Larry Keister: United States Air Force Veteran

Today’s guest has accomplished and experienced so much in his life; it’s quite the privilege to be the hearer of some of his stories. He’s been all over the world and done so much for so many people. Therefore, I (Anthony Crosby) am merely going to use this introductional paragraph to list just some of his highlights! He has five Air Force Commendation Medals (many individuals who serve don’t receive even one). He’s worked on several different kinds of aircraft. He’s worked with six test pilots that later flew space shuttle missions.  He’s logged over three million, accident-free miles as an over the road truck driver. He has a degree in radiation therapy, including nine hundred hours of clinical experience in radiation therapy treating cancer patients.  He’s been a CDL instructor at Great Basin College. He’s been a business owner. He’s played with a few local bands. He was trained by NASA to install micro components onto missiles and space shuttles. Finally, he’s even survived being held, oversees, at gunpoint a couple of times! Lazy or uneventful would be the wrong words to describe this person!

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This week, AAT is honored to be joined by Larry Keister. Now, we could have picked many topics from Larry’s story to focus on for the sake of this conversation. However, I wanted him to share some of his thoughts and experiences as a retired veteran of the United States Air Force. AAT is very thankful for the men and women who have served our country, and we’re grateful to have Larry here to share his journey and some of his experiences with us.

Please, take it away, Larry!

“I was born and raised in Southern California. I had a family early on in life, so I started digging ditches for two dollars and thirty-five cents an hour for my father-in-law when I was seventeen. I was wasn’t making much money there, so I went into working with ceramic tile. I realized, if I was ever to get an education, I needed to do something different; that’s when I decided to go into the service. I did my basic training at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas before going to the technical training school at Lowery Air Force base in Denver, Colorado.  After Colorado, I was stationed at Hill Air Force base in Utah from 1974 to 1981. We did a lot of interesting things there; it was a great assignment!

“From there I started doing some transit duty assignments for a classified operating station, located “somewhere” in the Nevada desert as an Instrumentation Telemetry Technician (someone who measures changing phenomenon). We did some interesting stuff there! I was very fortunate because I got to work on a lot of things and see a lot of things; I saw things that haven’t even come out today, yet! I wish I could tell you about some of them, Anthony, but if I did, I’d have to kill you!” (He said laughingly)

An ARIA (Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft). Larry has over
2500 flight hours in these beauties!

“I eventually took a little break from those assignments and moved to Wright Patterson, Ohio because the schedule was demanding. I would get on an airplane on a Monday, fly to “that location” and then come home on a Friday. During that time, I also started an automotive trim business that I would come home and work on Friday nights and Saturdays.

“In Ohio, I worked with the Advanced Range Instrumentation Air Craft on all their electronic equipment. It was a tough job; every Thanksgiving they would send us to Tahiti for three weeks, or every two months we would go to Barbados for two weeks. Brazil, Nairobi, Kenya, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Wake Island, I’ve been around the world about eight times! I’ve been to places most people could only dream of.

“After traveling for a while, I made my way back to Wright Patterson, Ohio and flew for about two years. I got tired of being gone all the time, so they put me in charge of three-hundred million dollars’ worth of electronic equipment. We had eight aircraft at that base, and I wrote the database used to track all their equipment.

“Altogether, I was in the Air Force for twenty years and four and a half months (1973-1993) I have my picture in the National Air and Space Museum; one of our planes is in there too! However, what I’m most thankful for is the sense of pride that came with being able to do something for the country. I’m proud I was able to serve and give something back.”

This section is the same one Larry worked in when he operated telemetry receivers.

Larry, as someone with a storied past in the Air Force, what would say to a young man or woman who may be thinking of enlisting, themselves?

“It’s a selfless act to join the military; your ass is on the line, twenty-four seven. Your superiors can send you into battle at any time, and you’re away from your home a lot which can be hard on the family. Plus, they can move you all over the country. The military can be a great experience, but many sacrifices come with it.”

Larry, you have (almost) literally lived, or at least stayed, all over the world. What made you finally decided to settle down in the Elko area of all places? 

“My wife, Karin, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was twenty-nine. Before moving up here, we were living in Las Vegas because I had a successful automotive trim business there at the time; however, she couldn’t take the heat any longer. I had come up to Elko to hunt with my dad growing up for years; I told him many times this is where I’d love to live one day. In 2008, Karin and I looked into it and moved up here!”

Are you enjoying retirement life in our little community, Larry?

“Yes! I’m a rural guy. I like hunting and fishing, and I am not too fond of crowds of people. Also, in the Winter time, there can be twenty or thirty head of deer that live in my backyard; where else can you have that? I love it, and I’ve gotten to meet some fantastic people. Overall, I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun!”

Larry and I then went on to talk about his love for guitars; he has over forty of them currently in his home! His real passion is building and repairing guitars. He loves doing that type of work so much that he’s trying to make a business of it! Therefore, if anybody in town has a guitar that needs a little bit of TLC, remember the name, Larry Keister!

Larry on an ARIA mission. If you’re interested in learning more about what Larry did on these assignments, click here: ARIA

You can stay caught up on everything going on around here at AAT by checking out our “Stay Connected” page! Make sure you never miss a feature!

See you around, Elko!

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