From Army Air Corps to US Air Force, 70-plus years later

  • Published
  • By Mark Wyatt
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
(This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)

In 1944, a year before the end of World War II, a 17-year-old Cambridge, Massachusetts, native and recent high school graduate was hired as a clerk-typist by the government to support the war effort -- only after her father signed a letter of permission.

Now 71 years later, Maria Bandouveres, the child of Greek parents who separately immigrated to the United States in 1914, reflects back on her long civil-service career and why she has stayed so long.

"To be honest, I have never thought about my length of service," she said. "I stay because I like the job; I like the people I work with. I have worked with so many great people through the years."

Bandouveres graduated from high school on June 6, 1944 (D-Day). School officials back then encouraged her and other girls to take the Civil Service Exam in order to go work for the government.

"A lot of the girls were encouraged to take the test because many of the boys were going off to war," she said, noting that girls were needed to fill roles at home. "I did well on the test and started working for the Army shortly after graduation."

First hired as a clerical-administartive-fiscal-1, or CAF-1, known today as the general schedule pay scale, Bandouveres was responsible for filing purchase orders at a South Boston Army Station.

After Germany's surrender in 1945, the organization closed. She then transferred to a Navy Supply Corps School at Harvard University working in the disbursement office manually typing travel checks for sailors.

When Japan surrendered three months later, her position would soon change as well.

In August 1946, two years into Bandouveres' career as a war service indefinite, she and many others were let go since their service was no longer needed after the war.

But she was quickly hired back to federal service by the Army Air Corps in November 1946, almost a year before the Air Force would become a separate service on Sept. 18, 1947 -- 68 years ago this month.

"I went to work on Albany Street at the Cambridge Field Station in the Position Classification Office typing job descriptions," Bandouveres said. "I worked there until we moved to Laurence G. Hanscom Field in the 1950s."

The Air Force base was once known as Laurence G. Hanscom Field, which was re-designated in 1974 as Laurence G. Hanscom Air Force Base and renamed again three years later when the Air Force decided to use last names only.

She remained in the clerical field as a clerk-typist for many organizations during those fledgling years of Air Force scientific research and development. Then in 1961, she found stability as a secretary when the Air Force formed the Electronic Systems Division (ESD), the precursor to the Electronic Systems Center (ESC) and the current Hanscom-based components of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.

As a result, in 1966, then-Maj. Gen. John W. O'Neill asked Bandouveres if she would be interested in being the ESD commander's secretary.

"General O'Neill was my first commander," she said. "I only worked for him for one year. He was a local boy from Brookline, Massachusetts, and was really very nice."

Bandouveres would go on to work for 17 of the 19 ESD/ESC commanders. Bandouveres did not highlight any one commander as her favorite, but said the time then-Lt. Gen. W.L. Creech was ESD commander from October 1974 to May 1977, stood out because she felt that she grew professionally during his tenure.

"I have been so lucky to have worked for so many terrific commanders," she said.

And when asked if there were specific memories that stood out, she recalled them not by the year they happened, but by who the commander was at the time.

She noted the day flying operations were terminated at Hanscom AB on Sept. 1, 1973.

"(Then-Maj. Gen. Albert R. Shiely Jr., the ESD commander from October 1971 to March 1974) was the commander when the aircraft left Hanscom for the final time," she said.

She also recalled the day when she was coming back from lunch and heard on the radio in the car that President John F. Kennedy had been shot, noting that former Maj. Gen. Charles Terhune Jr. was ESD commander at the time.

"We were listening to the radio all afternoon in the command section trying to find out what happened and whether or not he had survived," she said.

But she said she is often asked why she has stayed so long.

"Every three years or so I get a new commander, and every time that happens it's like starting a new job," she said. "Because each commander is different, and I have to learn their leadership style -- it's a learning process that keeps me focused."

Bandouveres was recently presented her 70-year federal service pin by the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. She received her 50-year pin from former Gen. Ronald W. Yates, the first commander of the Air Force Materiel Command, who served in that role from July 1992 to July 1995.

And as the Air Force celebrates its 68th birthday this month, Bandouveres has called the Air Force her employer ever since President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 when then-Gen. Carl A. Spaatz was appointed as the first Air Force chief of staff.

Thought to be one of the longest serving federal employees, when asked if she ever plans to retire, she paused and said of course she thinks about it, but has no immediate plans to do so.

"The people I have worked with through the years have been like family to me," she said. "I've been very fortunate."