Navy commander turns in his boots after more than 36 years of service

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It was the summer of '68 and the draft was in full swing.

He stood in line to receive his draft physical. The Army corporal sternly managed the long line of draftees. He happens to notice a Navy recruiter walking by out of the corner of his eye. Like a cocky, undisciplined 18 year old, he grabbed the recruiter and asked if it was too late to join the Navy. The recruiter gave a once over and that's all it took.

Thirty-six years and nine months later, now Navy Commander Frank Moulds, is retiring.

His first assignment, after attending Aviation Electronics School in Memphis and San Diego, was with Fleet Composite Squadron 8 in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. He worked on F-8 Crusaders and A-4 Sky warriors.

In 1971, Moulds was deployed to Vietnam aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany with the Barn Owls of Attack Squadron 215. He worked on the active electronic countermeasure system of A-7B aircraft. After earning his bachelor's degree in history from Grand Valley State in Allendale, Mich., Moulds attended the Aviation Officer Training in Pensacola, Fla., and was commissioned in 1980.

As a commissioned officer, Moulds had an array of assignments including the aircraft carriers, USS Nimitz, USS Abraham Lincoln, USS John C. Stennis and USS John F. Kennedy and participated in every major US Military conflict from Vietnam to the War in Iraq. He also played a minor role in assisting the British Royal Navy in War in the Falkland's.

In 2004, Moulds was given the opportunity to serve another service branch--the United States Air Force--at Arnold. He is the 704th Maintenance Squadron commander.

"It has been a pleasure to serve here at Arnold Air Force Base, these almost five years now," he said.

Moulds said he found it ironic that when the German scientists first came to see where the facility was going to be built, they were aghast at the remoteness. They were quoted in a local paper as saying "it's a wilderness place far from any kind of culture."

"Even though it's almost 60 years later, nothing has really changed," he explained. "It's still the same place."

One thing Moulds has tried to establish at Arnold is showcasing the history of the base for the public to see. He is responsible for getting three aircraft static displays dedicated at the Main Gate and Gate 2.

"The inspiration behind this was the fact that former AEDC [Arnold Engineering Development Center] Commander Brig. Gen. David Stringer wanted to make the history of Arnold Air Force Base more apparent to the general public," he explained.

 "People in the local area know we are here. They may even have family that work out here and they know that we test stuff, but they know very little else. All of our air superiority we enjoy today is the result of things that happen here and yet nobody knows this history."

Moulds said one of his favorite assignments was on the John C. Stennis where he witnessed the ship yard being built in Newport News, Va.

"One of the things I was particularly happy with was the John C. Stennis Museum," he said. "It's a museum on the ship that is attributed to Senator Stennis and I got to be in charge of building that whole thing. It turned out really great."

As retirement gets closer in January 1, 2009, Moulds plans to stay in Smithville, where he lives with his wife, Stephanie. The couple has two sons who live in Dayton, Ohio, and Pittsburgh.