A Dream Takes Flight

by Ashley Johnson | Photo by Jason Flowers

Rex Driggers’ 37-year career in aviation began with
a uniform.

“My senior year of high school, we visited the university for Career Day, and I was intrigued by the U.S. Air Force cadets on campus in their ROTC uniforms,” Rex said. “The rest is history.”

As a member of both AFROTC and the Tejas Club, Rex enjoyed a campus experience and camaraderie that have yet to be rivaled.

By his junior year, Rex was determined to earn his commission as a Second Lieutenant and become a pilot. In May 1955, Rex saw those goals become reality.

“I will always remember my first solo ride in the T-34, and all of the other career milestones that followed,” Rex said. “The closeness of being a member of an aircrew on a special mission can’t be described.”

Rex feels fortunate to have worked for good people who allowed him to move into command positions including Colonel in 1980, Brigadier General in 1984 when he became the first non-full-time Commander of the 136th Airlift Wing, and to Major General in 1989 when he was assigned as Commander for the Air National Guard (ANG) for Texas.

For much of his career, Rex balanced the roles of both military and commercial pilot simultaneously. After leaving active duty in the U.S. Air Force in 1961, he joined the Texas Air National Guard, and started flying for American Airlines a few years later. When he finally retired from the military in 1992, he was Commander of all ANG units in Texas with two F-16 Groups, one C-130 Wing and six non-flying units under his command.

“It was exciting,” Rex said. “One day I might be returning to DFW from New York, London or Hawaii with a plane load of passengers. The next day I might be refueling aircraft over the skies of Germany, at the Pentagon for a briefing or on my way to Panama hauling troops or supplies in a C-130.”

As Rex sits back to enjoy the days of retirement, he can’t help but wish for one more chance to take the controls for one more flight. With the smell of jet fuel fresh in his mind, he fondly remembers the thrill of take-off and the roar of the engines.

He also misses the little things he took for granted in the
Air Force, like entering a military base and being greeted by
a security guard who checks his ID and says “have a good day General.”

For Rex, his time in the military stands as a fond memory of the institutional understanding of respect, order, uniformity, accountability and dedication to one’s country and job that civilians often do not experience.

“I could not have asked for a more exciting or rewarding career,” Rex said. “My military friends are like my Tejas friends in than we remain very close. Although nothing was ever more fun than those days as a Tejas. Oh how I would love to do it all over again.”