Richard G. Villa, Class of 1944

January 05, 2001
Santa Paula High School
By B. J. Harding, President, SPUHS Alumni Association A native Santa Paulan, Richard is one of the seven children born to Herman and Guillerma Guerrero Villa. The other siblings include Theodore, Mickey, Eva (‘41), Alex (‘41), Laura (‘46), and Herman (‘57).Educated in the local schools, Richard was the Class Vice President in his freshman and sophomore years at SPHS, and the Class President in his junior year. Because we were in the middle of World War II Richard was called, along with 21 other classmates, to join the ranks of the military.Richard was sent to the Army Air Corps for pilot training, and commissioned 2nd Lieutenant at Foster Field, Texas. Because of his bilingualism, he was assigned as flying instructor in the Lend-Lease program. At Williams Field in Arizona he trained officers from Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador and Brazil, as well as those from China, the Philippines and the United Kingdom. He also served as flight safety officer at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona.At the conclusion of World War II Richard returned to Santa Paula to work for the City of Santa Paula, Bennett Engineering, and Shell Oil Co. He also served the community as secretary/treasurer of the local 20/30 Club.Richard was in the Volunteer Air Reserve Unit. At this time he learned that his brother Herman was killed in Korea, and Richard volunteered for active duty in April of 1953. He and Bob Grainger (‘42) left the same day to return to active duty. After a refresher course at Basic Instructor School, Richard was assigned to Military Assistance Advisory Group in Madrid and Salamanca, Spain as flight instructor for the purpose of establishing a Spanish Air Force instructors school.Richard was with the Navy on an exchange program with the Fleet Air Gunnery Unit and VA-126 Attack Squadron. In a lapse of judgment, he acquiesced to the “Navy way” and carrier qualified in the FJ-4B “Fury” (catapult from and land on an aircraft carrier). He completed the U.S. Air Force Instrument Pilot Instructor School, and took a two-year advisor tour to the Imperial Iranian Air Force. It was on one of his flights from Baghdad to Naples that he ran into his childhood neighbor, Charlie Ante (‘38), whom he hadn’t seen since Pearl Harbor.
Richard participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis and had a rotational tour of “alert duty” at Cigli Air Base, Turkey, and spent 13 months in Vietnam as an F-100 tactical fighter pilot, where he celebrated his 43rd birthday flying over 400 hours in 274 combat missions. He was sent to Japan, where the “Pueblo Incident” commanded everyone’s attention, and was then sent to Korea and closed his career at England Air Force Base, Louisiana.Among Richard’s many earned honors are the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 15 OLCs, the Air Force Commendation Medal with two OLCs, and the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and Small Arms Marksmanship Medal. He is qualified to pilot over 30 types of aircraft.Richard retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Major in June 1973 and resumed his education at Santa Ana College and Cal State Fullerton, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts (with honors) and Master in Art. An adjunct to his Master of Arts Exhibit in Sculpture was an invitation to manage an art gallery at the Friendly Center, a community service organization, as executive officer.Richard and his wife Jocelyn have two sons, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren, and are spending their retirement enjoying the sights of the world.

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