"There were about 30 staff members in the National Security Council. I had some arms control and defense budget responsibilities. Everything that had to do with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons came through me to the president. FEMA was fledgling then. My job was to watch over them. Everything that came to the president to do with FEMA came through me.
"I had to present all sides to an issue boiled down to a single page with clear options. You could not send anything to the president longer than that. If it required a decision, he would initial that part, and we would publish it as policy.
"It's not as special as you might imagine. There were good people there, but I was not overwhelmed. It was great fun. I wasn't on the top tier. I was in the third tier. The president didn't live and breathe based on my recommendations.
"I was on a negotiating team sitting across the table from the Soviets in Geneva on an issue. I got to see some neat stuff there.
"Carter was a great person, but he wanted to do it all himself, and I think that was his undoing. When he sat around the cabinet room, he was so genuine. If only he could have projected that as president.
"At the end of the Carter administration, I got a call saying the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wanted me as his executive officer. I was exhausted, but that was even more interesting than the White House.
"We traveled all over the world. A lot of unsettling things were going on in the Middle East. We spent a lot of time in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Greece, Turkey. It was really something.
"I would brief people on issues we had with the Soviet Union. We would show satellite photography of things the Soviets were doing. This was '82. Those countries had not seen satellite photography. They thought that was really neat.
"On one trip, we spent four hours with the vice president of Egypt, the guy who just got deposed, Hosni Mubarak. We talked about everything.
"We left there and went to Jerusalem. We were supposed to meet with Israel Prime Minister Menachem Begin. My boss and I were in two different cars. He got to Begin's office before my car, and they closed the door.
"What was I going to do? I was the note taker and all that stuff. Suddenly, the door opens and Begin comes over and hugs me and says, 'Aw, colonel, come in. We're sorry we shut the door on you.' So I got a hug from the prime minister of Israel.
"We did some serious stuff over there at the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war and built some really good political and military bridges with the Saudis that have lasted to today.
"The chairman was ready to retire after I'd been with him two years. I went to the Air Force Systems Command, which was responsible for building all the weapons systems for the Air Force. I was a planner.
"After a year, they asked me to command a laboratory in Rome, N.Y., the Rome Air Development Center. I was mayor of a town essentially. I had 1,100 people reporting to me.
"A year later, they called me back to D.C. as commander of all the Air Force labs, 13 or 14 of them. That got me the promotion to general.
"I stayed three years. My boss said if I wanted the second star, he would have to move me to Albuquerque N.M., to run the Air Force Contract Management Division. But Sarah had a big job at the Naval Research Lab in D.C., and I wanted to stay in science and technology. I could have chased another promotion, but I'd been in 27 years. In 1988, I retired.
"A guy I worked with in the Air Force had an organization he wanted me to run, then called Logicon, dealing with nuclear weapons. That was a difficult job. If you hadn't built a bomb, you had no credibility. Logicon was finally bought by Northrop Grumman, and I stayed with them for 12 years and became a corporate vice president and retired from there in 2002 and came home.
"Holmes Morrison introduced me to Ed Welch. I told Ed I'd like to do some pro bono work for UC. I started gathering some statistics for him. He called one day and said he'd lost his undergraduate business school head and asked if I'd take over just for six weeks. He said I could still play golf every Wednesday afternoon.
"Later, he told me he also wanted me to be provost and dean of the faculty along with running the business school. Just six months, he said, and I could still play golf every Wednesday afternoon. He lied. It ended up being five years.
"I got so tired of parents calling saying, 'My child got a C in English. My child never got a C in high school.' I prayed for strength to deal with the parents. I left -- for a year.
"The head of the graduate business school left, and Ed wanted me to run the undergrad and graduate business schools for a while. I did it for a year and retired.
"I'm on the board for the school. And I just joined the Fund for the Arts board. And I'm writing a book. It's going to be vignettes, 90 percent humorous. A lot of funny things have happened to me. I like to tease and be teased and I like to tell jokes. I have a joke for every occasion.
"I've been blessed. Things happened that weren't planned. I had no idea what I was going to do. The Academy shaped me. It put everything together. The Air Force did a good job for me."
Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.