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Base draws Smithsburg grads

March 03, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Northern Utah? Isn't that a strange place for a Smithsburg High School class reunion.

That's exactly what Joey Gardenhour thought when he learned that he was one of four Smithsburg grads currently stationed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

"The connection is great - when we get together on the base, we talk about things we had in common growing up," Gardenhour said during a post-holiday visit home with his family, who still live in Smithsburg.

Now a captain, Gardenhour, 33, said he learned about the first Smithsburg High School connection when Col. Charles Lyon arrived at Hill last July to take over as commander of the 388th Fighter Wing. "I introduced myself to him and went to his change-of-command ceremony," Gardenhour said.

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Lyon graduated from Smithsburg in 1976, while Gardenhour was a member of the class of 1988.

The other two Smithsburg alums at Hill Air Force Base are Lt. Col. Jim Grier, SHS class of 1979; and Capt. Chris Kretsinger, a member of the 1993 graduating class.

Reached at their Utah home, Karen Lyon said she and her husband arrived at the base in July.

"We knew Joey was here and then we found out about Jim Grier and finally Chris Kretsinger," Karen Lyon said. "It's really neat that we are all here."

Gardenhour said he and his wife, Susan, have had the Lyons over for dinner.

"That's when I found out Col. Lyon graduated with one of my sisters," Gardenhour said.

Karen Lyon said her family and the Kretsingers are neighbors in Smithsburg.

"We try to see each other on base whenever we can," she said. "Charlie and Jim see each other in their work."

Now serving as deputy chief of the logistics requirements branch, Gardenhour said he will be promoted to the rank of major in the fall.

"I'd like to go to the Pentagon next," Gardenhour said. His wife, who is a lieutenant in the Air Force, will be heading to Korea for a year-long assignment soon in her field as a special investigation agent.

Often separated by their duty assignments, the Gardenhours are hoping that they will be together after completing their respective duties at Hill and in Korea. Married in 2000, the couple is enjoying the first time in four years at the same base.

An early fascination with aviation led Gardenhour to his military career. After getting his private pilot's license at 16, Gardenhour set his sights on becoming a commercial pilot. To do that in the 1990s meant competing with military flyers, so he began training to become an Air Force pilot.

After completing his undergraduate and master's degrees in aeronautic science, Gardenhour was commissioned into the Air Force. "It was right after the Gulf War in 1990-91 and the Air Force was downsizing," he said. "Pilot slots were hard to get."

So he went into aircraft maintenance. "I don't fly now and I don't miss it," Gardenhour said. "I like being in charge - I've never had less than 80 people working for me."

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