Standing in front of a room full of people who know more than most the effect of budget battles in Washington, retired Air Force Gen. Lloyd “Fig” Newton blasted automatic spending cuts.
“Sequestration is absolutely ludicrous,” said Newton, who served nearly 35 years, retiring in 2000 as commander of the Air Education and Training Command. “That’s a Fig Newton term “
Newton was the keynote speaker at the 66th Annual Air Force Ball, put on by the Airlift/Tanker Association at the Tampa Downtown Hilton.
“What was done to our civilian force was unnecessary and needs to be brought to a screeching halt,” he said, referring to the six days of unpaid time off that effected 2 200 civilian employees at the base, costing them and the local economy millions.
Newton also reminded the crowd of the importance of military families, telling a story about how he and his wife Eloise were driving through St. Petersburg, her hometown, and came across one of her old boyfriends who was working at a gas station.
“It’s a good thing you married me,” he said he told his wife. “You would have been married to someone who was pumping gas for a living.”
“Oh no,” he said she responded. “He would have been a four-star general like you.”
The ball celebrated both the 66th anniversary of the creation of the Air Force as well as the upcoming 20th anniversary of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base.
The ball was a fundraiser designed to bring young airmen, who otherwise couldn’t have afforded to come out from the base, said Air Force Maj. Tim Fritz, who was on the ball organizing committee. Nearly 250 men and women and their spouses attended for free, he said.
Mike Murray, 89, has been coming to the balls since 1950. First serving in 1943, before the creation of the Air Force, he served on the crew of a B-26 bomber.
“War is hell,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you are crawling through it or flying over it. War is hell.”