2 of the 148th Fighter Wing of Duluth among the first Flight of Honor inductees
The Honor Flight is a new commemoration program to commemorate retired members of the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth and the 133rd Airlift Wing at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Joint Air Reserve Station.
Major General Wayne C. Gatlin and Chief Master Sgt. Jerome A. Blazevic will represent the 148th Fighter Wing in the inaugural class. Their names will appear in the monuments of both bases.
âTheir names will be etched in granite for years to come, and that is long overdue,â said Bill McEwen, a longtime member of the 148th who retired as a Master Sgt at Headquarters. the Joint Force of the Minnesota National Guard in St. Paul.
McEwen was among the organizers of the new program, which seeks to replicate the success of the Minnesota Army National Guard’s Court of Honor.
The late Chief Master Sgt. JÃ©rÃ´me A. Blazevic. Contribution / 148th Fighter Wing
âThe Army National Guard has had its courtyard since 1933, and I guess about a year and a half ago we were like, ‘Why don’t we have one? “said McEwen.
The first induction ceremony takes place Sunday at the 133rd Airlift Wing. The ceremony will take place in Duluth next year and will switch between bases every year.
In addition to the Duluthians, the inaugural class includes five members of the 133rd:
Major-General John R. Dolny: flew 134 combat missions during World War II; longtime wing commander in the 133rd.
Brig. General Ray S. Miller: joined the State Guard in 1920; his seven-day trip in a biplane, crossing half the country, contributed to the formation of a flying squadron and later the Air National Guard.
Collar. Mary Ann Mecom: First woman of the 133rd promoted to the rank of colonel, within 25 years as chief nurse.
Collar. Julia E. Eszlinger-Jensen: Two tours in Vietnam; first nurse to be appointed to the Air National Guard Medical Advisory Committee.
Staff Sgt. Derrick J. Schmitt: first guard to be part of an elite counterterrorism force; later a first sergeant at the 133rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
Jerome Blazevic, in his military uniform, leading the Boy Scouts as Chief Scout in 1960. Contribution / 148th Fighter Wing
McEwen knew and admired the two winners of the 148th – Gatlin, a decorated fighter pilot and trained grassroots photographer, and Blazevic, a longtime senior medical technician who ran the Fighter Wing Health Clinic for decades until upon retirement.
âThe name haunts us,â David Blazevic said, half-jokingly of his father.
David Blazevic, 64, of New Duluth, is one of three sons of the late Jerome Blazevic and his wife, Elizabeth. The three sons also retired from the 148th Fighter Wing.
âWhen people hear his name, it’s amazing the connections he had and the people he knew,â said David, recalling the decades his father also spent as a cross swimming instructor. -American red and scout leader for local scouts.
“His military career began near the end of World War II and that meant everything to him,” said David, recalling how one of his father’s first roles in the US military was to lead participants and dignitaries at the Nuremberg trials. He even transported Jewish survivors to Israel.
According to family history, Blazevic was made responsible for the base health clinic in 1954 after command staff heard his complaints about the medical section. He ran the clinic for 30 years and was called up several times to work at the Pentagon, until his retirement in 1985.
The Air Guard clinic had the same specifications as an Air Force clinic and everything Blazevic had to do in terms of inspections and reports, he did it around his close attention to day-to-day operations.
âHe was almost a workaholic, and he just gave hours off and comp time that he never used,â David said. âHe was up there pretty much every weekend. “
David said his father and Gatlin had known each other from his childhood in Duluth and “they had a very friendly working relationship when Col. Gatlin was the base commander.”
Wayne Gatlin straps his parachute before a flight. Contribution / 148th Fighter Wing
In fact, Wayne Gatlin Jr. recalled, âAfter my father bailed out a (Lockheed) T-33 in 1975, Chief Master Sgt. Blazevic looked after him at the clinic. He had some complications and ‘Blaz’ would come down and change his dressings and help with physiotherapy. He was the same kind of man as my father.
Blazevic died at age 91 in 2017. Gatlin died in 2019 at age 94.
Gatlin was modest in the face of those who would honor him, his son said. He and Blazevic were both proud members of the Greater Generation.
âHe was the epitome of what a man should be – a great leader, a great father, who loved his family and his country deeply,â Wayne Jr. said. âHe never did that for himself. . ”
Wayne Jr., 60, of Duluth, was one of three children, including two sisters, of Wayne and Lucille Gatlin. All three children will be in attendance on Sunday, said Wayne Jr.
Combined between his career as an Air Force combat pilot and leadership positions with the 148th and the Minnesota Air National Guard, their father completed 42 years of military service. It flew 55 missions during WWII, once downing a German jet, a Messerschmitt Me 262, along with a propeller-driven P-51 Mustang.
âHe’s one of the few people who has done this,â McEwen said.
Gatlin is a member of the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame, a civilian company that has been among the top honors in the state for Air Guard members so far with the arrival of the Flight of Honor.
âIt will be totally different,â McEwen said. “This is strictly a military program, honoring the military.”
F-89 over Duluth. Contribution / Collection of Major-General Wayne C. Gatlin
While piloting airplanes was his first love, and he had accumulated over 6,700 hours in over a dozen airplanes, Gatlin was also a skilled and skilled photographer, documenting the 34-year history of the 148th Wing. hunting with his photos.
âHe loved aerial photography and he was great at it,â Wayne Jr. said. âHe took a lot of great photos of the Twin Ports. “
F-102s in formation, June 1969. Contribution / Collection of Major-General Wayne C. Gatlin.