Chief Master Sgt. Victor Hugo: Earning the uniform

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sean Campbell
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Victor Hugo, former 446th Military Air Wing command chief, started out his Air Force career in 1951 by attending basic military training at what was then Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio; Texas.

In 1951, being three years young, the United States Air Force didn't have a standard issue Air Force uniform for its Airmen. So Hugo and his fellow trainees marched day after day in issued brown army pants, army shoes, short-cut "Ike" jacket and a class-A hat.

"At the time, we didn't even have an official Air Force uniform," said Hugo. "We were still transitioning from the Army Air Corps to the United States Air Force."

After basic training, Hugo completed six months of technical training for aircraft engine mechanics at the New England Aircraft School of Industrial Technology, a contract school for the Air Force located next to Logan International Airport in Boston. The Air Force training schools were so full during this time that Airmen had to be sent to contract schools.

According to Hugo, while contracted to the New England Aircraft School of Industrial Technology and not having a set uniform, the Air Force didn't want Airmen to be in public wearing the army-style gear issued at basic training, so they were provided civilian clothes.

After graduating from technical school, Hugo and his classmates attended six-and-a-half months of follow-on training, learning about the new electrical systems of the B-36 Peacemaker and awaiting arrival at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.

"When we graduated we were really looking forward to getting to an Air Force base," said Hugo.  "We were stationed at Fairchild, and it was just like going home."

Once at Fairchild, Hugo was assigned to the 92nd Bomb Wing's 92nd Field Maintenance Squadron until March of 1955.

Fairchild was memorable for Hugo not only as his first base but also for another reason.

"I met my wife while I was stationed at Fairchild," he said. "61 years later, I still have the same lady."

After the end of his enlistment at Fairchild, Hugo joined the reserve and cross-trained into the load master career field. In 1958, while Hugo was stationed at Paine Field, near Everett Wash., he was involved in a plane crash.

Less than 30 seconds after take-off, the propeller from the right engine of their C-119 Flying Boxcar dismounted from the engine and sliced through the back of the cockpit. The pilot, performing in flight-emergency procedures, turned the aircraft to make an emergency landing.

Unsure if the plane was going to stop before reaching the end of the runway, Hugo was ordered to jump out the back of the plane once it slowed to around five miles per hour.

"I was thinking about the plane crashing and burning," said Hugo. "So I looked out there and said 'gosh we must be going 5 miles an hour,'"

Hugo jumped.

In reality the plane was going about 45 miles per hour when he jumped, yet he walked away with only scratches and torn clothes. Being cleared by the flight doctor, he remained active in the reserve for eight more years.

In 1965 his reserve squadron was told if they signed their re-enlistment papers they would be sent to England in 90 days.

Many of the Airmen in the squadron decided to get out, including Hugo, who did not return to the military service for a decade.

During his military hiatus, he returned to aircraft maintenance working on planes for Boeing. Instead of working on the familiar B-36 Peacemaker, his prior maintenance experience was put to use on the B-52 Stratofortress. During this time he attended Seattle University and earned a bachelor's degree in commercial science. 

Ten years after again re-enlisting in the reserve in 1975, Hugo became the NCO in-charge of the 86th Aerial Port Squadron at McChord AFB. In 1986, he became the senior enlisted advisor for the 446th Military Air Wing/Associate, and in 1988, he became Command Chief of the 446th MAW.

During meetings with fellow command chiefs, he always pushed the importance of the Air Force Reserve.

"My favorite topic is 'don't play down the reserve,'" said Hugo. "As a reservist the missions we do are the same as active duty they have the same criteria, training, hours and qualifications."

Hugo served as the 446th MAW Command Chief until retiring in 1992 at the age of 60 the oldest age one is allowed to serve while enlisted in the reserve.