Interview with Scott M. Partin
Scott M. Partin discusses his training and service for the U.S. Air Force.
DUDLEY: What is your name?
PARTIN: Scott Partin.
DUDLEY: When and where were you born?
PARTIN: I was born in Newport Beach at about 5 o’clock in the morning on 30 April 1969.
DUDLEY: Where did you grow up?
PARTIN: I grew up across the southwest United States but primarily in Midland, Texas between 1977 and 1987. So, between the ages of 8 and 18.
DUDLEY: How would you define West Texas?
PARTIN: I’d define West Texas as flat, dry, and ugly. But, if I was drawing borders, I would draw a line straight up from Big Bend north and then I would say that San Angelo is on a border of West Texas along with Abilene on the eastern border. Then up through Amarillo and, of course, the Permian base in El Paso, Fort Davis … and Odessa, Lubbock, the Plains. It’s a big, big geographic area.
DUDLEY: What do you believe is different between West Texans and other Texans?
PARTIN: West Texans are meaner and nicer and we pull off the side of the road to let other people by whenever they need to pass. We say “hi” to strangers and everybody. I think the environment out here is rougher and tougher. So, I believe the environment makes you who you are. So, probably tougher and rougher because we are used to eating sand for breakfast and smelling the stench of the oil fields. The environment is just not very nice. So, I think when it’s time for us to be mean, we are meaner. But, day-in and day-out, we are a pretty nice group of people.
DUDLEY: How would you describe the relationship between the military and West Texans?
PARTIN: I think for a lot of West Texans they’re not even sure that the military exists because it’s so sparsely populated. But that may have changed after 9/11. When I was growing up, we didn’t have JROTC in our high schools and now we do. It seems like maybe a little bit more appreciative and alert. For the towns in West Texas that have bases near them … Lubbock has Reese Air Force Base but they closed it. But for Abilene, El Paso, and San Angelo, it’s probably closer to the military just because they have the military installations in those localities.
DUDLEY: When and where did you enter the armed forces?
PARTIN: I entered the armed forces in 1991. So, I was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That’s where I went to MEPs station. I went from there to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for basic training. So, June 9, 1991.
DUDLEY: In the Air Force, right, sir?
PARTIN: Yes, and I enlisted in the Air Force.
DUDLEY: OK. So, during your years of service were you primarily in the enlisted ranks or have you been in the officer ranks …?
PARTIN: Five years enlisted and two years of ROTC following those 5 years immediately followed by … that was 1998 to the present.
DUDLEY: What was the source of your commissioning?
PARTIN: ROTC from University of Nebraska at Omaha.
DUDLEY: Have you taken part in any military conflicts?
PARTIN: The one as an enlisted guy. The conflicts in Central America were drawing to a close but there was still a little action happening in Central America when I was in Panama for my first assignment as an airman. We were also involved in the … at that time it was just starting out … the war on drugs was starting to gain traction. So, we were at the front end of that helping embassies and agencies and the Drug Enforcement Administration find Pablo Escobar and his crony friends and tracking the movement of drugs throughout Latin America and the United States, and passing it on to the operators. Then as a lieutenant, President Clinton’s plan in Columbia and, at that time in Columbia, the guerrilla war was pretty strong. It was the most dangerous place in the world. There were car bombs going off in my neighborhood. And I got to travel to hinterlands of Columbia right to the middle of the stronghold for the guerrillas and the FARC and the ELN and different ones. And then after that I guess the next time would be as a major on a classified mission and I can just say it had to do tangentially or indirectly to the war in Iraq. And then another job as a major: a conflict that doesn’t receive any press but the African World War, which happened in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. It spread out to about a dozen different countries in Africa. And training the Congolese Army with Army Special Forces. That was in Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Then after that would be Operation Odyssey Dawn, which was the most recent significant air operation by the United States. I had the opportunity to work with General Maggie Woodward. She was the first woman to lead an air operations in combat. So, I guess that was the closest to conflict I’ve been in.
DUDLEY: Why did you enlist in the armed forces?
PARTIN: Because I could see real life and bills piling up without a job. And the political science and my less than stellar GPA wasn’t opening any doors at the time in New Mexico. I had some friends that were in the Air Force, and they told me the mission was pretty cool. And the Air Force … They, at that time, were drawing down significantly because we had won the Cold War. So, because of the peace dividend, and I didn’t have … Or I was a liberal arts major with less than a stellar GPA, they told me I could enlist, but I couldn’t go to OTS. And then they gave me the opportunity to learn a language as my first job in the Air Force was to learn Spanish.
DUDLEY: What was your training like?
PARTIN: Well, I mean training is continual in the Air Force, so basic training. [Brief interruption.] Training in the old days, I guess, the basic training was intense. My TI, his father passed away our second day of training. [Brief interruption.] So, basic training, because my TI’s father passed away, he … They had to get us different TIs that would rotate in and out. So, I heard a variance of curse words and new curse words from new TIs every four or five days. Because I was a squad leader, I told my team that I would be easy on them as long as they did their job. So, that was intense. ROTC was less intense. And Field Training was less intense than basic training. It was more physically demanding. I lost 30 pounds in basic training of muscle. I was about 4.2% body fat and lost 30 pounds. I went from 160 to 130. Then out of Field Training, that was the only time in my life that I had a, no-kidding, very solid washboard stomach with the abs, because we did some serious abs. But, yeah that was nice. Then as far as the rest of training, it’s been academic in nature.
DUDLEY: So, have you found your service challenging?
PARTIN: No. I mean, at times, I guess. But the endurance of Operation Odyssey Dawn. I think that was a time when the ops tempo was highest for me. I believe it was 4 months that I was sleeping about 4 hours a night with no weekends or time off. And that was just to keep up with General Woodward. We were working to make sure that the operators had the information they needed to fly, fight, and win.
DUDLEY: Were you ever deployed overseas?
PARTIN: A couple of times. Columbia for six months with many TDYs over a span of five years to Columbia. Then TDYs all over Latin America. It’s easier to tell you how many countries I haven’t gone to than I have. Then training TDYs throughout the African continent with a deployment to the Republic of the Congo and about a month to Djibouti en route. Then another deployment to Turkey. That was pretty cool. And then stationed in Germany, and stationed in Panama, and stationed in Korea.
DUDLEY: Do you know what units you served in while you were deployed?
PARTIN: Well, it was a … The unit … I was deployed with the 10th Special Operations Group to the Republic of the Congo. Then I went to the ODT there in Turkey. It was at the Turkish headquarters out of the US embassy. So, it was the Combined Intelligence Fusion Cell in Ankara. Then in Columbia, it was to the United States Military Group in Columbia but we worked out of the Centro Administrativo Nacional which is the Colombian Pentagon.
DUDLEY: Did you ever serve in direct combat during your deployments?
PARTIN: No, other than being in close proximity to car bombs and IEDs in Columbia.
DUDLEY: What did you think of the local inhabitants that you encountered while you were deployed?
PARTIN: Wherever I go, I love people. And I was really appreciative of all of the different contributions their cultures made to this big beautiful planet. And … um … the Colombians, I was blown away. The first Columbian Lasic … The first Lasic surgery in the world, Colombian doctors invented that. They developed that. Juan Pablo Montoya was a fantastic race car driver from Colombia. They also have great cyclists. And the way they rose from the ashes of close to being a failed government to a very well-run, functioning government really impressed me. How they got tired of war and decided they were gonna work for something harder and a peaceful existence within themselves. So, that was Colombia. Panamanians, um … the way they took life and their zest for life … I say Latinos in general, the way they love to work hard and party hard, it’s fantastic. I love that. Africans, the ingenuity and willingness to do so much with so little. I love the food in all the different countries. The Germans got on my nerves a little bit, their adherence to rules. They had a hard time painting outside of the lines. But I love my German friends too. Some of my best friends are Germans. I think I like France a little bit better. And then the Turks. I felt like Turkey has a lot in common with Mexico in that they’re similar size, similar economy, similar infrastructure with the roads. But Turkey is just absolutely gorgeous and historical contributions, and just the incredible history they have is fascinating. So, yeah, I think wherever I go, the people I meet, the ability to smile and have fun in spite of abject poverty from Haitians and Sierra Leoneans and Congolese is amazing. And just the majestic, natural beauty of Africa. The organization of the Koreans and their endurance and stamina to work very long hours and then continue to work even after we’re all tired is pretty amazing. So, yeah, everywhere different things from all those countries.
DUDLEY: How has your service influenced or affected your family at home?
PARTIN: I made some sacrifices with family. And they have had to endure my not being there. In a way, it’s a blessing because I’m gone. I think they have more freedom of doing what they want without my getting in their way. But at the same time, Georgina’s told me she’s missed me and my kids missed dad, and I’ve missed them. Where’s my grilled cheese sandwich? Oh, there it is. And … um …[Laughs.] But the family has made a lot of sacrifices. That’s been the hardest part of my Air Force career, I think, the sacrifices, missing my family.
DUDLEY: What are your most vivid memories of your time in service so far?
PARTIN: Wow, that’s a fun question. The injured soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines in Germany coming back from Iraq. We volunteered in Landstuhl to take them out on their free time. Then the injured soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and police officers in Columbia. I visited their hospitals. As well as the smiling faces of the children in Africa and around the world, Turkey, Korea, Panama, Colombia. Yeah, just, I don’t know. All the different … I can remember vividly. You asked me that question that’s why I said it’s interesting. All of the places the Air Force has sent me, if I stop and think about them, there’s just the natural beauty and the people. Yeah, it’s fantastic. It’s been … I’ve had a very atypical career I think, that I’ve seen more beauty than ugliness most times.
DUDLEY: Looking back on your military service, how do you feel about it?
PARTIN: Very fortunate that I was able to go to places and see new things and take adventures and come out of it physically and mentally with most of my parts intact and able to function. I’m very fortunate and blessed. There’s so many that end up receiving … paying the ultimate sacrifice. And if not, coming out of these things emotionally and mentally and physically scarred and injured and damaged. So, just blessed that I’ve been able to get through it without those things.
DUDLEY: Do you have any advice for young men and women who are just entering the service?
PARTIN: Yeah, pour your heart, body, mind, and soul into it. But at the same time, work hard to balance those family demands with your professional demands. Turn off the television and read more. When you aren’t reading, push yourself physically and mentally. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. That’s the only way you’re gonna grow.
DUDLEY: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your service?
PARTIN: I’m concerned about the Air Force and the future of it due to the threats I see on the horizon. I think the Air Force is in danger of losing aerospace dominance. If our senior leadership doesn’t make some very hard decisions very soon. I say very hard decisions, I really think we need to look at all new requirements being based around a pilot-less Air Force. The sooner that happens, the better able we’re going to be positioned to continue to dominate in air and space.