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Charlie Simpson

Veterans in Blue 2017

Charlie Simpson poses for a photo at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Philip, South Dakota, February 8, 2017. Simpson served for 30 years, originally entering the field of aircraft maintenance before transitioning to intercontinental ballistic missile duty, where he took part in the event of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class James R. Crow)

Charlie Simpson was commissioned as an Air Force second lieutenant in November 1959 and retired as a colonel in August 1989 after nearly 30 years of service. Simpson initially served as an aircraft maintenance officer and transitioned to intercontinental ballistic missile duty 18 months later. "The threat we faced as a nation was very real back then, and a lot of focus was placed on the ICBM program," Simpson said. One of the toughest challenges he faced in his career was the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. "I was sitting at work on Oct. 20 and we were preparing a Titan I missile for an exercise in a few days when I received a call from the Mountain Home Air Force Base (Idaho) command post to put the missile back on alert," he said. "We didn't know the reason for this until President Kennedy made his speech in regard to the Cuban missile crisis," said Simpson. "We went to a 24-hour schedule and everything at work became very tense as we waited to see what would happen." The tension finally came to an end when the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw all nuclear missiles from Cuba. After retirement, Simpson has remained an active member in the missileer community traveling and sharing his story.