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130 West Maxwell Blvd, Bldg 836
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6106

Vietnam pilot, former POW selected as 2016 Holm Center Distinguished Alumni


The Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps inducted retired Lt. Col. William R. Schwertfeger into the Distinguished Alumni program, July 22, 2016, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Schwertfeger was selected for this honor for his contribution to the Air Force ROTC mission and for his dedication to the Air Force while serving.

Schwertfeger’s military service spanned 20 years. He was commissioned through the Air Force ROTC program at Oklahoma State University. He went on to serve as an F-4 pilot during two tours in Vietnam where he accumulated over 1,000 combat hours spanning 325 combat missions. During his second tour, he was force to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a prisoner of war for 407 days until his release during Operation Homecoming. On the homefront, he served as a flight commander and deputy chief for the F-4 division at the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School and the 414th Fighter Weapons Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base and as an F-15 Eagle pilot with the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base. He concluded his career as the Air Force adviser to the Kansas National Guard at McConnell Air Force Base.

Schwertfeger earned an array of awards during his time in service including a Prisoner of War Medal, a Silver Star with two devices, a Distinguished Flying Cross with three devices, a Purple Heart with one device, a Bronze Star Medal, a Meritorious Service Medal with two devices, an Air Medal with six silver and four bronze oak leaf clusters, an Air Force Commendation Medal with one device, an Award with Valor device with two bronze oak leaf clusters, a Vietnam Service Medal with one silver and two bronze oak leaf clusters, a Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with device, and a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

The Air Force ROTC Distinguished Alumni plaque featuring Schwertfeger’s engraved photo and accomplishments hangs beside the previous distinguished alumni inductees in the Air Force ROTC Headquarters building here on Maxwell.

(SrA Alexa Culbert contributed to this article)