Eighteen years old, fresh out of high school, Eric Fennern can remember the conversation like it was yesterday.
The Amery native was sitting down with an Air Force recruiter with a goal of seeing the world.
Fennern recalls the recruiter telling him he could work on aircraft as a mechanic.
“I thought that’d be kind of neat,” he said. “The chance to work with pilots, specialists, to be on the flight lines.”
Which started a four-year tour beginning in 1975 in which Fennern was able to see different parts of the United States.
He started at Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and then moved to Illinois.
“You had to live by the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” Fennern replied, when asked about some of the biggest challenges. “You did what your Superiors told you or you would have to face the consequences.”
He was then assigned to George Air Force Base near the Mojave Desert in California where he spent a year as part of the Tactical Air Command. Fennern liked the location with the chance to ski at Big Bear and then be near the Pacific Ocean at the same time.
He was then assigned to the Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska as part of the Alaska Air Command where in addition to his previous duties, he fixed hydraulic systems on F-4 phantoms and flight controls.
Fennern wasn’t a big fan of the move initially but grew to love Anchorage.
“It was such a beautiful place,” he said. After his two years expired, Fennern was hired as a civilian for the same work.
He eventually made his way back to western Wisconsin and has owned and operated Fennern Jewelers in Baldwin with his wife Nancy since 1983.
While Fennern served during no ongoing Wars, his time in the military gave him a greater appreciation for those who did, for example, his father-in-law, who was a B-24 pilot during World War II.
“They were certainly the Greatest Generation,” he said.