Grissom Air Reserve Base is one of Miami County’s treasures. As Miami County’s largest employer, over 1,800 military, civilian and contractor personnel work there. Served electrically by Miami-Cass REMC, it is one of only five Air Force reserve bases in the nation. The 434th Air Refueling Wing, one of the key aerial refueling units in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command, calls Grissom home.
So does Col. Larry H. Shaw. Shaw is commander of the refueling wing. A third generation military man, Shaw’s father served in the Air Force for 28 years and his grandfather served in the Navy during World War II.
Shaw remembers going to the runway as a boy when his father was serving to watch F4 fighter-bombers fly overhead. He knew then that he, too, wanted to serve his country.
That he did. He earned his commission in 1988 from the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at the University of Nebraska. After leaving active duty, he arrived at Grissom in 1996. A year and a half later, he left for pilot’s training and returned in February 1999 as an assistant chief pilot. He spent the next 12 years serving at Grissom in a variety of positions. In June 2013, he left again, returning in July 2016, the same year he was promoted to colonel.
That promotion was especially meaningful for him since only two percent of those joining the military make it that far. But his proudest achievement was learning to fly.
Shaw’s favorite in-air story occurred during a mission over Afghanistan. He was responsible for refueling an A-10 jet aircraft. The pilot of the aircraft was a lieutenant and it was his first wartime experience. At 12,000 feet, the A-10 hooked up to refuel — then couldn’t disconnect once it was fueled up. After dragging the A-10 around for a while and returning to U.S. air space, the refueling crew of the tanker plane brought him up as close as possible to the plane and pushed up power while the A-10 pilot pushed back power. Finally, they were able to disconnect. The jet aircraft took some of the tanker with it, Shaw recalled. When the pilot landed, Shaw said his face was as white as a sheet.
The most difficult times
For Shaw, the most difficult and sacrificial times of his 30-year military career have been when he was deployed and away from his family. During his career, he’s spent over three years away from home. While on active duty, he was deployed 270 days over a five-year period. The time leading up to deployment is the most difficult, Shaw said, because once you are actually deployed, you’re driven by the mission. Married to his high school sweetheart, Kris, for 30 years, Shaw said his wife has been his “rock” whenever he’s been away.
One of Shaw’s special memories with Kris was meeting Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, when they flew home to Indiana to spend the Fourth of July weekend in nearby Culver. Shaw was struck with what a “genuine person” the vice president is.
One of the biggest shifts Shaw has seen in the military is that young servicemen and servicewomen are being deployed more frequently than they were when he began his career. He said the Air Force has been a great career for him. He advises those considering military service to “serve because you want to.”
As we approach Veterans Day on Nov. 11, all of us at Miami-Cass REMC thank Shaw — and all of our veterans — for their service and sacrifice.