Eugene D. “Gene” Santarelli
Eugene D. “Gene” Santarelli had to decide between an aircraft cockpit and a foxhole. He chose the cockpit.
Notre Dame and ROTC put him into USAF pilot training at Laughlin AFB, TX in the Rio Grande Valley followed by a backseat assignment in the F-4 to Ubon RTAB, Thailand and the Vietnam War. Much of it at night over the ho Chi Minh Trail.
After Vietnam, came more F-4 and then F-16 assignments, promotion to general officer including one to Lt. General.
He retried after 32 years as Vice Commander of Pacific Air Forces, having commanded a numbered Air Force, an Air Division and three wings in the U.S. Europe and the Mid-East.
He is active in political and community affairs in Tucson.
Lieutenant General Gene Santarelli, USAF (ret) served over 32 years in the U.S. Air Force, and since retirement in 1998, has been a consultant to Defense Industry, to the State of Arizona, and the City of Tucson, Arizona. His career in the Air Force took him around the world as a pilot and in Command positions. The General entered the Air Force through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program in 1966 after graduating from the University of Notre Dame. He holds two Masters Degrees, one in Administration & Management from Troy State University, and another in Military Science from the Army Command & General Staff College. He also attended the Government Security Studies Seminar of the Harvard School of Government. His last assignment was as the vice commander, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces, Hickam AFB, Hawaii. The Command then was responsible for Air Force activities covering half the world and supported 55,000 people serving at 12 major locations, primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, South Korea, Japan, and Guam. In this position he managed budgets of over $1 Billion annually. The general was a command pilot with more than 4000 hours in fighters and other aircraft, including 901 combat hours in the F-4, which he accumulated during two tours in Southeast Asia. He has also flown air combat patrol missions over Northern and Southern Iraq, and in Bosnia. As a consultant to Defense Industries, he provides strategic analysis and business development support. He works with the cities of Arizona and State government on community-military issues. General Santarelli has served as a member of the Arizona Governor’s Task Force on Military Installations and as a Co-Chair on the Arizona Commission on Military Affairs. He was a Board Director to Thales Training & Simulation, Inc., and still serves on the Boards of two non-profit organizations in Tucson, the Volunteer Center of Southern Arizona and Wright Flight, an organization that uses the excitement of flying to motivate children to improve their academic skills as well as learn about aviation.