US Air Force Captain
5th Communications Combat Unit
Cold War Conflicts (Served 1974 – 1987)
Beverly Burr’s service in the Air Force was a commitment that was unique, impressive, and facilitated the opportunity for her to live her dream by taking her around the world to a myriad of places to experience firsthand.
Burr was born in 1948 in Fresno, California to two doting and parents. Her mother had served in the WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, during World War II and her father had served on the USS Missouri as a radio engineer and taught soldiers on Treasure Island. Her father and mother both met while in service on Treasure Island, and were married shortly after. Burr grew up in Fresno and a little in Hawaii during the era in American history that would later be acknowledged as the build-up to the Vietnam War. Burr’s older brother enlisted in the Army during the Vietnam War before the draft and served there for two years. Needless to say, the military played an important role in Burr’s life well before her enlistment.
Burr ended up working her way through school at the University of California at Berkeley, mainly in libraries. She was fascinated with the notion of travel, and so after completing college, she decided she wanted to see more of the United States for herself, unsatisfied with simply hearing about different aspects of different states. Upon receiving her bachelor’s degree, she left Berkeley and traveled the country. When she came back to California, she got a temporary job and tried to decide what she wanted to do with her life and immediate future. Whether it was her family’s military background, enjoying seeing her country firsthand, or wanting to make the world a better place, Burr decided to enlist in the Air Force in the Summer of 1974. Women were just beginning to have important roles in the Air Force at that point, and it marked the beginning of not only her service in the military, but the start of a very exciting time in her life.
When Beverly Burr enlisted in the Air Force, women were not yet admitted into ROTC programs. Burr informed me, “Back then the only way to do anything was through Officers’ Training School,” which at the time, she decided was best for her. Completing Officers’ Training School however was easier said than done. With only two other women in the flight, and one quitting half way through, Burr endured a 24/7 training regimen with virtually no leisure time at all. As she put it, “You were training or being evaluated, you know, on one thing or another. You had inspections whenever and plenty.” Upon finishing her course, despite the other cadets backing her and her grades and marks all being high, she was denied to be commissioned by the officer in charge of the board. He decided to send her through the system a second time. Hard as it was the first time, Burr stated that she wouldn’t be deterred,“These guys, prior enlisted and all, these tech sergeants now going through, they said they would not go through it a second time. But I went through it a second time. I went through it a second time.”
The officer in charge who had denied Burr to be commissioned the first time was later discovered to have never let a female cadet get commissioned. He had “intimidated or somehow drove them out,” as Burr put it, and he had wound up under investigation. After her second round of Officers’ Training School, Burr had finally been commissioned as an air traffic controller in the United States Air Force. From there, she immediately was sent to and reported to her first base, Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, in South Carolina. At that time, air traffic control was one of the few fields women were allowed in, and Beverly Burr was the first female controller that anybody had ever heard of at Myrtle Beach. As she put it, “That wasn’t common in those days, not in the least.” From Myrtle Beach, Burr was sent to Keystone Army Airfield to further her training as an air traffic controller. Upon completion of that training, she returned to Myrtle Beach to end her overall preparation for her role in the Air Force.
Burr’s training at Myrtle Beach AFB finally came to an end when she was assigned to the 5th Combat Communications Group stationed at Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia. There, Burr was one of two officers in air traffic control; the junior officer. She deployed out with the 5th in the field and she had practice deployments as well. The overall mission of her unit at that time was to set up an air traffic control base on site. Another significant task at Robbins Air Force Base Burr and her unit were in charge of was to “control the air”, which consisted of assisting the National Guard in the area to monitor the aerospace in the state of Georgia. Although having a slight conflict with one of her overseers at Robbins Air Force Base, Burr stated that overall she had a very important and enjoyable experience in her military career there. However, from Georgia, Burr would be sent to an even more promising and foreign place for her career in the Air Force to flourish; Germany.
Once she arrived in Germany, Beverly Burr was stationed at Capone Air Station, which was “down the road” from the (at that time) European Air Force Headquarters at Ramstein Air Force Base. At Capone Air Station, Burr went into the Air Traffic Control division, being assigned Air Space Utilization. She initially worked on an interesting projects for getting air space out in the Mediterranean for an air-combat maneuver which later evolved into a projects involving instrumentation range up for Sardinia, negotiating with Italians and the French for the air space. and more international communications. From there, Burr had a somewhat classified and very intriguing career across Europe. One such intriguing fact was that Burr filled a position at an Air Force Base in Sardinia she herself had written the job description for. What Burr enjoyed immensely about her time in Europe was seeing all the culture and diversity that lay around each new corner. On one of her leaves in Europe, a harsh and unforgiving winter in Germany led Burr all across the country seeing the sights and meeting new people. That particular winter was so cold that Burr was compelled to catch a flight to Hawaii to spend the rest of her leave somewhere warm.
Beverly Burr finished her service in the military at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. She returned to the states from Europe to be an instructor for the training of future Air Force staff officers at the Base. After a rewarding experience of teaching new recruits “the ropes”, Burr ended her career with the Air Force and decided to travel around the country once more. She took off in her car and saw the country she had protected for thirteen years once more. When Burr stopped traveling, being somewhat a jack of all trades, she ended up having many prosperous careers with organizations such as FEMA and summer jobs looking over different national parks. When looking back on her experience in the military and her life, Burr stated the most important thing in life is having experiences, “Take every experience you can, different and similar… Don’t get…stuck in a rut. There’s a lot more to see.”
Beverly Burr today lives in Novato with her loving family and dog. She is doing well and is overjoyed that her daughter recently graduated from the Air Force Academy.
By Joshua Dov Epstein on November 7th, 2015