Military News

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Top Vietnam ace inspires teamwork at SJAFB

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 communal goals.

"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 Team Seymour.

"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."

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