Kessler reminisces about Cold War

KINGMAN ­ When Jim Kessler joined the U.S. Air Force in 1962, he had no idea the Cuban Missile Crisis was about to warm up the Cold War era.

Kessler, C.P.A., management analyst in the Mohave County Office of Management and Budget, spent four years in the Air Force's Air Intelligence Operations.

Kessler started college at Kent State University in Ohio right after high school but lacked the focus to stay ahead in academics. "I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I went to Kent State, enrolled in geology and majored in party and playing guitar in a rock band," he stated. "I learned that you get out of something exactly what you put into it, as my grades plummeted."

When his grades took a nose dive, the dean at his college suggested that Kessler enlist in the military to get a better focus on what he wanted to do with his life. "I always loved the excitement of flying," he said as to why he chose the Air Force branch of the military. "To me, the Air Force seemed like a great adventure."

After enlisting, Kessler was sent to intelligence operation training, a three-month training school.

"I enlisted in the Air Force in '62. The program I was involved in was started right after Francis Gary Powers and his U2 spy plane were shot out of the Russian sky," Kessler said, who had a top secret clearance. "President (Dwight) Eisenhower promised the Soviets we would stop U2 flyovers in 1960. The U.S. had to come up with a new way to gather intelligence. We needed to know the location of Russian missile silos, ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles), and surface to air missiles. The early days of spy satellites had begun."

Kessler was stationed at Strategic Air Command in El Paso, Texas, at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He said that they were under constant alert waiting for something to happen.

"We didn't know what the Soviet response would be to Kennedy's demands to remove the missiles," Kessler said.

"We kept eight loaded B-52s on the tarmac at all times. I happened to be in one, changing the target intelligence when an alert went off. The crew boarded; the captain told me to get the hell off! I jumped out through the nuke bomb bay door, and the blast from eight jet engines threw me into the desert like a tumbleweed."

Kessler's unit was designed to define and target all Soviet offensive positions with the goal being "to get to them before they got us."

Kessler returned to Kent State after his four-year stint in the Air Force and majored in accounting. He graduated with a bachelor of arts, cum laude, in accounting with a minor in finance in 1968.

Kessler moved to Phoenix in 1977. After living in the bustling city for more than 20 years, Kessler and his wife, Geri, wanted to live in a smaller community. They visited Lake Havasu City and fell in love with the area. They moved to Mohave County in 1998.

In 2003, Kessler was offered the position for the OMB and purchased a smaller home in Kingman, where he lives Monday through Friday so he can eliminate the commute during the week. His wife is an account specialist with Springberg McAndrew Financial services in Lake Havasu City.

The Kesslers have two grown sons, Brett and Dale.

Brett is a major in the U.S. Army and is about to return from a year-long international military school just outside London. The Airborne Ranger is returning to command an artillery unit.

Dale is a civil engineer in Los Angeles. He also flies part time as a commercial co-pilot for Sky West Airlines.

According to a news release from Mohave County Information Office, "Mohave County is an ideal place for Jim Kessler, who is an outdoor enthusiast. He enjoys kayaking, hiking and photography. He also finds relaxation through the study of Bible prophesies."