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Flying a Family Affair

  • Published
  • By Frank McIntyre
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
A year ago Timothy Cox was a student at the U.S. Air Force Academy majoring in military history. Now, the second lieutenant and member of Joint Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training class 08-03 will be making history as the Air Force celebrates its 60th Anniversary this year.

When Lieutenant Cox receives his wings after completion of JSUPT, he will become the third generation of his family to be an Air Force aviator. Although no records documenting whether or not there have been other students at Vance with this heritage, it is believed to be a first.

"In the 12 years I've been working the students, this is the first time I've encountered one whose legacy extended back to the Army Air Corps days," said Gene Kornman, 71st Operations Support Squadron registrar. "It's quite a feat for one family to account for an active presence throughout the Air Force's existence."

The story began in June 1943, when Madison, Maine, native Robert Rushworth, enlisted in the Army, entered the aviation cadet program and received his wings in September 1943. He flew C-54s and C-46s for the 12th Combat Cargo Squadron in the China-Burma-India theater. He was released from active duty in January 1946, became a member of the Reserves and returned to Maine where he entered the University of Maine in Orono.

It was while the future general was a student at UMO, he would marry Norridgewock, Maine, native and former classmate Joyce Butler. Mrs. Rushworth worked as a nurse at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor while her husband was at UMO. It was also at this time first Lieutenant Rushworth would begin his career with the newly created Air Force on a mobilization assignment with the Reserves flying the T-6 at Dow AFB, also in Bangor. When the Reserves left Dow, he switched to the Maine Air National Guard there and flew P-47s and F-80s before being recalled to active duty in 1951.

Fast forwarding to 1957 finds Captain Rushworth assigned at Edwards AFB, Calif., as a test pilot. During his assignment at Edwards he would fly a variety of jet fighters, including the F-101, TF-102, F-104, F-105 and F-106. But most noteworthy was, by then Major, Rushworth's record 34 flights with the X-15, the world's fastest and highest-flying winged aircraft. He was the second Air Force X-15 pilot to attain the astronaut rated, then awarded only to military pilots for flights 50 or more miles high. He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for an emergency recovery of the X-15 after premature extension of the X-15 nose gear at near Mach 5 speeds, and the Legion of Merit for overall accomplishments in the national interest of initial space flights.

The Rushworths' assignment at Edwards also saw the expansion of the Air Force family with the arrival of daughter, Cheri, their only child. After graduating from the National War College, Colonel Rushworth was assigned to Cam Rahn Bay, Republic of Vietnam, where he flew 189 combat missions in the F-4.

After several other assignments, General Rushworth returned to Edwards in 1975 as commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center. After graduating from high school in Virginia, daughter, Cheri joined her parents at her place of birth for the summer before attending classes at her father's alma mater. Also at Edwards for the summer of 1975 participating in the third lieutenant program was AFA cadet Terry Cox.

"You wouldn't believe the amount of kidding Terry got when we started dating," Cheri Cox said. "It wasn't every day you'd find an Academy cadet dating the commanding general's daughter."

The kidding didn't deter the man who would become the second Air Force pilot in Cheri's family. The couple married in June 1979, following Lieutenant Cox's graduation from pilot instructor training and assignment as a T-38 first-term instructor pilot at Reese AFB, Texas. It was also during a subsequent assignment in Texas as a RF-4 pilot at Bergstrom AFB, the Cox's welcomed Timothy to the family, joining an older sister Melissa Joy.

The Cox family would trade the southwest for Europe as the senior Cox served as an air liaison officer with the Army in Germany, flew F-16s out of Torrejon AB, Spain, and served as a staff officer at Ramstein AB, Germany. The family returned to the southwest when Lieutenant Colonel Cox was assigned to the 8th Flying Training Squadron at Vance, serving as a T-37 instructor pilot and assistant director of operations. He retired from active duty in 1997 with more than 3,500 flying hours. He now flies the T-6 simulator for Lear Siegler Services at Vance.

It is also at the T-6 simulators, you'll find the third-generation of the flying family. Second Lieutenant Cox started his simulator training this week. His class started its JSUPT Nov. 30.

When Lieutenant Cox begins his flight training, he'll be seeing familiar skies. The 2002 graduate of Oklahoma Bible Academy in Enid, Okla., has accumulated more than 270 flying hours since getting his private pilot's license in May 2001.

Having been a daughter, wife and mother to Air Force fliers, Cheri Cox finds her latest role to be the most stressful.

"I never saw the anxiety and stress my mother went through as the wife of a test pilot, I don't know how they did it, but they never showed me that side of their life," she said. And I never had any anxiety when Terry was flying because I knew he was well trained and qualified.

"Even though I know Tim is also being well-trained, the mommy instinct takes over and I worry more about him than I did Dad or Terry. I'm a firm believer in prayer and I pray a lot, so I know he'll be safe."

As the Air Force's 60th Anniversary celebrations unfold throughout this year, one Enid family will look backwards with memories of past contributions, as well as looking forward to the future.