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The Miami Herald wrote:Homestead base commander flying off into retirement
COL. RANDALL G. FALCON, COMMANDER OF THE HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, PREPARES TO STEP DOWN AFTER SERVING FOR 34 YEARS AS A PILOT
Posted on Thu, May. 15, 2008
BY KYLE BAILEY
Special to The Miami Herald
The man who at 9 years old knew he wanted to fly for a living soon will pass the baton of leadership of the 482nd Fighter Wing on Sunday at Homestead Air Reserve Base.
It won't be easy.
He has spend his entire career -- 34 years -- flying for Uncle Sam.
As a boy growing up in Baton Rouge, La., Col. Randall G. Falcon (that's right, Colonel Falcon) constantly dreamed of flying, and by the time he finished high school, it was clear what he wanted to spend his life doing.
''When I was a kid, we had a pool in our backyard, and I'd teach swimming lessons with my mom,'' Falcon said, ''and by swimming I'd pretend I could fly. That was my dream, but I knew I couldn't fly by just swimming; it had to be something much more.''
For Falcon, 55, that ''something'' was the U.S. Air Force and a college degree.
''Now I knew I had to switch from playing around and go to college,'' he said.
Falcon did just that, going on to Louisiana State University, where he joined the ROTC and graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting.
With his eyes fixed on the ultimate goal of soaring in the air for the United States, he earned a scholarship from the ROTC and committed to serving in the Air Force.
Years of military training took him across the United States.
Eventually, the Air Force brought Falcon back to Louisiana, where his son Chad was born.
But two years later Falcon was sent north -- about as far north as you can get -- to Fairbanks, Alaska.
It was that uncertainty of active duty that took its toll on Falcon and his family. So he moved to the Air Force Reserve. He could still fly, after all.
''It's a very intense lifestyle, but to be able to see the reef and the different colors of water from such a high altitude is beautiful,'' Falcon said. ''Flying solo was a defining moment for me.''
But make no mistake: His 4,350 hours in the air was never about sightseeing.
Falcon flew 63 combat missions in the Persian Gulf and Bosnia combined. He served in Iraq during the first Gulf War.
''There were some scary moments, and there were times that you were just lucky,'' Falcon said.
One of those moments occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, as Falcon, who happened to be on a congressional visit that day, felt the impact of American Airlines Flight 77 as it demolished the west side of the Pentagon.
''You could feel the whole building move,'' Falcon said.
He escaped injury; he decided at the last minute to take the subway to the Pentagon instead driving in a rental car, which would have put his car in the path of that doomed flight.
Now Falcon -- responsible for command, control and maintenance of a squadron of 25 F-16 fighter jets at the Homestead base as well as more than 1,600 wing personnel -- will retire with pride.
''The things we do -- and the things I can't even tell you this base does to help foreign countries and protect the United States -- is something that gives me the greatest satisfaction,'' he said.
Now he wonders if he can handle the slow pace of retirement, but he looks forward to spending more time with his family in their home in Key Largo.
''I'm definitely not going to sit at home on the couch,'' he said, ''but I think I'm ready to experience what many other people have. It'll be a nice relief.''
For now, Falcon said he's enjoying the last days of flying for the Air Force Reserves.
''I'm certainly going to miss flying the F-16; it's the Porsche of airplanes,'' said Falcon, who officially retires on June 6.
''But I'm going to see the water close up.''
Col. Falcon's Change of Command ceremony will be 10 a.m. Sunday at the Homestead Air Reserve Base.
Source: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/miami_d ... 32245.html
Associated small-sized photo with original caption: