Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Robert Whelan began his 20-year Air Force career as a second lieutenant in 1956, training to become a pilot. Throughout his career, Whelan was stationed at Kelly Air Force Base, Texas; the Philippines; and Edwards AFB, Calif.
While serving in Vietnam, Whelan flew 142 sorties, one of which was to save soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division while they were pinned down by enemy fire. His efforts were recognized with a Distinguished Flying Cross and a Letter of Commendation from the U.S. Army.
Back at Edwards, Whelan’s career led him into a major part of the production and testing of the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets. One of his last missions was to take an F-15 Eagle to Europe to introduce the fighter jet and the Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS, aircraft to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Whalen’s greatest take-away from his military service was that “by your actions, you are affecting people – either good or bad.”