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Greg Gonyea '73

A class act

Greg Gonyea, a proud member of the Air Force Academy Class of ’73, is grateful for how the Academy prepared him to serve the Air Force.

“Who would have thought that a kid from a small Michigan town could have ascended to high altitudes and leadership,” Gonyea says. “From flying great aircraft in covert missions and participating in Operation Desert Storm sorties to leading a squadron, it was a wonderful career.”

The first step for the CS-04 graduate was obtaining a graduate degree from Purdue University followed by pilot training at Williams Air Force Base. A succession of flying assignments culminated with his assignment as the 416th squadron commander at Tonopah Test Range Airport in Nevada.

“Our plane, the F-117, had recently been unveiled to the public and there was increasing fascination with this stealth fighter, as it was mistakenly called, since it was actually an assault weapon,” he says. “We were called the Ghost Riders.” After the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, his 37th Tactical Fighter Wing was deployed to Southwest Asia. The F-117’s capabilities were recognized around the world on the night of January 17, 1991. Representing just over 2 percent of coalition aircraft, the F-117s accounted for 100 percent of Baghdad targets and 31 percent of all targets attacked in the opening salvo of Desert Storm.

“What a memorable night — and in the days that followed our high value- target tempo continued with much success,” Gonyea says. “The support from back home was the greatest. It made things much easier for everyone [in Saudi Arabia].”

Following his retirement from the Air Force, Gonyea served as a security company executive. He fully retired in 2017 and moved back to his native Michigan. The change caused him to reassess his financial and estate planning, and one aspect was determining his preference for leaving a legacy. “I decided it was time to give back to the place that made me, and the natural designation for my future gift was my class,” he says.

The Class of 1973 has established an endowed fund to support the National Character and Leadership Symposium. “I may not have always been able to participate in my class reunions, but I certainly am proud of what my class has achieved to help the future leaders of our Air Force. It is a privilege to support this class act.”

For more information on how to establish a future legacy gift for an Air Force Academy program, contact Dale Zschoche at the USAFA Endowment: or 719-238-7510.