Ron Bower was a self-proclaimed terrible student. Somehow, he managed to get into and then through an undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University —overcoming one particularly low semester when he took sixteen hours and passed just three. He recalls with fondness how his dear dad, Robert Bower, said not one word when he saw the grades. His dad’s quiet grace allowed Ron to take full responsibility and adjust course on his own.
From Summer 1959-Spring 1963, Ron was in the R.O.T.C. Army Corps of Cadets, which was then mandatory at A&M. He majored in business administration but spent most of his time studying geometry (at the local pool hall) and statistics (playing poker in the dorm).
On February 7, 1962, during his junior year, Ron went on a blind date with a Baylor University beauty, Peggy Moore. She was an excellent student. (Opposites attract?) Their romance took off. When they met, Peggy had just 14 weeks of college to go before graduating from Baylor. During that 14 weeks, Ron hitch-hiked from College Station to Waco 28 times. Even with all the travel, Ron’s academic standing improved significantly under Peggy’s loving and relentless tutelage.
Deemed a distinguished military student by the next Fall, Ron was selected to be one of 16 to receive complementary flight training during his senior year. He received his private pilot license in early 1963, having soloed in November 1962. Prior to his flight training, Ron had never flown in any type of aircraft.
Ron and Peggy were married on June 7, 1963 (and remain so to this day). Pictured below: Bob and Maureen Bower; Ron and Peggy; Melville and A.K. Moore.
In October of that same year, Ron reported for active duty as an Armor Second Lieutenant at Fort Knox, KY, where he was rated in the top 10% of his Armor school class. In December, Ron was assigned to Fort Hood, TX as a Recon Platoon Leader in an Armor Battalion. He was responsible for 30 enlisted men and a variety of tanks and personnel carriers, and reported directly to the Battalion Commander. Because there was no aviation branch in the Army, Ron didn’t fly again until August of ’64, when he reported to Helicopter Primary Flight School in Mineral Wells, TX, and then Advanced Flight School in Fort Rucker, AL. He was promoted to First Lieutenant in the Spring of ’65.
Ron received orders to Korea in June of ’65, where he flew Hiller observation helicopters on the DMZ (demilitarized zone) border with North Korea. Peggy had just secured a job in Seoul as a house mother in a dorm for military dependents, when Ron was notified by his Battalion Commander that the Army was assembling a new mobile helicopter unit to be sent to Viet Nam. Though given an opportunity to bow out since he was married, Ron chose to carry out his duty to country and do what he had been trained to do. By October, he was an Aircraft Commander and Fire Team Leader of Huey gunships in combat in Viet Nam.
As part of the 1st Infantry Division based at Phu Loi, about 20 miles north of Saigon, Ron lived in a tent and flew fire support missions for 1st Infantry units. His chopper was hit in the tail by enemy fire on multiple occasions, but he had no crashes, injuries or loss of life on board his helicopter or the other three for which he was responsible. Ron was awarded 11 Air Medals for combat. (Pictured below: First Lt. Bower receives an Air Medal for actively participating in aerial missions over hostile territory, from Col. R.D. Offer, commanding officer of the 8th U.S. Army Corps in Austin.)
After his 9 months in combat and 3 years of active service (and having moved with Peggy to 13 different homes), Ron returned to Texas with the federal G.I. Bill and an unconditional acceptance letter to the MBA program at The University of Texas at Austin. His maroon heart endured the sea of burnt orange for 11 months. (UT’s orange Longhorns and A&M’s maroon Aggies used to be The Rivalry among Texas colleges.) Ron studied constantly to get through his MBA expeditiously, and Peggy helped him become a better writer in the evenings. By day, she taught English, History and Typing in a public school to keep the couple in Tex-Mex. Thanks to additional support from the Texas G.I. Bill, Ron paid a grand total of $216.28 for graduate school —including fees, healthcare, parking, athletics and student events! With his MBA in hand, Ron was immediately offered a job at IBM in Austin. (See ’68-’82: business.)
While working for IBM, Ron completed his Army obligation by serving in the National Guard for 3 years, and was promoted to the rank of Captain on February 21st, 1968.
55 years flying
1994 around the world eastbound & solo
1996 around the world westbound
’59-’68: school, love, war
This page is next –> ’68-’82: business
’82-on: aviation sales
life lessons from flying