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U.S. Air Force Al Kremer

Retired Chief Reflects on 60 Years of Service
By Master Sgt. Brad Carder
U.S. Strategic Command Public Affairs
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb., Jan. 31, 2007 —  If Al Kremer couldn't wait to mail a letter home to his family after he fired his first round at basic training, it certainly would have been understandable.

Early on in his teenage years he knew the military was where he wanted to be. Back then, at only 17, the small-town Wilmont, Minn., native was living his dream.

"I couldn't wait to get in the service,"  Kremer said. "I was in my teen years during World War II. To a teenager back in those days, it was 'Let's go and whup'em and get it over with.'"

"Back in those days" was May 1946 and the letters the young soldier was sending home to Minnesota cost three cents each.

These days, from his office inside the United States Strategic Command headquarters, Kremer can look back on a career combining 22 active-duty years plus 38 years as an Air Force civilian -- an amazing six decades of service that has provided a little adventure and a lot of success for a young man from rural Minnesota.

In the months leading up to the summer of 1946, young Al Kremer couldn't have imagined where the journey he was about to begin would take him. With the words of Winston Churchill's ominous Fulton, Mo., "Iron Curtain" speech still ringing in the nation's ears, Al Kremer was off to the Army.

"I couldn't wait until I was old enough to go," he said. "I tried a couple times before that and I was caught because I was too young, sent home and told to mature."

So, in May 1946, he raised his right hand at Fort Snelling, Minn., and was off to Fort Eustis, Va., for basic training. He said the Army training wasn't bad. In fact, he said he actually enjoyed his basic training time and the combat training in the wooded areas around the base.

After eight weeks in basic training, he found himself in Merino, Colo., being trained by the Union Pacific railroad to operate a telegraph for Army railroad battalions -- not exactly his dream job. However, he finished the school and was off to Italy as a fully trained railroad telegraph operator. But, with the U.S. drawing down its forces in Italy, he was rerouted to Japan.

"After that I never saw a railroad, other than to ride on one, and I never did telegraph work. I wound up as a switchboard operator in the 2nd Major Port at Kobe, Japan. I thought it was great," he said.

However, Remer soon fell ill with tonsillitis and was hospitalized. During his hospital stay, one of the soldiers in the communications section where he worked contracted scarlet fever and the entire section was quarantined, except Kremer, who had been away battling tonsillitis. In the meantime, the unit's small post exchange was in need of a manager. As one of the lucky few to escape quarantine, he took on the job.

He worked there and in the company's orderly room for nearly two years. By that time, his three-year commitment was up and he decided to reenlist in the Army.

But, just as he was preparing to reenlist, he met someone who helped chart a new course for his life. The chief's company commander had a cousin who was an Air Force major who happened to be visiting the unit. The two were introduced and the major convinced the young soldier to join the Air Force.

"He said 'If you join the Air Force, I'll make you an aircraft dispatcher.' I didn't have any idea what they did, but it sounded exotic ... so I enlisted in the Air Force," Kremer said.

He said the Army kept him waiting a couple of extra days before discharging him so he could join the Air Force.
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Al Kremer, now an Air Force civilian employee at United States Strategic Command headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., began his service with Army basic training at Fort Eustis, Va., in the summer of 1946. Courtesy photo
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Al Kremer, now an Air Force civilian, works in his office at United States Strategic Command headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. Kremer is the USSTRATCOM Freedom of Information Act program manager. He recently eclipsed a combined 60 years of service as a military member and civilian employee. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brad Carder

"My discharge was on a Saturday and they said they didn't work on Saturday or Sunday."

He was told to return Monday to the personnel section to receive his Army discharge papers. He returned Monday, picked up his discharge papers and enlisted in the Air Force the same day. Besides the paperwork, there were other issues to work out as he transferred services.

"While I was being sworn into the Air Force, they took my shirt down into the tailor shop in the building and had the Air Force stripes sewn on. By the time I was sworn in, I had the new Air Force stripes on," he said.

So, on May 24, 1949, he began his Air Force career and looked forward to his new aircraft dispatcher job. However, he never dispatched a single airplane. Instead, he was immediately placed in a first sergeant position.

"If I would have had my options, I would have went right back to the Army," joked Kremer. "But, I enjoyed it. I really liked it."

He remained in Japan until 1951, when he returned to the states and arrived at Offutt.

First-sergeant life agreed with Kremer and he served in that capacity at various times over the next 10 years during assignments at Offutt and in Morocco. In late 1961, he left Morocco and once again returned to Offutt, where he became the base sergeant major -- the predecessor of the senior enlisted advisor position. He served as the base sergeant major until 1966, when he transitioned to a position across the base at Strategic Air Command headquarters.

During his active-duty years, Kremer was part of Air Force history on more than one occasion. In 1958, he was among the first group of NCOs promoted to senior master sergeant after the new Air Force rank was created.

"They didn't have a test for E-8s, so we took the warrant officer aptitude test," he said. Then, in 1959, his name appeared on the first-ever chief master sergeant promotion list.

Kremer also served as a mentor to young people during his active-duty time at Offutt, as a Civil Air Patrol instructor. He said he recalls instructing former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Ryan when he was a CAP cadet at the base.

Kremer retired from the Air Force in June 1968. Six months later, after a stint working in a local department store, he was back to work in the SAC headquarters building, now home to the United States Strategic Command, where he still works.

Since he began his career as an Air Force civilian in the building in 1968, Kremer has held various administrative positions, along with running the building's document destruction facility for seven years.

Today, he is the command's Freedom of Information Act manager, a position he has held since 1992. During his 60 years of service, Kremer has worked for 12 SAC commanders, beginning with Gen. Curtis LeMay. He also has worked under all six USSTRATCOM commanders, including U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, who leads the command, today.

By age 77, many people have long since retired. But, Kremer has a different outlook.

"I encourage people to work as long as possible," he said.

With the exception of one three-month tour he spent keying in data on punch cards for early military personnel accounting system machines, he said he never had a bad job.

"I had some of the best people working with me, and I worked for some of the best people you could find."

Kremer also credits his wife of 55 years with helping him achieve his success and career longevity.

"The other thing is my family support, particularly my wife," he said. The Kremers raised seven children and Kremer said he couldn't always be there when there was a crisis. "She carried the ball at home."

So, after 60 years, what inspires Kremer to keep working?

"I just enjoy the people out here. The experts tell me it's being around young people. I don't know ... but I enjoy it -- my work."

And the future? He said he isn't sure. But, for now, he said, "I'm perfectly content as long as they put up with me."

Last Updated:
01/31/2007, Eastern Daylight Time
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