Notes from Capt John Garrison on 1976-77-78 and the creation of the careerfield.
I’d like to share some of the ROMAD history from my perspective.
In the beginning(actually I’ll start in 1976), I was a Comm Officer who had just completed an Air Force Institute of Technology Masters Degree in Systems Management and was “fired” from a Comm Staff Officer position because I wasn’t a Systems Believer (I learned to distrust economists, statistitions, and ops research types and found myself working for a believer). I was reassigned to the Forward Air Controller (FAC) shop at HQ TAC (now HQ ACC) and given the responsibility to implement the ROMAD career field)…to my understanding FACs were pilots who were assigned to Army units (battalion and above) to coordinate close air support from the USAF to the Army. They had both an airborne mission (typically in a O-2, OV-10, OA-37). They also had a ground mission where they accompanied the Army units in a MRC-107 or MRC-108 Comm Central, complete with an enlisted radio-repairman (304X4) called a ROMAD, for Radio Operator, Maintainer And Driver. The USAF took a regular 304X4 Radio Repairmen and assigned him to the ROMAD duties, usually with only OJT training. There was no specialty pay. All TDYs were with the Army in the field (average 220 days/year) so no TDY pay. They had limited tools for radio repair (PSM-6(volt-ohm meter) and a soldering iron) with them. They were at a distinct disadvantage to the “normal” 304X4 when SKT test time came around, since they basically never saw typical USAF ground radios. They scored lower and were promoted at a lower pace. The “gang of five” rattled the cage which resulted in commander of TAC, Gen Bob Dixon, sponsoring the creation of the new career field, 275X0. The "Gang of Five", two ATC reps from Randolph and I met at Hurlburt. We worked all day, I’d type up the day’s results and we’d re-draft the next day until we had agreement. Within a week we drew up an implementation plan that was accepted without any major changes by both MAJCOMs and the AIRSTAFF.
In typical fashion, when a new career field is made, the USAF looks first at who is doing the job now and who has done the job in the past. Those individuals were awarded primary and secondary AFSCs as 275X0.
As you can imagine not everything went according to plan…and the word got back to Gen Dixon that some of the ROMADs were unhappy with the implementation of the career field I got called to brief Gen Dixon. He said,”I thought the ROMADs all wanted this new career field!” I responded, “Yes sir. 100% of all ROMADs wanted this new career field, unfortunately only 25% wanted to be part of it!” I was then tasked to brief every stateside ROMAD with the implementation plan for the career field I had one stipulation…that I needed to tell them the truth. One of my slides had the words, “Once a ROMAD…” Every time I briefed the program to the troops, they filled in the rest of the slide. It was going to be nearly impossible for any ROMAD to ever return to 304X4 duties, due to USAF manning requirements. By in large, my briefing was accepted by the true professionals that they were. The 21 TASS commander at Shaw AFB really knew his troops. When I arrived to brief the ROMADs on the career field, I was dressed in Dress Blues. He handed a flack jacket and a pot for me to wear and proceeded to introduce me as a “serious representative from HQ TAC”. As I marched up from the back of the room to the stage, you could hear the stifled snickers gradually rise to a room full of laughter. It sure reduced the tension and allowed for a good interchange.
I also got involved in upgrading the equipment that the ROMADs used (the MRCs were particularly dangerous, top heavy and overloaded) and was quite pleased to see the fruit of it during the First Gulf War. Interoperability was a big buzz word back then, but unfortunately only meant with other Air Force systems. I fought hard to keep the ARC-164 FM radio out of the upgrade and pressed hard for Army-compatible radios (eg Singars). I even had to fight AirStaff over the side arm for our FACs (it was a 38…I fought for the 9 mil…two questions to ask: "How many 38 rounds can you get from your local S-4? How many 9 mil?" Enough said!
One of my highlights of my tour was receiving a plaque from “Shorty” Suarez. It contained a quote from Gen Blackjack Pershing, “In an ordered society, a superior, if he is a gentlemen, never remembers it, and a subordinate, if he is a gentlemen, never forgets it.” It ends with, “And Capt Garrison needs not to be reminded, “Once a ROMAD…””
I look back at my time at HQ TAC with pride and with humble knowledge that the accomplishments were not my own. It was a collective effort that you gentlemen reap the benefits of and continue the traditions to the present.