Last week, we lost our friend and Air Warrior, Kermit "Frog" Armbruster to cancer. Kerm was a frequent attendee of PhanCons and loved the F-4 Phantom II Society. We love you back, Kerm! Thanks for the memories. We thank member, Roger Mills for sending this excerpt to us to share with all of you.
Remembering Kermit “FROG” Armbruster
Fighter Pilot Extraordinaire
You’ll have to ask some other “Jocks” who were with Kerm in squadrons both in the US, Europe and in combat in Southeast Asia about the specifics of Kerm’s Air Force career prior to Orders to the 170th Fighter Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard. I can tell you I heard him in conversations at Phancon Reunions reminiscing with some of them … the usual … naming names, remembering places and incidents … fighter pilot talk … usually starting with “do you remember when …”
Kerm’s ‘last duty station’ was with the Illinois Air National Guard at Springfield Illinois as the USAF’s Air Advisor … the ‘big brother’ … there to answer questions about the airplane and whatever other assistance the squadron might need by way of liaison to the USAF as they went about the challenges of training, flying and completing inspections for Readiness as part of the “Total Force Concept” ... every Guard Unit has an Air Advisor. The 170th was a great squadron … good enough to be chosen as the First Flying Reserve Unit of any of the Services to receive the F-4 Phantom II … a front line fighter at the time … as its primary aircraft. Kerm was sent by the USAF to make it happen as the 170th transitioned from the Korea Era F-84F…. and he did it First Class.
There are always “good squadron stories” … those best saved to be told over a cold brew … Kermit is doing that now – with those fighter jocks that left before him … we, the pilots and WSO’s of the 170th will keep his memory … lift a glass when his name comes up … hope to see him when our time comes up … and always smile and recall him when we hear the whine of a pair of J-79 engines.
I’m sure you have read HIGH FLIGHT, a poem written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force during WW II, that starts
"Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings …” military aviation as people envision it … silk scarfs fluttering in the breeze!!! But I think if you said “Hey Kerm … tell me what its like … flying the F-4???” He’d repeat the words of a rendering poem based on Pilot Officer Magee’s work fighter jocks know as LOW FLIGHT ! And Kerm would say:
Oh! I’ve slipped the swirling clouds of dust
A few feet from the dirt.
I’ve flown my PHANTOM low enough
to make my bottom hurt.
I’ve skimmed the desert floor,
hills, valleys, mountains too.
Frolicked in the trees
where only flying squirrels flew.
Chased the frightened cows along,
disturbed the ram and ewe,
and done a hundred other things
that you’d not care to do.
I’ve smacked the tiny sparrow,
bluebirds, robin, all the rest.
I’ve ingested baby eagles,
simply sucked them from their nests.
I’ve streaked through total darkness,
just the other guy and me,
and spent the night in TERROR OF
things I could not see.
I’ve turned my eyes to heaven
as I sweated through the flight,
put out my hand
the MASTER CAUTION LIGHT.
With all due respect for John Gillespie Magee, Jr., his poem concludes:
“… and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand and touched the face of God."
Kermit … save a place for us … Flying Officers of the 170th.