Former Duke commander passes

  • Published
  • By Dan Neely
  • 919th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

Retired Air Force Reserve Brig. Gen. Donald E. Haugen, commander of Duke Field’s first 919th-designated unit, passed away Dec. 1, 2015, in Niceville, Florida, at the age of 84.


Haugen served as commander of the formerly C-130-equipped 919th Tactical Airlift Group (Air Force Reserve) from July 1971 to March 1974.


 “It's obviously a sad day for all those who knew and were touched by General Haugen and his family over the years,” said Col. James Phillips, 919th SOW commander. “He was a leader in every sense of the word and someone whose legacy lives on in the 919th [SOW] today. 


 Under his leadership at Duke, Haugen helped establish the unit’s tactical airlift capabilities which included airdropping U.S. Army paratroopers during numerous exercises. He paved the way for initial training for gunship operations, with close air support as a primary duty while also conducting interdiction, reconnaissance and combat search and rescue operations.


 “General Haugen had a considerable impact on the lives of Airmen assigned to the 919th and his tireless efforts helped pave the way for this unit to become a premier combat airlift wing for decades to come,” Phillips added.  “For that, and so much more, we owe him a huge debt of gratitude.”


 Haugen was born in Sheldon, North Dakota, and graduated from Custer High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1949.   He enlisted in the aviation cadet program during the Korean conflict and received his pilot wings and commission in August 1953.  His first assignment was as a C-119 troop carrier pilot in the Far East.  He flew in Japan, Korea and Vietnam logging 172 combat hours.  In 1956, Haugen left the active duty Air Force to fly with American Airlines.  


 He began his service with the Air Force Reserve in 1958 when he joined the 440th Troop Carrier Wing in Milwaukee.  He was one of the first instructor pilots employed as an Air Reserve Technician.


 As a Reservist, Haugen served as a flying safety officer, standardization and evaluation chief, director of operations and squadron and group commander.  During his command tenure at Duke Field, the 919th TAG won the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period from July 30, 1971 to March 31, 1973.


 After departing Duke Field, he went on to become the director of operations for Headquarters Air Force Reserve and later wing commander for the 459th Tactical Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, and the 439th TAW at Westover AFB, Massachusetts.


 Haugen held a command pilot rating with more than 8,000 flying hours.  His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters; Meritorious Service Medal; Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster; Presidential Unit Citation emblem; Air Force Outstanding Unit Award ribbon with one oak leaf cluster; Combat Readiness Medal; Korean Service Medal and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm.


 Haugen was a charter member of Rocky Bayou Country Club and remained active with the Quiet Birdmen, Order of the Daedalians, Reserve Officers Association and Avanti Club. 


 Haugen’s final official visit to Duke occurred in July when he and other past commanders returned for a base tour and an overview of the 919th SOW’s evolving mission, newly assigned aircraft and more.


 Retired Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Mason, former 919th SOW command chief, remembers Haugen as someone who had a genuine interest in the wing and its members even now.


 “On the few occasions I did get to talk with him, I was amazed at his sharpness and ability to recall historical facts especially about the early days of the 919th,” said Mason. “You could tell he cared passionately about the wing and its people despite being gone for so long.”