Military veterans are often modest about their accomplishments and the lasting contributions of their service. Sam Eckenrode and Air Force veteran Malcolm Kelley are both from Yellow Springs and have known each other a long time, but Eckenrode find that she's still learning new things about Kelley’s career.
Samantha Eckenrode (SE): Malcolm, I think I've known you since I was about ten and you were always sort of in the background. It wasn't until maybe, I don't know, a couple months ago, I realized that you had retired from the Air Force. And did you, when you were little, did you dream of one day being in the Air Force
Malcolm Kelley (MK): Nope, not at all.
SE: You told me that there was something, a stock answer you always give when people ask what are the most interesting things you did in the Air Force?
MK: Well, gee, there's so many. Basically, getting thrown in the deep end with an unsolvable problem and having to come up with some way to do it, and successfully doing it. I was a Munitions Officer initially assigned to Wright Patterson Air Force Base with the B-52s. It was during the Vietnam War, 1969, 1970. It worked out okay. I went to then went to Korea, where I was the Wing Weapons Safety Officer. From there, I went to England with the F-111 Units. That's the aircraft that was designed to be a threat to Moscow. It goes at Mach one or higher 1 or higher at 100 feet off the deck. Russia didn't have anything to counter that.
SE: Was your title the same all along, or did you keep changing titles?
MK: It was basically Wing Weapons Safety Officer, in each case. What I was doing was I would go out, find a problem that had never been acknowledged, and devise a solution to it.
SE: Well, what were some of the problems that you came up with?
MK: Well, one of the overreaching one that affect virtually everyone is hot cockpits from the sun. Well, nobody can turn the sun off, so you can't solve that. Well, yes, you can, with cockpit solar shields, I developed the design, after much thrashing around, and came up with designs for virtually every airplane. Lowered temperatures by 60 to 80 degrees on the inside...
MK: ...and it's been estimated that the savings from my two year, two hundred thousand dollars, part-time, one-man project saves four hundred and forty billion dollars a year.
MK: To date that's about eight billion dollars. That's not a bad thing.
SE: That’s quite an accomplishment. Well, I really appreciate your willingness to come and talk to me today. It's been fascinating. Thank you, Malcolm.
MK: Thank you.
Malcolm Kelly and Sam Eckenrode's conversation took place at WYSO as part of StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative which visited the Miami Valley last summer. Veterans’ Voices on WYSO is presented by Wright-Patt Credit Union with additional support from CareSource. This story was edited by Jim Kahle and Will Davis and created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.