Howland grad got history lesson while in Air Force
WARREN — John Barhoover said he joined the U.S. Air Force back at the turn of the century because of the need for an education.
He got more than he bargained for.
Barhoover, who spent 17 years in military service, said he never dreamed of visiting such places in the world, like Italy, Spain, Ireland, Germany and South Korea.
“I really had a good time in Korea. It is a wonderful place with the sights, the culture and the atmosphere,” said the 2001 graduate of Howland High School who now is a Trumbull County sheriff’s deputy working security at many of downtown Warren’s governmental buildings.
While in Korea, Barhoover said he served in the 99th Air Expeditionary Squadron, a modern-day version of the 99th squadron that included the famed African-American Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.
“It was an honor to serve in that squadron,” Barhoover said.
Most of his years in the Air Force were spent on the flight line doing airplane mechanics work, Barhoover said, with time as a quality-assurance inspector as well as flight engineer. In addition, he worked security in the city of Taubuk, Saudi Arabia, and at Joint Base Balad, the Iraq installation used by the American military after the 2003 Gulf War.
However, his most memorable day as an airplane mechanic, Barhoover said, came when he was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in the southern California desert when he met famed pilot Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier. Only at the time, it was not a pleasant experience, he said.
“I like to tell everybody that was the day that Chuck Yeager kicked me off an airplane,” Barhoover laughed.
In retelling the story, Barhoover said he was working on a fighter plane when “this old man” came up wanting to fly.
“Yeager was on the base to participate in an air show and things got a little hostile when I asked him what did he think he was doing,” Barhoover said.
The famed pilot then told the young airman, “Do you know who I am?” and “Have you ever heard of the ‘Right Stuff?'”
Barhoover said no to both questions and angrily slammed his wrench down and stormed off the plane.
Barhoover said he knew he was getting into trouble after he got back to the barracks, saying “some old man kicked me off the plane” and his colleagues told him who Yeager was.
“The base general called me into the office,” Barhoover said, also noting the senior officer named Gen. Doug Pearson was the first F-15 pilot to shoot down a satellite.
“I was only there two weeks and now I was learning fast about Air Force history,” Barhoover said.
The story had a somewhat pleasant ending as Barhoover said it was Yeager who about two years later pinned a third stripe on Barhoover as he was promoted to senior airman.
“I was in chow line, and I went up to shake his hand and he said to me, ‘I bet you know who I (expletive) am now!” he laughed.
Another memorable incident came on a September day the summer of his first year in the Air Force while he was in tech school at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas.
“I walked in and looked up at the television screen and asked “What movie are you watching?’ Barhoover said in explaining that’s how he found out the twin towers in New York City were being attacked. “As soon I said that, the second tower was being attacked.”
Barhoover said he did get an associate degree in aeronautical maintenance in the Air Force. Afterward, he received a bachelor degree in communications from Hiram University.
After his discharge, Barhoover joined the police academy and later was hired by the sheriff’s department.
“In the military, I learned to have respect for public service,” Barhoover said, “and since then, that has been my life’s service.”