KSLA Salutes: Retired Air Force brigadier general weighs in on Afghanistan
“They did their job and they did it very well; it’s their country that let them down,” he says of US troops who served there during the past two decades
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Retired Brig. Gen. George Peyton Cole Jr. joined the Air Force in 1967 after going through the Air Force Academy.
He entered pilot training and earned his wings in 1968 at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona.
“Went through pilot training right at the height of the Vietnam War,” Cole said. “I ricocheted directly to Vietnam after pilot training to the gun ships. I flew gun ships for a year and then went down to Panama. I handled US-Panama treaty negotiations for four years before coming back to the States.”
Cole spent a year at the Pentagon before coming to Barksdale Air Force Base as a major to fly the B-52s. He spent a few years primarily in Strategic Air Command and was later selected to be the executive secretary for the secretary of Defense.
“I served as Dick Cheney’s executive secretary and learned an awful lot in that assignment,” Cole said. “Worked directly with the White House on numerous occasions and worked directly for the secretary of Defense. Then I came to Barksdale as wing commander.”
Cole also served as commander of the 20th Bombardment Squadron at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, meaning he commanded two of the largest wings in Strategic Air Command. He retired in 1994 after a very decorated military career.
He, like many other veterans throughout the country, has been watching the events in Afghanistan unfold over the past few days.
“Afghanistan will go down in history as a national tragedy for the United States,” Cole said. “The ramifications and effects of what has happened in the last couple of weeks will affect our grandchildren. People say it’s like Vietnam. It’s worse than Vietnam.”
While watching the images coming from Afghanistan, he says he’s concerned for its people, especially the women, and the future of foreign relations for the United States.
“Many of our allies have got to be questioning whether we will stand by them when the chips are down, because we certainly haven’t stood by the Afghanis.”
Veterans throughout the country have expressed their disapproval with the decision to withdraw troops from the Afghanistan. Some believed troops could have stayed to provide a stabilizing presence in the country, while others have been left questioning their service.
Cole says he wants fellow veterans to know they honorably served.
“Those men and women who served went there to protect the United States with all the greatest intentions in the world and they did. They did their job and they did it very well. It’s their country that let them down.”
The Veterans Crisis Line has received an increase in calls over the past week. The Department of Veterans Affairs wants veterans to know they are not alone. If you are struggling, please call toll-free at 1-800-273-8255.
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