Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
James L. Root, MSgt., USAF (Retired)November 17, 1936 – August 15, 2010
ROOT, MSgt. James L. USAF (Retired) Realty Officer, HUD/FHA (Retired) Born November 17, 1936 in Elizabeth NJ to Lesley V. and Lucille M. Root. Moved to upstate NY when 10 years old, graduating in 1954 from Ticonderoga High School, Fort Ticonderoga NY.
Enlisting in the US Air Force just weeks after graduation, he served 20 years as a Parachute Jump-Qualified Rescue & Survival Specialist, retiring in 1974 as a Master Sergeant, Survival Training Superintendent. Trained as an Air Force Rescue & Survival Specialist at Stead AF Base in 1954, he first served as a Survival Training & Equipment Specialist at Eielson AF Base in Alaska, then was assigned as Non-Commissioned Officer-in-Charge (NCOIC) of the McChord AF Base Rescue & Survival Unit between 1959-1963. This included his supervision of the Base Survival School, flying as a Rescue Crewman on the base helicopter, as well as working with the Tacoma Mountain Rescue Council and the recruiting, training and leading what may have been the first civilian para-rescue unit in the United States!
Also, from 1963-1966, during the war in Vietnam, Jim assisted with the implementation and improvement of a Deep-Sea Survival School that provided realistic training off the shores of Okinawa in the South China Sea, for combat aircrews flying in Southeast Asia (SEA). As NCOIC of that school, he was awarded his first US Air Force Commendation Medal and for trips into SEA combat zones as a member of Deep-Sea Survival Mobile Training Team he received the Vietnam Service Medal. During his four year tour in Okinawa, he traveled all over the Far East providing training services as well as consulting services to the various Allied Forces on the establishment of Jungle & Sea Survival Training Programs for their aircrew people. The Philippine, Korean, Taiwanese and Royal British Air Forces all benefited from his survival training expertise and each made him an “Honorary Para-Rescue Technician & Survival Instructor” with their organizations. From 1966-1968 Jim served as a Squad Leader/Instructor Supervisor with a field training flight and later with the Survival Instructor Training Branch at the U.S. Air Force Survival School at Fairchild AF Base. In 1967 he was selected, as one of 12 from a pool of nearly 200 survival instructors at Fairchild to develop and implement a special desert survival course for some 20 NASA Apollo astronauts. He helped write the course curriculum, taught some of the on-base classes and worked with the NASA astronauts during their realistic desert training in the dunes area near Pasco WA. Jim left Fairchild in late ’68, having volunteered for a “Special Assignment” with Air Force Headquarters’ Air Intelligence Service. Seriously injured in a “combat-related” parachute jump, he returned to Fairchild and the USAF Survival School in early 1970. He served two years as the NCOIC of the POW Survival Instructor Flight, and received his second AF Commendation Medal for his contributions to the Air Force’s Code of Conduct Training. His last few years of service were first as Assistant NCOIC of the USAF Survival School’s Course Materials & Measurement Branch & then NCOIC of the Training Materials Unit. At that time, the Fairchild-based organization was assigned the responsibility for all survival training conducted throughout the Air Force. He led a team of Survival Subject Matter Specialists/Tech Writers who in the continental U.S. to do research, develop course syllabuses, master lesson plans, student study guides and training aids for each! After publication of the new course control documents, his team would return to these training units to evaluate the training. In 1973 when the POWs were repatriated and returned from North Vietnam prison camps, Jim was one of 20 Survival Specialists selected to work on Operation Homecoming-the Debriefing of the POWs. He spent 90 days helping to obtain and document the POWs descriptions of their captivity! For this work between 1970 and his retirement four years later, Jim received the U.S. Meritorious Service Medal. Additionally, he had been previously awarded the Aircrew Member Badge, Senior Parachutist Wings, the Air Training Command Instructor Badge, and numerous other service medals and ribbons.
Having gone into service rather than to college after high school, Jim spent the next few years at Spokane Falls Community, Eastern Washington State and Whitworth Colleges, earning Associates, Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees with high honors! Jim’s second career was that of a “real estate professional,” as he worked between 1979-86 as both a licensed realtor and residential appraiser in the private sector of both Washington and Alaska, and with the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s FHA Division from 1987-1999 as a Realty Officer GS-12 working in Alaska as the Assistant Chief of the Property Sales Division and as Chief Appraiser for the Eastern WA/North ID FHA Jurisdiction out of Spokane WA. After his retirement from the HUD job, Jim worked for five years as the Manager/Senior Loan Officer for a large mortgage company with branches in Spokane. Moses Lake and the Tri-Cities. Over the years he earned the professional designations of Certified Residential Originator (CRO), Registered Mortgage Underwriter (RMU) and Certified Review Appraiser (CRA) from the Mortgage Bankers Association of America and the National Association of Review Appraisers & Mortgage Underwriters respectively.
Since 2003 Jim had been the Director of Real-T-Pro Seminars & Services, a training, consulting & inspection company that served the real estate industry of Eastern Washington & North Idaho.
His health required his full retirement in 2008.
Jim is survived by his wife of 53 years, Gale Root, and his children Debbie (Tom) Haynes, Dave Root , Sandy Woodard and Lisa White. His grandchildren include Jennifer Crafton, Elise Whitmore, Amanda, Jaron and Lindsay Woodard, Richelle, Theresa, Corey, James III, David Jr. and Alicia Root. Also surviving are several Root great-grandkids! Jim’s surviving brother and sisters are Dave (Sandy) Root, Ella (Pink) Billmeyer and Margeurite (Gi) Crandall all of Central and/or Western Washington. Also surviving Jim are the “Duffy (Gallasso) and Keeney (Walsh) Clans” back on the East Coast. Jim Sr. was preceded in death by his son, Jim Jr. Jim lived a full life, created a beautiful close-knit family, and made many personal and professional contributions to this world. On August 15, 2010 at age 74 he passed on to another world, without any regrets and where he’ll join his family and friends who’ve preceded him and await those to later join him!
A time and date for the memorial service has yet to be determined and will be announced at a later date.
Published in Spokesman-Review from Aug. 18 to Aug. 19, 2010