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Actor Chuck Norris Was in the Air Force During the Cold War

A person pins insignia on a Marine.
Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris, left, pins a rank on a Marine during a promotion ceremony at Camp Taqaddum in Al Anbar province, Iraq, Nov. 2, 2006.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Alicia J. Brito
VIRIN: 061102-M-9578B-424Y

Actor and martial artist Chuck Norris got his start in the martial arts while serving in the military. 

In 1958, Norris enlisted in the Air Force and was given the military occupational specialty of air police, which today is called Air Force security forces. His goal was to have a career in law enforcement. 

After a year at an Air Force base in Arizona, Norris deployed to Osan Air Base, South Korea. It was there that he started training in judo on base. 

One day while outside the base in the city of Osan, he discovered a dojo studio where Tang Soo So, a Korean martial art similar in some respects to karate, was taught. He took an intense interest in it and worked hard to master it. 

March Air Force Base, California, was his last assignment. It was there that he resumed judo training before being honorably discharged in August 1962. 

After Air Force service, he continued practicing Tang Soo Do, as well as taekwondo, and eventually became the first Westerner to be awarded an eighth-degree black belt in taekwondo.  

Two people talk while standing inside a Navy ship.
Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris, left, meets Navy Capt. J. R. Haley, commander of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, in the Atlantic Ocean, June 24, 2005.
Photo By: Navy Seaman Sheldon Rowley
VIRIN: 050624-N-5248R-002Y

Norris credits his military experience with instilling a sense of self-confidence, character and discipline in his acting and martial arts, as well as life.  

Norris was born in Ryan, Oklahoma, March 10, 1940. 

In the 1960s, he became a karate instructor and opened a chain of karate schools in the Los Angeles area. Celebrity clients at his schools included Steve McQueen, Chad McQueen, Bob Barker, Priscilla Presley, Donny Osmond and Marie Osmond. 

A group poses for a photo.
Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris, center, visits airmen of the Air Force’s 386th Air Expeditionary Wing security forces in Iraq, Sept. 13, 2007.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder
VIRIN: 070913-F-6470S-007Y

In 1968, he won the Professional Middleweight Karate Champion title, which he held for six consecutive years. 

While competing, Norris met actor Bruce Lee, who at the time was known for the TV series "The Green Hornet." They developed a friendship, as well as training and working relationships. 

A person with gun peers around a corner.
Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris is photographed on the set of "The Delta Force" movie in 1986.
Photo By: Yoni S. Hamenahem
VIRIN: 860913-O-D0439-001Y

That friendship resulted in the pair starring in the 1972 movie "Return of the Dragon," which is also known as "The Way of the Dragon." His TV and film career soon took off, with Norris often starring in action-figure roles involving martial arts. 

A new martial arts style, Chun Kuk Do, was established in 1990 by Norris.  

In 2001, Norris received the Veteran of the Year Award from the Air Force.  

In 2007, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway made Norris an honorary Marine.  

Over the years, Norris has also been involved in supporting veterans, and he has visited troops overseas.


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