Captain Steven York, Air Force
Growing up during the tail-end of the Vietnam War, Steven York’s dreams of flying and military service were realized when he enlisted in the Air Force. He served in Strategic Air Command during the final decade of the Cold War – one of the last B-52 pilots trained specifically in nuclear warfare. Capt York came to embody his childhood idols of American airmen stationed in Britain during World War II when he was deployed to RAF Fairford to fly bombing missions during Operation Desert Shield/Storm. While his romantic idyll of a heroic pilot’s life was dispelled by the danger and tedium of military life, learning, for instance, that the hazards of war came as much from human error as from the enemy. In its place was born a love of service for his country and his fellow pilots that endures to this day.
From playing war as a boy to experiencing the realities of war, Capt York’s service as an Air Force pilot embodies the story of many young men who upon entering the service realize war is very different from what they imagined it to be as boys. From initial training over Texas to operations in Strategic Air Command and the danger filled skies above Operation Desert Storm; Capt York’s unique experience as a B-52 bomber pilot during the Cold War sheds light on a dynamic period in American military history where uncertainty was often more terrifying than battle.
Born in 1964 in San Francisco to a post-WWII veteran of the Berlin Airlifts, Capt York grew up seeing America embroiled in conflict both abroad in Vietnam and at home. Despite the unpopularity of the time, Capt York was determined from a young age to fly airplanes for his country. After graduating from Humboldt State University in 1986, Capt York joined the US Air Force and completed Officer Training Candidate School where he earned his wings. He went on to Castle AFB completing the Combat Crew Training School [CCTS] training as a B-52 Bomber pilot.
Upon graduating from CCTS in the summer of 1988, Capt York was stationed at Eaker Air Force Base in Blytheville, Arkansas, as a member of Strategic Air Command. Capt York and his crew were constantly on Nuclear alert as they may be required at a moment’s notice to launch against targets in the Soviet Union should tensions escalate.
In early January of 1991 Capt York and his crew were told to be ready to fly out of the country in two days. They were not told where they were going or when they would be back. After saying goodbye to his wife of less than a year Capt York flew to Fairford Military base in England. Avoiding Anti-Aircraft fire, enemy missiles, and friendly aircraft Capt York and his crew flew strategic bombing missions through the chaotic skies of Iraq in support of ground troops during Operation Desert Storm. After Iraq’s surrender Capt York returned to the United States where he served as an Aircraft commander at Barksdale Air Force base until leaving the military in 1995 to pursue a career in civilian aviation. Capt York now flies for an International Cargo Airline, including flying military supplies to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.