Meade County Veteran of the Month - July 2017



Mr. Ralph Besler was 17 when he joined the U.S. Navy on January 2, 1952. He took basic training at the U.S. Naval Training Center, San Diego, CA. He was then sent to Yokosuka, Japan and assigned to the USS Prairie AD-15 as a Machinist Mate from April 1952 until October 10, 1955. During that period, Ralph made several rotations to Japan and Korea. He attended the Machinist Mate Class "A" School at Great Lakes Naval Training Center in 1954, graduating first in his class. Ralph was discharged from the Navy on October 10, 1955 at the rank of Petty Officer First Class. He was the youngest

Petty Officer First Class in the Navy. He received the Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Navy Good Conduct Medal. 

On October 24, 1955, Ralph joined the US Air Force and was assigned to the Strategic Air Command (SAC). He attended 18 weeks of Bombing and Navigation (BOMB/NAY) School for B-47 Bombers. He was then assigned to the 19th Bomb Wing at Pine Castle AFB, FL. which moved to Homestead AFB, FL in 1956. During that assignment, Ralph served two tours in Morocco, Africa with the B-47 Bombers. 

In 1956 Ralph had married his wife. Then in 1960, Ralph transferred to Grand Forks AFB, ND where he served as advanced party in activating the 4133rd Strategic Aerospace Wing for receiving new B-52H Bombers from the Boeing Aircraft Co. He flew many missions on B-52H aircraft teaching pilots the proper operation of Advanced Capability Radar and performing in-flight maintenance as required. He headed the maintenance crew to support the Wing's aircraft in the annual SAC Bombing Competition. For his performance he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Air Force Good Conduct Medal. In 1964, Ralph attended the Non-Commissioned Officers Academy at Barksdale AFB, LA. 

While at Grand Forks, Ralph began pilot training. In 1966, Ralph was transferred to the 93rd Bomb Wing at Castle AFB, CA. where he served as Branch Chief of the BOMB/NAY Branch, 93rd Avionics Squadron. Ralph completed his pilot trainingand receivedhis Pilots License. In 1969, Ralph was transferred to the 72nd Bomb Wing, Ramey AFB Puerto Rico where he served as Branch Chief of the BOMB/ NAV Branch, 72°d Avionics Squadron. He was selected as Team Leader of the maintenance crew that supported the Wing's aircraft in the Annual SAC Bombing Competition.  Ralph frequently flew on the competition aircraft to train crew members.  He was awarded the AF Commendation Medal, 1'1 Oak leaf cluster. Ralph also served as President of the Ramey AFB Aero Club.

In 1971, Ralph transferred to Ellsworth AFB, SD and served as Branch Chief of the BOMB/NAV Branch and later as Maintenance Superintendent of the 281h Avionics Maintenance Squadron. Ralph again headed the maintenancecrew in the AnnualSAC BombingCompetition.   He continuedhis flight training and received his Commercial Pilots License for Single and Multi-Engine aircraft. He was awarded the 2nd oak leaf cluster to the Air Force CommendationMedal.   Ralph retiredfromthe U.S. Air Force on October I, 1972 at the rank of Senior Master Sergeant.

After retirement Ralph had continued to work for the government in Virginia as a valve systems and engineering planner for 12 years. From there he went to OK to work for a Naval weapons station as an inspector, tech writer, as well as logistics and plans. After 6 years her went to New Mexico to their Naval Weapons Facility and worked there until 1996 when he retired. 

Ralph and his wife were able to build their dream home in the mountains of Colorado. Only after living in Colorado a few years, they had it taken away by a wildfire… They moved back to South Dakota to help take care of family and raise horses in 2003. Ralph enjoys spending time with his family which includes his two children, 3 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren. 

The people of Meade County would like to recognize and give a heartfelt thanks to Mr. Ralph Besler for his service to his country.