Retiring N.D. Vietnam Veteran Among Last in Air Force

  • Published
  • By SGT Amy Wieser-Willson
  • NDNG
When a North Dakota Air National Guardsman retired this weekend, it ended an era in the U.S. Air Force. Chief Master Sgt. James E. Clemenson is the last enlisted Airman to have been stationed in Vietnam to retire from the Air Force. After spending nearly 40 years as a "Happy Hooligan," Clemenson was honored at a retirement ceremony Saturday at the North Dakota Air National Guard in Fargo, N.D

Clemenson did two tours with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War from October 1970 through April 1972. Only one other active Airman - Chief Master Sgt. Jim Honeycutt - still remains in service that wears a Vietnam Service Ribbon, although it's for temporary duty in country versus a mobilization.

Clemenson and Honeycutt's status is among active-duty Airmen and does not include traditional Guardsmen, on which no clear statistics were available.

While a member of the North Dakota Air National Guard's Happy Hooligans, Clemenson has been serving on active-duty with the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.

Clemenson's career began in January 1970 when he enlisted into the Army. In his two Vietnam tours, we served as a UH-1 Huey helicopter door gunner, a U-21 turboprop crew chief and worked in unit supply. He received an honorable discharge in 1972 and enlisted into the North Dakota Air National Guard the following year. In the Guard, he worked as a flightline supervisor in aircraft maintenance until 1998, when he was selected as the chief enlisted manager for the alert detachment that the 119th Wing had at Langley Air Force Base, Va., at that time. Three years later, he was selected as the
noncommissioned officer in charge of the 12th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. Later in 2001, he was chosen as the executive assistant for the National Guard Bureau's Counterdrug Division. He has served in his current role, as the National Guard Bureau joint staff senior enlisted manager, since 2007. In that role, Clemenson is responsible for keeping the National Guard Bureau director of the joint staff apprised of all issues for Airmen and Soldiers in the joint staff.