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Estacada American Legion Vice Commander Roger Woods served in the U.S. Air Force for 21 years

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - Roger Woods, vice commander of the Estacada American Legion Carl Douglas Post, served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War.

During the 21 years he spent in the U.S. Air Force, Estacada resident and American Legion Carl Douglas Post Vice Commander Roger Woods wore many different hats.

"I can always say I never got fired from a job. I just got moved to a different one," he said.

A graduate of Estacada High School, Roger joined the U.S. Air Force in 1969, not long after he married his wife, Jane. The two had met while singing in the school choir.

"We were always paired together when we'd go on stage, and I liked that pairing so it just stuck," he said.

However, shortly after the two were married, Roger was laid off from his job at Gunderson's in Estacada.

"I started to go around to see if I could get any job, and the first thing they'd ask is "What's your draft classification?' he recalled. "(I said) 1A, and they would just laugh (and say) 'No, we're not going to hire you. You're going to get drafted."

So it was no surprise when he received a call from an Air Force recruiter he had spoken to previously, that Roger said he was interested in joining.

During his early days in the military, Roger and Jane watched their money closely.

"You'd be amazed how many different ways there are to cook a hot dog. We used to get super cheap hot dogs from the commissary for about 20 cents a package. If you boiled them the water would turn pink," he said. "We boiled them, baked them, sliced them open and put a little cheese in the middle and had sliced hot dogs on gravy and toast."

Roger also benefited from family connections during this time.

"I met up with my cousin. My mom had called the network, and I had relatives. My cousin was stationed there. He was a staff sergeant, and he and his wife took me under his wing."

After several years in Texas, Roger was deployed to Vietnam, but requested it be delayed because Jane was pregnant. Six weeks after his son was born in 1972, he was sent to Thailand.

During the year he served in Thailand, Roger performed a variety of tasks related to aircraft management.

"Every 100 hours on the plane, you'd do a particular phase of inspection. We had various things we'd check. Every 100 hours it would come back from country ready for the next phase," he said.

A typical work week consisted of 14 hours a day and six days a week. As time went on, these hours increase.

"It got real busy when the war ended. They had a cut off date that we could no longer send planes up country, so they brought in a whole bunch of planes to get up country before the cut off date," he recalled. "We were so busy, it was 18-20 hour days to get the planes ready."

After his time in Thailand, Roger was stationed at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Wash., where he spent 12 years.

"I worked in the equipment shop — you name it, the equipment shop did it. If it had a steering wheel, a lever to steer or pedals to steer, we did it," he said.

When he left McChord, he was in charge of flight land operations.

His next stop was Guam, where he spent two years working in an equipment shop, on special projects and several other roles.

While there, he was in a plane en route to a project and was told there might be unexploded ordinance where they were landing.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Roger Woods retired from the Air Force as a master sergeant in 1990.

"(He said), 'You've got to clear a landing zone before the helicopter sets down, so you're going down on the cable. He just wheeled us down there," Roger recalled, noting that no one was injured.

Overall, he appreciated his time in Guam.

"My wife and I were asked where we'd like to go for vacation. Both of us just looked at each other and said 'Guam,'" he said. "We'd love to go back there. We haven't been back since."

Roger's final assignment was at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, where he spent two years prior to retiring as a master sergeant. During this time, he worked in the equipment shop, superintendent's office, was chief of production control and was tasked with starting the Simplified Acquisition of Base Engineering Resources, which ensure that contractors were available for work.

He described the base as "always safe."

"Come Halloween cars were lining up and unloading kids and turning them lose to go trick-or-treat on base," he recalled. "I had 400 trick or treaters at my house, two years in a row. They knew kids were safe on base."

After his retirement from the Air Force in 1990, Roger and Jane returned to Estacada. Along with spending time with family, he became involved with groups like the Estacada Madrigal Singers and the American Legion Carl Douglas Post.

He appreciates the variety of community service the American Legion is involved with, including providing support to veterans and youths.

"A lot of people don't see the things that the American Legion does in the background, but we still do it," he said.

Reflecting on his time in the military, Roger said he appreciated the people he served with most.

"What I miss the most is the camaraderie of being in the service, of being stationed somewhere. You always had friends because they were in the same boat as you were," he said.

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