Veteran Spotlight: Airman 1st Class Tim Flynn
FALMOUTH, Mass. — Tim Flynn served his country in the Air Force as an airman first class from 1963 to 1967 and is a Vietnam veteran.
Born in Newport, Ky., he enlisted at the age of 17 with his dad co-signing for him.
"Had a couple friends that were going in so I decided I wanted to as well," he remembered. His basic training took him to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. "It was hot as hell as it was in the summer and they gave us salt pills — guys were dropping like flies from heat exhaustion.
"I wanted to be a pilot, but they gave me a test and found out I was color blind. That killed any desire I had."
Airman Flynn was then offered the job of Air Police or working in a supply depot. He chose Air Police and did an eight-week training course at Lackland. His first assignment was to Otis AFB on Cape Cod. While on base, he became interested in being a sentry dog officer. He volunteered for Sentry Dog School and was sent back to Lackland AFB for another eight weeks of training. At the time, the only Sentry Dog Schools were located at Lackland and in Germany and Japan.
He talked about the training that goes into being a sentry dog officer.
"You learn obedience training with your dog, how to keep your dog under control, keep him or her away from other dogs. Other handlers would come by their cage and yell at them to get a reaction. It all comes down to you and your dog's relationship," he said. "When you have a new dog, you sit outside his cage and talk to him, let him get used to you. After a few days you give him light commands and, if he lets you, stroke him/her. Then you tell the kennel master you want to go in and put a collar on the dog and you take them out."
The toughest part, he recalled, "is getting them to go back into their cage."
Flynn came out of Otis AFB in September/October of 1965 with his new dog, Rommel, for weeks of training that included Rommel getting used to machine gunfire and explosions. He then left for Vietnam out of Kelly AFB on a C-130 cargo plane with a group of about 50 handlers and their dogs. They flew to Hamilton AFB in California, then to Hickham in Hawaii. They left
Hawaii but had to stop on Wake Island in the Pacific because of plane trouble.
While they waited for the plane to be fixed, they took the dogs for a walk on the beach.
"Wake Island is in the middle of nowhere," he said. "We had the dogs out of the beach to let them run. I remember seeing the Japanese pill boxes on the beach from World War II."
Then it was off to Saigon.
In Vietnam, one of his duties was to patrol the outer perimeter of airstrips and airports where there were highly explosive materials of gas and oil. Was he ever afraid?
"I was afraid every [expletive] night," Flynn said. "When your dog alerts, he's not playing games — something's out there, human or animal. That's when it gets tricky. We would call in an alert and the Jeeps with guns mounted on them would arrive."
He shared a story about the fog rolling in one night "so thick I could barely see Rommel at the end of his 6-foot leash."
"The report came in that there was a tiger on the prowl! I'm thinking, 'Jesus Christ!' I was patrolling a bomb dump. Thankfully, we never ran into the tiger," he said, adding, "sundown still affects me to this day. I still get very anxious."
When asked him what it was like to leave Rommel behind, he said, "it was tough. You never want to leave your dog. We went through a lot together and I didn't want to leave him. It was tough to do, you say goodbye and leave them."
Flynn said he did some research and found out he had another dog handler who worked with him for about a year and then lost track after that. "I don't know what happened to him," he said.
Thoughts on serving his country? "Had a bit of satisfaction that I served my country, glad I served," he said. "I saw a lot of corruption ... anyone that served in Vietnam, I support 100 percent."
He is the proud father of two girls, Shannon and Tieraney.
Airman 1 st Class Tim Flynn, thank you for your service to our great country and welcome home.
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