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Air Force


1989 - 1993




Airman Russell S. Oetken served in the United States Air Force as a Munitions Systems Specialist from 1989-1993. Drawn into the military by a family tradition of service and the desire to explore the world, Oetken got his wish and was stationed at RAF Alconbury in the United Kingdom and Nellis AFB in Nevada prior to serving in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. His dedication to service runs deep, with his father, Wayne Jr. Oetken, having served as an Army Vietnam Veteran, and his grandfather, Wayne Oetken, as an Army WWII Veteran.
Going into Desert Shield and Desert Storm he remembers they were given a pretty false sense of security and that it was implied they would be going into a safe place, a long way from any of the actual action. Instead, they became a primary target of scud missiles because their base was a forward operating base for many different types of aircraft and home base for the 101st Airborne Division.
Two memories stand out to him as he recounts his time serving. At the beginning of the air campaign for Desert Storm, he and his comrades watched as the planes flew over them just after midnight before heading into Iraq. The most significant obstacle they faced was a chemical attack at their base out in the desert.
When asked what he misses from his military years, without a second thought he mentions his buddies. Anyone who has served understand there is a special bond that forms among your unit and Oetken is proud to say he still keeps in touch with them thirty years later.
Russell is grateful for his time in the military, which provided him the opportunity to travel and ultimately led him back home to South Dakota, where he met the love of his life. They built a home, family and career in Brookings, SD where they cherish their time with their three children and two grandchildren. For nearly 20 years, Russ has built a successful career at a company in Brookings. The lasting lesson he learned in the Air Force was to be productive every day and he strives to faithfully live out that lesson every day.

These submissions were provided by the Veteran, their family and/or friends and are based on their research and memories. The historical facts and recollections are derived from the submitter and not necessarily from the SGA owner or staff. SGA cannot guarantee the accuracy of the submissions.

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