Retired Oct. 1, 1986.
Major General Jack L. Watkins is commander of the 1st Strategic Aerospace Division, Strategic Air Command, with headquarters at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. He is responsible for directing all SAC missile combat crew training; controlling and conducting SAC ballistic missile operational testing; and providing host base support for all tenants located at Vandenberg, including Air Force Systems Command, Military Airlift Command and Air Force Communications Command.
General Watkins, a native of Pittsburgh, was born in 1928. He has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh and attended the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. He is a graduate of Squadron Officer School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.; U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; and Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.
He entered the Army in 1946, qualifying as a parachutist and gliderist before separating in 1948 to attend college. General Watkins was recalled to active duty in September 1950 as a result of the Korean conflict and served with anti-aircraft units as a battery executive officer and commander in the United States and Germany. He separated from the Army in August 1952 and returned to the University of Pittsburgh graduating in June 1954.
The general received a direct commission as a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and entered pilot training in the spring of 1955. After graduating in 1956, he served until May 1961 with Tactical Air Command and Military Air Transport Service units engaged in troop carrier operations. During this time he participated in the Lebanon crisis, Operation DEEP FREEZE, the Congo airlift and the Taiwan Straits incident.
He next was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., and served in various staff positions in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Research and Development. In 1963 he transferred to the Air Force Systems Command, Research and Technology Division, Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., where he served as aide-de-camp to the commander until the summer of 1964. He then attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
In July 1965 General Watkins moved to Albuquerque, N.M., for an assignment with Joint Task Force Two, a Joint Chiefs of Staff operational testing organization involved in conducting low altitude penetration tests. In 1969 he graduated from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
He then served as professor of aerospace studies, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, at the University of Pittsburgh until December 1970. From January 1971 to February 1973, he was vice commandant, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at Maxwell Air Force Base, where he supervised corps activities in colleges, universities and high schools nationwide.
From February 1973 until June 1974, General Watkins was vice commander and acting commander of the 410th Bombardment Wing, K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, Mich. The wing, equipped with B-52H's and KC-135A's, was the first B-52 unit to become operational with the short-range attack missile and the electro-optical viewing system.
General Watkins transferred to Griffiss Air Force Base, N.Y., in July 1974 where he commanded the 416th Bombardment Wing and was host commander for tenant units of three major Air Force commands: Air Force Communications Service, Air Force Systems Command and Aerospace Defense Command.
In July 1975 General Watkins assumed command of the 45th Air Division at Pease Air Force Base, N.H. In this capacity he had command responsibility for four bombardment units: two FB-111 and two B-52 wings. In addition, General Watkins monitored the conversion and readiness status of four SAC-gained KC-135 Air National Guard units.
The general was assigned to SAC headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., in November 1977 as assistant deputy chief of staff, operations. In June 1978 he became deputy chief of staff, operations. He was responsible for aircraft and missile operations, force readiness, command and control, crew training, current operations, operational test and evaluation, strategic reconnaissance and meteorological support for SAC's worldwide mission.
The command noted several significant achievements while General Watkins was deputy chief of staff for operations. Among them were the first Exercise Global Shield, the largest SAC readiness exercise in 20 years; acceptance of the first SAC E-4B, the National Emergency Airborne Command Post aircraft; the completion of the full complement of KC-135 tanker aircraft into the Air Reserve force; and the integration of the first female crew members into the alert forces for KC-135s and Titan II missiles.
In August 1979 General Watkins became vice commander, 15th Air Force, with headquarters at March Air Force Base, Calif. The 15th Air Force is responsible for all SAC aircraft and missile operations in the western United States and Alaska. He assumed his present command in November 1980.
General Watkins is a command pilot with more than 10,000 flying hours in 26 different types of aircraft. He wears the master missile, gliderist, parachutist and space badges. His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal. He has served as the campaign chairman for California's Central Coast United Way and is a member of the Central Coast United Way Board of Directors.
He was promoted to major general Aug. 1, 1978, with date of rank May 1, 1975.