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Joe Griffith grew up in Oklahoma. In 1960, he entered the U.S. Air Force Academy and spent the next four years there. He then went into pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. He served three tours in Vietnam and worked at the Pentagon in readiness assessment. In 1982, Joe came to Alaska to serve as Commander of the Air Force's 21st Wing, which had just failed an operational readiness inspection. Joe retired from the Air Force in 1984, but has continued to reside in Alaska.