South Williamsport resident Ed Weinhoffer spent just four years in the U.S. Air Force but used his military experience to find a career in the computer industry.
A native of Shamokin, he joined the military shortly after graduating from of Lady of Lourdes High School in 1962.
“In Shamokin, you have three choices: work in a factory, go to college or join the military. I was done studying. I didn’t want to go to a factory.”
Weinhoffer entered the Air Force with two other young men from his hometown as part of the buddy plan. They three stayed together through basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas before receiving different assignments.
“I became a computer repairman,” he said.
That seemed to suit Weinhoffer who had scored high on the electronics portion of the military aptitude test. After training at Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Mississippi, he was assigned to the 862 Communications Squadron at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
There, he was responsible for fixing and maintaining the operation of computers, telephones and other communications equipment.
Minot at that time was an Air Defense Command being transferred into a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base.
“We maintained computers on the 465L Project,” he said.
The computers were used to communicate with SAC headquarters and other SAC bases, he said.
Opened in 1957, Minot was the home to both nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles and manned bombers and aerial refueling aircraft.
“I wasn’t a bombardier,” he said. “I was support staff. I never dwelled on the fact of the potential power we had in SAC.”
When Weinhoffer arrived at Minot, the base was the home to planes that included B-52s, KC-135s and F-16s.
“They were just putting in the missile silos then,” he said.
For a long time, Weinhoffer lived not in barracks, but in a trailer on the base.
He recalled many frigid days and nights at the base located near the Canadian border.
It was so cold, he said, that airmen didn’t “spit shine” their boots because “they would crack.”
“That was fine by me,” he said with a laugh. “It was one less job you had to worry about.”
He and other airmen were required to go through an Arctic survival school to learn how to contend with the cold.
Weinhoffer said he didn’t mind the duty either.
“The guys were all about the same age. We had a job to do,” he said. “What I liked about SAC, it was a 40-hour work week.”
While the base was somewhat remote and distant from any major cities, Weinhoffer said there were things to do in his off time. Lake Garrison wasn’t far off and offered outdoor recreation.
He said he took orders, didn’t “buck the system” and made his share of friends.
When his enlistment ended, he was able to land a job doing computer work with Sperry.
After a training period, he worked out of a military base — McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey as a computer tech.
He later relocated to Philadelphia, taking assignments for work at different military installations in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Still with Sperry, Weinhoffer eventually moved to Lycoming County in the early 1970s.
All told, he worked for Sperry for 26 years before retiring from the company at age 55.
His retirement didn’t last, and he soon went to work for Shop Vac, where he was in customer service and in technical support group.
He finally retired for good at age 62.
Weinhoffer served a number of years as a South Williamsport Borough councilman and has otherwise been involved in the community.
He and his wife, Carol, have volunteered as Little League hosts during World Series time.
He serves as financial officer for American Legion Post 1 Williamsport and is a member of the Lycoming County Veterans Council.
Looking back on his Air Force years, Weinhoffer said, “I think every person should spend time in the military after high school.”
He said he believes the military helps teach discipline and can serve as great transition in a young person’s life.
“You grow up. It gives you a chance to decide what you want to do,” he said.