By David Ritchie, Guest Blogger
Howdy y’all. Cousin Brad has asked me to write for his blog about my family’s involvement in our military and aviation. My name is Dave Ritchie, some of you know me, but most do not. My mother is Betty Snyder Ritchie; she married my father Bill Ritchie when dad was a naval aviation cadet in 1945.
My dad developed his love of aviation at an early age; my best recollection is 16 years old. His dad bought him his first ride with a barnstormer and after that he saved his pennies for a few rides and lessons. Sometime after Pearl Harbor, my dad like many other young men, enlisted in our military. He chose to pursue aviation rather than ground pounding. Dad was just two weeks away from getting his wings of gold when Japan surrendered. He told me that when that happened he was told we do not need you any more, go home.
When dad’s construction business grew to the extent he was performing work in Colorado, Texas, and Kansas he found a way to bring aviation into his business, he bought a small plane. This allowed him to go visit remote jobsites and be home for supper the same day. Several of my Snyder uncles flew with my dad in the Colorado Rockies, specifically Don, Dave, Bob, and Arden
Military service and aviation skipped my generation of Ritchies. I was living in married student housing during Viet Nam. When they drew numbers for the draft lottery I got 275, which was in the upper 1/3 and not likely to be drafted. My brother Fred was also not drafted and my sister and youngest in the family Tim were both too young at that time. In addition, none of my dad’s kids shared his love of or aptitude for aviation.
That brings me to my three sons. They all served in the Navy and all were or are involved in aviation.
My oldest son George enlisted in the navy right out of high school. He served 5 years on the USS Nimitz as an AG (weatherman). His service on that ship included the first Gulf War. I had a very patriotic experience on that ship. When the ship was returning to its homeport of Bremerton, WA, after deployment to the Gulf War, I was able to join the ship in Hawaii for a Tiger Cruise to the homeport. On the last day of the trip we entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As we got closer to Puget Sound many people were standing on the shore waving our flag, cheering and waving at the ship. That is an experience I will never forget.
After his discharge from the navy George worked as a real cowboy and operator of a concrete pump truck. During that period of his life he earned his private pilot license. That got him started in aviation but he did not earn enough money to support his aviation habit. He decided to enter Embry Riddle University where he earned his degree in Aerospace Engineering. Upon graduation he worked for NAVAIR, mostly on unmanned aircraft. He then moved to Spirit Air, a subcontractor to Boeing where he led a group of Russian engineers on the nose cone section of the 787. He currently works for Airbus as a signatory engineer on fuselage repairs.
My middle son Peter had a strong desire to turn wrenches. He enlisted in the Navy right out of high school. His navy job was AT (aviation technician). He was assigned to an F18 squadron in Lemore, CA. He did one deployment to the Western Pacific on the USS Kitty Hawk. I was able to join him on a Tiger Cruise to the homeport of San Diego, CA. Our entry into San Diego harbor was memorable, but not in the same manner as the one mentioned previously. While entering the harbor, many small boats came along side. Those boats were filled with young women employed at local gentlemen’s clubs. I will leave the rest up to your imagination. Unfortunately, a drunk driver a few months later, mother’s day, 1995, killed Peter. That is the saddest day of my life.
My youngest son Phillip is highly involved in military aviation as well as commercial aviation today. He did not start his military career as early in life as his brothers. He attended Texas Tech University, earning a degree in Chemical Engineering. Upon graduation he went to work for Phillips 66. The high point of his time at that company was a one year tour on Alaska’s north slope where he helped start up a new unit. The remainder of his time with Phillips 66 involved crunching numbers in a cubicle, not fun. He had always wanted to be a pilot, but was limited in that endeavor due to the fact that he had to wear glasses to drive. He kept trying to figure out how he could get into the military and fly. He finally discovered that the navy would accept PRK surgery, if successful, and allow him to enter naval aviation. He had to pay for that surgery out of his own pocket and did so. He then entered the navy via OCS and earned his wings of gold at NAS Corpus Christi, TX. He was assigned to VP1, Oak Harbor, WA, as a P-3 Orion pilot. He did 2 deployments with that squadron to Okinawa. On one of those deployments he few a mission under orders from president Bush (43) to prosecute a Chinese submarine that was harassing one of our aircraft carriers. That mission lasted nearly 24 hours and is very unusual in peacetime. During his time with VP1 he went on several DETS to the Middle East. There he flew the P-3 on surveillance missions mostly at night. During the night missions it was easy to see many types of munitions being fired at them.
Phil left the P-3 community to become a multi-engine advanced instructor pilot with VT31, back in Corpus Christi. He has been with that squadron for about 9 years and accumulated over 4,000 hours in the T44. It is so much fun to listen to his stories about instructing. According to him the students are trying to crash the plane and it is his job to not let them do that. During his tenure at VT31 he volunteered to do an IA to Iraq. During that IA he trained Iraqi pilots to fly multi engine aircraft on surveillance missions. About 3 years ago Phil resigned from the navy and moved to the navy reserve. He did this to become a first officer for Southwest Airline. During the last 3 years he spent most of his time on active duty orders with VT31. Those orders are now over and he will resume full time status with Southwest shortly.
That was a lot of information about the Ritchie branch of the Snyder family tree. I hope you enjoyed the material. If you have questions, comments, or want to correspond, my email is email@example.com.