Calnan still looks to the sky, thanks to the Air Force

Tess Nelson
The Red Oak Express

Every day Tom Calnan of Red Oak goes outside and looks to the sky, searching for clues as to what the weather will bring. It’s a habit he picked up in the Air Force, where he was a weather observer for more than three years.
“At that time I wasn’t interested in school, but I wanted a diploma. In the military, I could get a diploma,” recalled Calnan. “I knew I wasn’t tough enough to be a Marine and the Army wasn’t right for me. I wasn’t a swimmer at the time, so the Navy wasn’t for me, either. That left the Air Force.”
Calnan, a native of Boston, entered the Air Force in February 1960 and completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
“We were there for six to eight weeks. It was quite an experience, especially being in the barracks. I was an only child, so I went from having my own room to sharing quarters with 59 others. Initially, it was a shock to me,” Calnan said.
Prior to basic training, Calnan completed the Air Forces Qualifying Test. His highest score hinted he should go into intelligence or weather.
“I wasn’t asked what I preferred. I was told, ‘Well I hope you enjoy doing weather.’ I thought they would at least ask me what I’d like to do,” Calnan said.
Weather observation school was completed at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Ill. Calnan said the very first day in class he was told something that rang true since.
“This guy said, ‘From this day forward, you’ll always be interested in weather and when you leave your house, you’ll look up,’ and he was right. That is exactly what I do,” Calnan said.
He added he still finds himself examining weather maps on television during the weather forecast and checking the skies when outside.
“Weather is very interesting. As a weather observer I would record weather conditions. There were certain numbers and symbols used to convey what was happening outside.”
Once he completed weather school, Calnan was stationed atLoring Air Force Base in northern Maine, not far from the Canadian border.
“I recall one winter day the weather was terrible. I’m out there in my observation post and a colonel came out to see me. He said, “Airman, I’ve got jets that need to land and you’re not giving me a good weather forecast. “ He is trying to read all the machines and is asking all these questions. He was on the verge of commanding me to change the weather forecast, but I wouldn’t fudge the reports. He eventually left frustrated, but I maintained my integrity and that was important to me.”
After two years in Maine, Calnan was transferred to Guam, where he remained for the remainder of this time in the service.
“It was a big change from Maine,” Calnan said. “As a weather observer in Guam, the weather was always around 70 degrees and virtually never changed. On a daily basis, because it’s an island in the middle of the ocean, it was always extremely humid.”
He said the only weather issue were typhoons but added he was in Guam during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which made things a little more tense than usual. He added it was when he was in Guam that he really dove into religion and Christianity.
“It’s here where I felt the calling to go into teaching.”
After he was honorably discharged from the military, Calnan returned to Boston, where he received a Bachelors degree and Masters degree in education. He taught in various public and private schools in New York State and Nebraska. He then attended Grace Bible School, where he met his wife, Linda. The two of them continued to mold children through education for several years; mostly at Christian schools. He even received a Masters in theology and history and began preaching in churches.
In 2004, when Linda’s father got ill, they moved to Red Oak to be closer to him. Linda passed away several years ago. Tom enjoys reading, specifically the Bible, in his free time. He added the military was an experience he cherishes, as it taught him who he wanted to be as an adult.


The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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