by Senior Airman Ashley J. Thum
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
4/21/2015 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- The
4th Fighter Wing welcomed a distinguished Vietnam War veteran during
the latest iteration of the Leadership Lecture Series, April 16.
Retired Col. Charles "Chuck" DeBellevue imparted his ideals on teamwork
and selfless service to the base's Airmen through recounted experiences
from his storied career.
DeBellevue is the highest-scoring ace of the Vietnam War with six enemy
MiG kills to his name - no small feat considering he was a weapons
systems officer in the F-4 Phantom, and not a pilot.
Perhaps his experience as a "backseater," combined with the
collaboration between air and ground crews necessary to accomplish
flying operations, helped shape his perspective on working toward
"If you do everything right, when you get back to the base the first
person to climb up that ladder is the crew chief," DeBellevue said on
returning from flying missions. "Why? It's their jet."
While serving in Vietnam, DeBellevue was assigned to the famed 555th
Tactical Fighter Squadron, or "Triple Nickel," Udorn Royal Thai Air
Base, Thailand. Although he spent a great deal of time discussing his
missions over Southeast Asia where he became the first WSO to achieve
ace status, DeBellevue made sure to highlight his time as a member of
"I spent five and a half years here," DeBellevue said. "I enjoyed every
minute of it. You guys and gals are in the best Air Force in the world,
and you're in the best unit in the world."
The retired colonel mentioned his year with the 335th Fighter Squadron, along with his time working in the 4th Operations Group.
Continuing with his theme of teamwork, DeBellevue shared the impact his two years working with maintenance Airmen made on him.
"Those years were rewarding because I got to interact with everybody on
the team," DeBellevue said. "It's because of what the guys and gals in
maintenance did that made us so successful when the IG (Inspector
General) drove down from Langley (Air Force Base, Virginia). It was the
people on base - not just the air crews - that made us so successful,
that made the team unbeatable."
Although DeBellevue retired in the late 1990s, he has not lost touch
with his military ties, as he frequents units across the branch, sharing
his wisdom gained from three decades of service.
Ironically for one of the nation's heroes whose audience lined up to
thank him after his talk ended, DeBellevue delivered his own "thank you"
to the men and women currently serving as members of Team Seymour.
"I appreciate you clothing yourself in the cloth of this great country,
to protect and defend against all enemies," DeBellevue said. "That's not
an easy job. I appreciated it when I was on active duty, and I
appreciate it more now. Because of you, and others like you, this
country will remain free."