By Ian Thompson
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Nearly 40 years later, 1976 El Dorado High School graduate Bobby Allardice never thought the uniform of an Air Force officer would be such a good fit.
“By the 10-year reunion of my high school, I had seen 73 countries. It still amazes me, how much of the world I have seen,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert R. Allardice said in a phone interview before his retirement after serving 33 years in the Air Force and attaining the rank of lieutenant general.
It has been a long career of hard work, Allardice said, “but it has truely been an honor to serve, because you serve with such great airmen,” Allardice said. “I am proud to have been a part of one of the world’s greatest organizations.”
Allardice, who currently calls Washington state home, is retiring from the Air Force at Scott AFB, Ill., on Sept. 1.
He grew up in Northern California while his father worked in the forest industry. During his time at El Dorado High School, he got involved in soccer and served as the junior class president in 1975.
That was the year that he and several other El Dorado students went to Sacramento to photograph then-President Gerald Ford and interview their area’s state assemblyman.
The students were in front of the Senator Hotel when Lynette “Squeaky” Fromm tried to shoot Ford but was restrained before she could get off a shot.
“We went down to see if we could get an interview with the president and were standing on other side of crowd line. I was very impressed with how the Secret Service reacted and protected the president who was white as a sheet,” Allardice said.
Allardice even went as far as offering a handkerchief to a government agent who had cut his hand and interviewed several people who were talking to Ford when the gun was shoved at him. The interviewees thought the students were young reporters because they were well dressed in suits and ties.
When looking back on how his time in El Dorado County affected him, Allardice said his community and his teachers were a very big influence. He specifically mentioned guidance counselor Joyce Boesch and English teacher the late Gordon Purdy.
He dreamed of pilot training since he was a kid and when he was a freshmen in El Dorado High School, his career was launched when he was given an Air Force Academy handbook from a friend “and I read it from cover to cover.” Allardice pointed out his teachers solidly backed him in his efforts to get into the academy.
“It was the only place that I applied for,” said Allardice.
Allardice’s love of aviation helped get him through what he called four really hard, but rewarding years in a class he described as containing “great people that I wanted to serve with.”
“I initially wanted to be a fighter pilot, but I talked to those air mobility guys who talked about being able to fly around the world and were always where the action was,” Allardice said of why he gravitated toward Air Mobility Command in his early career.
His first assignment as a second lieutenant was Travis Air Force Base, which he remembers “as very windy, but I was thrilled to be flying missions all over the world, especially out into the Pacific.”
“Every few years, we get through the area. I’d like to see it again soon,” Allardice said.
Allardice graduated with the first Air Force Academy class to include women.
“To think now that it was such a novelty to have a woman in our organization,” Allardice said, noting that women now serve in every part of the Air Force. That includes a personal commitment on his family’s part since all three of his daughters have gone into the Air Force.
During the next three decades, Allardice flew the C-141 Starlifter, the C-5 Galaxy and the C-17 Globemaster III, he also took on more and more command responsibilities that included serving as commander of the 437th Operations Group at Charleston AFB, SC; commander of the 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord AFB, Wash., and commander of the 18th Air Force at Scott AFB. Ill.
“It has been a privilege to command at every level,” said Allardice of his succession of commands that culminated with serving as vice commander of Air Mobility Command. “I got to work with the world’s finest folks.”
Allardice was operations commander at Charleston AFB when 9/11 happened “and within a couple of weeks, we were dropping humanitarian supplies at the same time that we were doing combat operations.”
“It was the thrill of a lifetime and I was so proud to be a part of that. It was a phenomenal, life-changing event,”
During the invasion of Iraq, he commanded a C-17 airdrop mission in March, 2003, to put a brigade in northern Iraq, “the largest single airdrop since World War II,” Allardice said.
Of all his assignments, he said that his year in Iraq during the surge was his most rewarding and difficult when he worked to build an Iraqi air force.
The Air Force has gotten smaller during his career and it has gotten busier with the tasks put before Air Mobility Command in the War on Terror.
“Every two minutes. an airplane takes off. Someone needs something and we are going to get it to them,” Allardice said. “No matter where a disaster happens, if the U.S. responds with the military, we will find a way to succeed.”
What has impressed Allardice about the Air Force is how much the families support their service members and how dedicated young service members are to doing their jobs.
“I cannot express how much I appreciate how patriotic Americans are,” Allardice said of times he has seen people applaud his airmen when they come home from deployments or have offered to pay the check for their meals. “Americans are great patriots.”
He also remembers one young airman during a stop at Ramstein Air Base in Germany who he found taking a short nap after working almost an entire day on the flightline preparing a humanitarian mission to Afghanistan.
“I shook his shoulder and asked how long he had been up, and then told him to go get some sleep. He then asked me not to tell him to leave the flightline until his aircraft took off. You can’t imagine how inspirational that is to be around such young people who are committed to the mission,” Allardice said.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ithompsondr.