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Bill Schwertfeger

Lt. Col. (Ret.) Bill Schwertfeger was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force through the Reserve Officer Training Corps June 30, 1967.

After completing undergraduate pilot training at Vance AFB, Okla. in September 1968, Schwertfeger became an F-4 Phantom II pilot systems operator, serving with the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai AFB. While with the 433rd, Schwertfeger located targets in North Vietnam and Laos and directed other fighters to the targets.

He was shot down Feb. 16, 1972, by a Russian SA2 missile. He and his weapons systems officer were captured by North Vietnamese Army soldiers and sent to the Hanoi Hilton. He was a Prisoner of War for 407 days. Schwertfeger was tortured for information about aircraft systems. He resisted the torture and worked with the new POWs, teaching them to communicate, resist and survive. 

From his return to the United States in 1973, to his retirement in 1988, he served in a variety of fighter pilot positions, upgrading to the F-15 Strike Eagle and became an instructor at the AF Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nev. Schwertfeger’s time as a POW gave him a desire to give back through presentations to military and civilian groups about his faith, pride in country, sense of service and determination to succeed. He has taught leadership classes at several universities and visits with student pilots at Vance AFB, Okla. speaking on the military code of conduct. 

His message is, “Freedom is not Free” with an emphasis on duty, country, honor, faith, communication and leadership.