Well, that is, to Northeast Texas Community College at Mt. Pleasant this semester for paint and body restoration. The Carroll Shelby Automotive Technology Program has entered a joint venture with the Museum to allow students in the paint and body department to use the ambulance as a hands-on training project.
The museum is seeking four or five volunteers who can spend one day a week working with, supervising, and mentoring the students at the college.
Ken Williams, department director and teacher of the program, recommended that a museum volunteer be on hand daily to provide adult leadership for the students.
Here’s what Williams had to say about the project: “The value of a museum volunteer being here is that they bring a level of interest in the vehicle that you just can’t get from an 18-year-old. We will have maybe six or so students on your vehicle at one time, while the rest of the students will be doing other projects.
“I will be bouncing around between them all and that leaves time for your six to really mess something up. They don’t mean to, they just don’t know what they are doing. Right now, I would say the volunteer would need to be here from 8 a.m. til noon Monday through Thursday.
“I would welcome their hands-on experience and participation, or they can just watch and make sure my directions to the students are followed. It’s OK to rotate people. I think your participants will have fun.”
Individuals interested in volunteering one or more days each week should contact the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Aneita Henry at the museum, 903-424-3917; Sara Allen at First National Bank, 903-843-4100; or Steve Dean, 903-790-7435.
Arriving in Texas as military surplus, the vehicle became part of the Upshur Civil County Defense fleet back in the 1980s. It was retired and written off as surplus to the county in 2000.
The museum acquired the ambulance in 2010 from the Wood County couple who bought the vehicle from Upshur County back in 2001.
Since joining the FOTPAM Motor Pool, the Jeep has received some maintenance restoration courtesy of Priefert Manufacturing in Mt. Pleasant, Albright Auto and Muffler Shop in Gilmer, JL Aero Services at Fox Stephens Field, and from assorted museum volunteers.
Vehicle and aircraft restoration projects tend to become costly and time-consuming and usually morph into a labor of love before completed. The “labor of love” is what causes reason to go out the window, replaced by the passion to recreate and bring to life a piece of history. This Jeep, when completed, will look a bit like the restored Jeep pictured.
The FOTPAM wants to restore the vehicle to the livery of Air Force vehicles serving in Bien Hoa, South Vietnam, during 1967.
This was the time that Combat Dragon was ongoing and the U.S. Air Force Air Commandos were testing a new weapon, the Dragonfly—Cessna’s A-37 Jet Fighter Plane. FOTPAM already has on display the jet-trainer version of the Dragonfly—the T-37 Tweet.
The Jeep Ambulance, when restored, will provide a medium for telling the story of and honoring the men and women who served in the Vietnam War. Volunteers are encouraged to contact the museum. Donations are also solicited and welcome. A sponsor might wish to adopt the naming and financing of the project.
In addition to relationship building with Northeast Texas Community College, the museum is garnering support from LeTourneau College and Kilgore College. Each one of the three colleges is looking for ways to enhance their footprint in Upshur County, consequently they embrace the museum relationship as a way to increase their visibility in the community. Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum is a 501 (c) 3 educational foundation, operating at Fox Stephens Field/Gilmer Municipal Airport in Gilmer. www.flightofthephoenix.org