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Honoring Our Heroes

Lt. Col Lee Forbes Aldridge: Age 82

Lt. Col Lee Aldridge served 33 years in the U.S. Air Force. His primary specialty was Acquisition Management Officer and Electronics Engineer, but he served in myriad other fields. He received the following medals, badges, citations and ribbons: Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Force Organizational Excellence Award, Air Force Good Conduct Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Force Overseas Long Tour Ribbon with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon with seven Oak Leaf Clusters, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, Air Force Training Ribbon and foreign decorations including the French Air Medal.

Lt. Col Aldridge was born December 28, 1941 to his parents, Thomas and Mildred Aldridge, at Minneapolis, MN. His Swedish grandfather reared him while his father and four uncles were in military service during WWII. Lt. Col Aldridge credits his grandfather with making him who he is. He taught him right from wrong, how to skate, how to fish, how to love God, etc. When his father was discharged and returned home in 1945, his father taught him how to disassemble and repair cars, carpentry, electricity and other practical necessities of life. He participated in football and hockey during high school and graduated from Richfield in High School in MN in June 1959. Although he was an average student in high school because of his involvement in sports and work, later in life he excelled academically. Two weeks after graduation, he volunteered for military service in the U.S. Air Force at the urging of his grandfather and his uncle, a US Army sergeant.

Lt. Col Aldridge’s military service began with six weeks of basic training at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB), TX, followed by technical training at Kessler, AFB, MS, graduating first in his radio repair school. His first assignment was with the Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT) at Pierrefonds, France 1960-1962 at a NATO radio-relay site where he became fluent in German and French. His skills in the uses of these languages proved to be influential in numerous future military assignments. In 1962, he was transferred to HQ AFCENT at Fontainbleau, France, to be in charge of the transmitter section of the depot maintenance facility. He also worked for four months in charge of the Allied Forces technical translation section during exercises. In 1965, he returned to Kessler, AFB, MS, as a radio relay instructor and was promoted to Staff Sergeant. While at Kessler, he enrolled in the Airman Education and Commissioning Program. He completed technical courses in physics and mathematics for one year with the University of Southern MS at Kessler AFB. He then earned a Degree in Electrical Engineering from Oklahoma State University in December 1969 on the Dean’s List. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Air Force in 1970 after completing the Air Force Officers’ Training School at Lackland, AFB, TX as a Distinguished Graduate.

He then earned a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, in 1971. Following graduation from AFIT, he was assigned to the missile division of the Foreign Technology Division and was the first analyst of any US intelligence agency to conclude that the Soviet SSNX-8 missile was stellar (star) guided. He served in 1973-1977 at HQ Air Force System Command at Andrews AFB, MD, where he was the Command Career Motivation Adviser and Junior Aide to the AFSC Commander as the Command Junior Officer Adviser. While there, he led in the AF wide changing of the name, Junior Officer Council to Company Grade Officer Council. He was then selected for successive career broadening assignments as the Executive Officer to the AFSC Deputy Chief of Staff of Personnel in 1975 and the Executive Officer of the Program Management Assistance Group in 1976.

In 1977, Lt. Col Aldridge was assigned to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) as the Executive Officer for Special Projects and Liaison Officer to the Belgian Military Construction Service. In 1982, he was reassigned to the AF Electronics Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, MA, as the International Programs Director for the E-3 AWACS system where he was responsible for the multi-billion dollar sales of the E-3 AWACS to NATO, France, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia. In 1988, Lt. Col Aldridge was selected as the first Director of Military Cooperative Research and Development at the U.S. Embassy at Paris, France. Lt. Col Aldridge was selected for promotion to full Colonel in 1991, but he declined the promotion and elected to retire at the request of his wife. Lt. Col Aldridge retired from military service at the Pentagon in September 1992.

Following his military retirement, Lt. Col Aldridge worked for Westinghouse Systems International as Vice President for North African Operations in Casablanca, Morocco, in charge of installing integrated air defense and air traffic control systems throughout the Kingdom. In 1994, he returned to the Boston area. Lt. Col Aldridge accepted a position as a special assistant for international affairs with The MITRE Corporation, a Federally Funded Research and Development Center, that provides specialty engineering and technical guidance to the US Government. From 1998-2001, he served as the Chief Engineer for the Royal Saudi Air Force AWACS wing. In 2001, he transferred to Maxwell Air Force Base Gunter Annex, AL, as the manager of the MITRE computer engineering office. In 2011, Col Aldridge retired from all employment.

Lt. Col Aldridge and his wife, Olga, were married 59 years before she passed away in 2022. They have two children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They enjoyed traveling most of all. He is a member of the Military Officers Association of America. He is particularly proud of his son, Col (USAF, Ret.) Richard Aldridge for his 24 years of active service in the U.S. Air Force followed by eight years as a member of the US Senior Executive Service.

Lt. Col Aldridge’s primary conclusions about his military service are: “I was brought up in an extremely patriotic family. My Swedish grandfather instilled in me that it was duty to serve my country! I enjoyed my work, the places where I worked and the overall camaraderie of the greater military family. My Polish-born wife became more American than most natural-born Americans. She was a major influence particularly during my commissioned years!” He would most like to be remembered as being an honorable and trustworthy person.

 

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