Leader Blues

Friday, July 18, 2008

TOP STORY > >Colonel gets plaudits for leading base

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader publisher

Richard E. Pluchinsky of Jacksonville, the retired Air Force colonel who was the base commander at Little Rock Air Force Base from 1989-91, was buried on Friday with full military honors at Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.

An honor guard from Little Rock Air Force Base also paid homage to Col. Pluchinsky at a memorial service at Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Pluchinsky, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 68, was assigned to Little Rock Air Force Base three times. He did two tours of duty in Vietnam and served in the first Gulf War in 1991.

Pluchinsky, who was a C-130 pilot, had flown 1,000 hours of combat in Southeast Asia.

At the memorial service, Ron Swann, a former civilian employee at Little Rock Air Force Base, recalled working with Pluchinsky, saying, “He was a hands-on person.”

“He was not afraid to work,” Swann said. “He played hard. He expected you to work hard.”

Pluchinsky decided to stay in Jacksonville when he retired from the Air Force.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he would talk about growing up in the crowded city and how kids made their own fun in the streets not far from where Mae West, Mel Brooks and Alan King were born.

He recalled swimming as a kid in the polluted East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn, near the old Diamond Sugar factory, which is being turned into luxury apartments.

An only child, he grew up in modest circumstances, but he attended LaSalle Military Academy on Long Island, N.Y., and graduated from Villanova University in 1962 with a degree in economics.

After completing officer-training school, he trained as a pilot at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia in 1965 and was assigned to Lockborn Air Force Base in Ohio as a C-130 pilot.

Pluchinsky went to Okinawa at the end of 1965 and flew airlift missions in South Vietnam, as well as night missions over North Vietnam and Laos. He returned to fly more missions there until 1973, when he became a reconnaissance staff officer in Guam supervising Strategic Air Command reconnaissance activities in the western Pacific. He was assigned to Little Rock Air Force

Base in 1974 and returned in 1978, when he was given command of the 314th Avionics Maintenance Squadron.

Pluchinsky completed Air War College in May 1981 and was assigned to Mobility Air Command headquarters as chief of the War and Mobility Plans Division and deputy chief of staff for logistics.

He transferred to Air Force headquarters at the Pentagon in August 1984 as chief of the logistics plans and operations division.

The colonel then was named deputy commander of the 314th Combat Support Group and then became base commander.

Pluchinsky played a key role in Operation Desert Shield in 1991, when he helped plan the flight of 16 C-130 transport planes from the 314th Tactical Airlift Wing at the Jacksonville air base.

According to a New York Times report, “A total of 575 crew members and maintenance personnel are stationed in the United Arab Emirates, including additional support personnel sent from Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington.

“The crews and support personnel are living in lines of drab, air-conditioned trailer structures. The structures were assembled within 48 hours on a strip near the runway.

“An Air Force planner, Col. Richard E. Pluchinsky, said that when the first members of the unit arrived, they slept in a huge hangar open to the desert air. There are still not enough trailers for all the men and woman, so some of them sleep in an air-conditioned lounge, crammed, the colonel said, ‘Body, body, body on the floor.’”

Col. Pluchinsky was never at a loss for words, and he always got the job done.