsman Tech. Sgt. Michael Bullister assigned to the 171st Air Refueling Wing briefs a group of Vietnam veterans about some of the equipment used by pilots in the event of an aircraft emergency. The veterans toured the Pennsylvania Air National Guard unit in celebration of their 50th anniversary of graduating from Officer Candidacy School. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Bryan Hoover)

Coraopolis, Pa. --

Vietnam veterans from the 95th Officer Candidate Company, Ft. Benning Georgia celebrated their 50th graduation anniversary by touring the 171st Air Refueling Wing in Pittsburgh, July 25, 2019.

Retired Lt. Col. Joseph Mancuso, a Pittsburgh native, orchestrated the anniversary in recognition of the men and women who graduated from Officer Candidate School (OCS) and went on to fight in the Vietnam War. The majority of the 28 veterans have not seen or heard from one another since they became second lieutenants in the U.S. Army, July 25, 1969, at Ft. Benning, Georgia. They ventured from as far as California and Washington to come to Pittsburgh for this celebration.

“There was about four or five of us at OCS that formed a small group and referred to ourselves as the B-team. So, me and Chip (another Pittsburgh native B-team member) thought we should get together and have the 50th anniversary,” said Mancuso. “Unfortunately, I only knew how to get a hold of Chip, but he had Bob’s number, and Bob has so and so’s number, and it just went on from there.”

As one person connected with another, a chain reaction occurred linking old-time friends until an entire celebration was built for the whole company. 

The company met up on July 24 at the Pittsburgh Marriot, a local hotel near the Pittsburgh International Airport. They spent the night sharing stories and catching up on the past 50 years. The next day, they loaded onto a bus and made their way to the 171st.

“We really wanted to do something military-related, but we weren’t having any luck with other units in the area. Fortunately, we were blessed that the 171st was able to provide us with this opportunity,” said Mancuso.

The Family Readiness Coordinator for Pa. Air National Guard, Deborah Krall, along with Pa. Guardsmen escorted the Vietnam veterans to a KC-135 aircraft to demonstrate the capabilities and provide them with a tour of the installation. While walking across the tarmac, the group of 70-year-old men reminisced about their days in the service by singing old cadences and talking about airplanes they once jumped out of.

The 171st was honored to host these veterans who served an important role in our American history. Without the brave men and women of the generations before us, like the 95th Officer Candidate Company, the United States would not have become the beacon of freedom we are today.

Thank you for your service.