SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE -- After almost 40 years of dedicated service to his country in both the Air Force and the Navy, Lt. Col. Ray Bowen, Air Mobility Command technology advancement branch chief, is set to retire later this year.
During his time serving, Bowen has been an aircraft weapons systems trainer instructor, commander of Concord Naval Weapons Station Explosive Ordnance Team 9, Delta Flight commander of Flight Training Squadron 452, directorate chief of Strategic and Tactical Communications, Naval Reserve Special Warfare Unit One commander, deputy commander of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, as well as various other duties and positions.
Bowen said he joined the Air Force in 1977 as a radio relay technician, hoping to gain experience with the Armed Forces Network to enter the civilian broadcasting career field, but decided during his first Air Force assignment to Hahn AB, Germany, that what he really wanted to do was fly.
“I left active duty and returned to San Diego to finish college,” said Bowen. “I finished my degree in Aviation Management, but the wait to re-enter the Air Force was nearly one year. I could enter the Navy immediately after graduation so I chose to pursue my aviation career in the Navy.”
Bowen received his Navy Flight Officer Wings of Gold in September 1982 and flew as a Tactical Coordinator throughout the Pacific and Indian on the P-3B/C Orion aircraft accumulating just over 1,500 hours.
He said he enjoyed his time as a student at Mather AFB and he knew he wanted to come back as an instructor. Bowen was assigned to the USAF’s 452d Flight Test Squadron & Naval Air Training Unit flying the T-43A Gator, instructing both Navy and Air Force advanced navigation students. He completed more than 1,500 instructor flight hours and was eventually recognized as the Navy’s Naval Flight Instructor of the Year. After all of his assignments, his tour as an instructor at Mather AFB still remains his favorite.
After departing active duty in the early 1990’s, Bowen entered the Naval Reserves while always wanting to be a part of the Air Force again.
“While participating in a training course at the Joint Special Operations University, Hurlburt Field Air Force Base, Fla., immediately following 9/11, I mentioned to one of the instructors that I was about to retire from the Naval Reserves,” said Bowen. “He told me that with my aviation, communications and special operations background I should contact Air Force Personnel Center and pursue an inter-service transfer.”
He was offered several bases to choose from in the 33S career field, now 17D. Citing the 9/11 terrorist attack and the Air Force needs at the time, Bowen knew he would regret his decision if he did not pursue the opportunity that had finally presented itself—to be back in the Air Force.
“Since my wife Julia had been a flight nurse in the Air Force Reserves in the past, and I really wanted to be back in the Air Force doing anything, we decided to pursue the adventure,” said Bowen. “I only anticipated maybe two assignments and then retire, but now nearly 16 years have passed.”
Though not uncommon for retirees to enjoy every minute of their new-found free time relaxing, Bowen said he plans to spend some of his time volunteering in Tyler, Texas, where he and his wife will be moving.
“I had been a volunteer firefighter during my assignment in Syracuse, N.Y., and I will do that again in my community, but I know I have to get in better physical condition,” said Bowen. “Since I am also a rated civilian pilot, I will become involved in the Tyler Squadron Civil Air Patrol. The rest of the time will be relaxing or traveling with Julia, tennis, and trips to other parts of the country to meet up with former military members to go fly fishing.”