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A General Once, A Cowboy Always
by USAF 153rd Airlift Wing - July 28, 2014

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U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Harold Reed (retired)CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Many who join the military, often right out of high school, experience a culture shock when they begin training. Regimented responsibilities, around the clock and physical labor on command are not for everyone. It becomes a shakedown wakeup of sorts, seemingly unbearable – unless your life before the service was just as rigorous.

For a former brigadier general who voluntarily joined the military in 1974, recently retired Brig. Gen. Harold Reed believes his upbringing on an Iowa farm prepared him for what would become an accomplished military career of more than 40 years.

While cattle, chickens and crop fields have not much in common with airplanes, flight suits and call signs, there were parallels between life on the farm and in the service.

“Don't ever say it's not my job.”

“Everyone pitches in on the farm,” he said, adding that in order to get a job done, it became a family affair – grandparents, cousins and all.

There were chicken days, and no doubt in Iowa, sweet corn days. Everyone worked till the job was done – picking, shucking, cutting, blanching and bagging. Not working was not an option.

“Don't ever say it's not my job” was not just a set of words to prevent complaining, but rather Reed said it was the farm culture.

“Work hard. Play hard.”

A motto often said by the former C-130 Hercules aviator throughout his career was also a strong theme on the farm. No doubt, they all worked hard, balancing work with school and extracurricular activities.

However, Sundays were special. The family attended church and in the afternoon they would sometimes take naps. Picnics together, fishing in the creek and hunting squirrels and rabbits were also regular activities of the “down day.” It was their time to “recharge their batteries,” Reed said.

Playing hard could be a bit rough and tough at times, but all in good fun.

Reed's older brother Bud recalls the time when he and a cousin wrapped Reed up in a comforter and rolled him down the a stairs of their two-story home. He said he knew his brother was “special” when he came out of that blanket with a smile, actually liking it.

While the farm was a year-round lifestyle for Reed, so were sports. He was involved in football, baseball, wrestling and track – the “sportster” of the group, Bonnie said.

He was his school's first state wrestling champion and also captain of a conference-winning football team. Reed fully admits he liked to win, to be the best at everything he did. He played a position on the football field normally done by larger, taller boys - pulling guard, but that did not stop him.

Both siblings remember their younger brother as a deeply talented athlete with a drive to get the job done – any job – just as he did on the farm.

“When he puts his mind to something, he does it and he does it well, and has ever since junior high,” Bonnie said.

He may have traded tractors and green fields for big birds and blue skies, but through it all he has always been the same ole farm boy from Iowa.

by USAF 153rd Airlift Wing
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2014

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