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Local retirees reflect on Air Force's first day

PATRICK AFB, Fla. -- Two local retirees, who were on active duty when the Air Force became a separate service, reflected on the historic day.

When Joseph Pannitto joined in January 1947, he enlisted in the Army Air Force. "I was just a young kid, I wasn't interested in politics," he said, "but I was interested in planes."

It was during his training at the signal school at Fort Monmouth, N. J., that Mr. Pannito was informed that the Air Force was becoming a separate service, equal to the Army and Navy. "I had no idea it was coming" he remembered.

At the time of the change, Mr. Pannitto didn't see much difference in day-to-day work until he was stationed in Freising, Germany, in 1949 during the time of the Berlin Airlift. Working as a communications technician in an aircraft control and warning unit, he was informed that Airmen would soon be receiving new blue uniforms.

"There was a preponderance of Army men walking around in brown uniforms, so we were glad to get our blue uniforms," Mr. Pannitto recalled. "Having distinct uniforms seemed very significant."

Mr. Pannitto retired at the rank of chief master sergeant in March 1967.

The new uniforms were the most vivid indicator of change for Elsworth Doughty as well.

"I think the biggest thing was the uniform," he remembered. Mr. Doughty enlisted in August 1947 and was at what is now Lackland AFB, Texas, when the transition occurred. "I was in basic training and we had a big ceremony and a big parade," he said.

Initially trained as an aircraft electrician, Mr. Doughty transferred to administrative duties after sustaining a back injury. During his career, Mr. Doughty served at the Defense Atomic Support Agency, reporting daily to the Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense, as well as embassy duty in South America.

"The Air Force was just fantastic for me," said Mr. Doughty.

Mr. Doughty retired at the rank of senior master sergeant in August 1967.