Gerry Schwankl, 89, answered the Lord’s call on 22 Oct 2021. He is survived by his beloved wife of 68 years, Virginia (Ginny) of Lopez Island, Washington; sister Joan O’Berry of Thousand Palms, California; son Joel Schwankl and wife Barbara of Lopez Island; daughter Judy Dern and husband Chris of Lopez Island; daughter Jamie Hampton and husband Steve of Agoura Hills, California; as well as seven grandchildren, three great grandchildren, and one great grandchild on-the-way.
Gerry was born in 1931, in Breckenridge, Minn., and graduated from Everett (Wash.) High School in 1949. He received Bachelor of Science degrees in architectural engineering from Washington State University in 1955 and in aerospace mechanical engineering (summa cum laude) from Arizona State University in 1965. He received a Master of Science degree in systems management from the University of Southern California in 1979, and he is a graduate of Air Command and Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces
From 1956 to 1959, he was assigned to his first operational squadron--the 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 49th Tactical Fighter Wing, Etain Air Base, France, flying F-86 and F-100 aircraft. Upon return to the states, he served as a senior air surveillance officer with Air Defense Command, and as a space systems analyst.
During 1966, as a Major, Gerry piloted the A-1E Skyraider serving as an aerial gunnery instructor for American and Vietnamese pilots at Hurlburt Field, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. During 1968 he flew 145 night combat missions in A-1s from Nakhon Phanom, Thailand and Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, where he served as a squadron operations officer in Project Tropic Moon with the 56th Special Operations Wing.
Upon his return to the United States in 1969, he was assigned as Chief of the Programs Branch, in Air Force Systems Command, Andrews Air Force Base, Md. providing weapons programs test support. During 1971 he returned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in flight test engineering and flying as a test pilot.
As a senior officer, he served as Deputy Director and Chief Engineer of B-1 Bomber development, Director of Engineering for the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles Program Office, and as Program Manager for the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile. He was Deputy Commander for Research, Development and Acquisition, Armament Division, Air Force Systems Command, and as the principal Deputy for Tactical Systems, where he provided program direction for the F-15, F-5, A-10 aircraft, the Maverick missile, and the Advanced Tactical Fighter program.
He finished his career as a Brigadier General serving in the Pentagon as the Air Force Competition Advocate General, retiring in 1986. Brigadier General Schwankl was a Command Pilot with more than 3,300 flying hours. His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with six oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Ribbon, and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm.
Gerry and his wife Ginny have since resided on Lopez Island, Washington where he was very active in community service planning, the Church, and organizations supporting island residents including The Lopez Island Lions Club, the Lopez Union Cemetery Board, and the Lopez Senior Services Committee. He enjoyed gardening, carpentry, painting, and Bible studies with friends too numerous to count. Gerry and Ginny have cherished their many friends in the island community for over 30 years.
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