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Mike MJ Dietvorst


I grew up in Colorado in a strict, stoic family (I thought) and, compared to my four siblings, was not a family “team player.” I was not ready to go to college and wanted/needed to leave home (I graduated High School [Oxon Hill H.S., Oxon Hill, Maryland] at 17—we moved there 9 months before). So three weeks after my 18th birthday, I enlisted in the Air Force (early November 1969). The AF Basic Training “pipeline” was backed up, so I had to wait about a month before reporting to Lackland AFB in mid-December. When the selective service lottery numbers were published for the following year, I had drawn a number “5” out of 365. If I had not enlisted, I most likely would have been drafted into military service that year!
Towards the end of basic training, I had some “career field” options and chose Air Traffic Control (not knowing what I was really getting into). I had signed up for a 4-year enlistment. After completing basic training, I was assigned to Biloxi MS (Keesler AFB) to start training in Air Traffic Control. Once completed, I had a shortened tour in Japan (one year at Itazuke AB, shortened from a 3-year assignment due to airbase closure). By that time, I was awarded my “5” (journeyman) skill level as an arrival and precision-final-approach radar (Air Traffic) Controller. I was assigned to Danang AB, Vietnam for one-year tour of duty (June 1971-72’). I was 19 years old).
During Vietnam.
During that 365 days I worked between the parallel runways in a mobile radar unit at DaNang AB, and we were housed in a 2-story barracks in the main compound east of the runways. While there we experienced 12 rocket attacks (from Security Police records, 158 rockets hit the airbase during that year).
I took these pictures on July 5, 1971, at 07:45 AM at "Gunfighter Village" Danang AB. At about 1 AM, there was a rocket attack, 10 rockets were fired onto the base, one rocket hit this Fuel Maintenance barracks. Initially, there were three dead and two still missing. Later in the morning, all personnel were accounted for; 5 were dead, and there were 37 wounded (from my notes on the backs of the pictures and Security Police records).
These barracks had sheet-metal roofs. During an attack, the base sirens would wind up, and by the time the sirens were fully on, the attack was usually over. When the rockets would hit close to our barracks, I remember distinctly the sound of shrapnel and debris sliding down the metal roof over my head (they'd usually attacked at night, and I would hit the floor with my flak jacket and helmet on, right out of a dead sleep on the top bunk).
The lower picture was taken in-between the runways dozens of yards from our mobile radar unit. I'm holding the tail end of a 122mm rocket, standing in a crater on the access road. These rockets were indirectly & clandestinely fired within 6 miles of the airbase.
One day, during a break, standing outside of our mobile radar unit in-between the runways, I observed a flight of 2 F-4s attacking ground targets within 10 miles south of the airbase.
Looking back, SSgt Robert Murray stands out as someone I would like to connect with from my Vietnam tour of duty. He was also an air traffic controller and worked in the Danang Tower. We played many hours of handball in the main compound court (with rotating shift work, we played days and nights). We all worked rotating shifts (If I remember correctly, they were 8-hours). In nearly 52 years, many names and details have faded from memory.

After my tour in Vietnam.
I didn’t receive any citations for my Vietnam service, when I inquired, I was told they chose not to award me any.
My Air Force service ended 45 years later (27 in uniform, 18 as an Air Force GS civilian employee).
After my Vietnam tour of duty (stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C), I received an AFROTC scholarship for enlisted personnel, obtained my Bachelor and Master degrees (U. of Maryland, College Park, MD), and just made it into Air Force pilot training under the age limit. After obtaining my pilot wings I flew for 12 years… taught at the Air Force Academy and worked Air Force Service and Joint doctrine as a staff officer. I was offered an AF civilian doctrine analyst position at the Air Force Doctrine Center until full retirement. I mostly worked the Center’s doctrine publishing). I’m a lifetime member of the DAV.
In the late 1990s, my wife Ginny and I (we married in 1979) trained in marriage mentoring. For the last 26-plus years, we’ve been marriage mentoring, both in preparing couples for marriage and marriage enrichment. It has been, and continues to be, a ministry and passion for us.
My worldview (the lens through which I look at the world, i.e., reality and how I interpret it) changed completely while serving in the Air Force. In the early part of the first ten years of service, I was very self-centered. I also had an attitude problem (I can even see it in my need for a haircut!).
Twenty years in, and my identity was Air Force blue (being married to an AF officer, it was actually "our" identity); we were “all in,” and it was all I knew. Looking back, it was life-consuming at that time.
Thirty years in, I was mentoring, reflecting, analyzing, and publishing (retired from uniformed service and shifted into Air Force civilian [GS] service as a doctrine analyst).
By forty years in, I was advising, writing, speaking, teaching, mentoring, and even "pastoring" (so I pursued a Master of Divinity degree, striving to be better equipped--it took seven years to complete).
Approaching the 48-year point (at age 66), I fully retired from the Air Force. Ginny and I are proud and thankful for our "time" and all the opportunities we had individually and together while serving.
Reflecting on my career and approach to life, I think differently about the fundamental questions of life; origin... control... purpose... plan... future. At the center of a worldview are the ultimate beliefs an individual holds, and I hold and try living a Christian worldview.
Needless to say, that Vietnam tour was an early, formative turning point in my life; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It set me on a pathway of lifelong learning. I stayed in the military to take advantage of all the opportunities (education, advancement, travel) that were available to me, not knowing when I started that this would be my life career. I’m very grateful to have served.

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