STEELE, N.D. (KXNET) — He grew up in North Dakota, he flew around the world and he can keep a secret.
But those aren’t the only things that make Roger Emter’s life so fascinating.
“As you can tell, I’m kind of a computer buff,” Emter said.
Clicking through dozens of files, Roger Emter is truly an engineer’s mind at work.
“That’s a delta wing aircraft. And this is the T-33 I flew in. We were the targets, these guys would find us and shoot us down. They never missed,” Emter said.
Training missions, of course. Emter walked away without a scratch, but his love of electronics started in school in North Dakota around 1960.
“I wasn’t afraid of anything. In fact, I kind of enjoyed flying,” Emter said.
So, leaving Glen Ullin for the Air Force in the 1960s seemed like a good fit. One of Emter’s seven brothers encouraged him to enlist rather than be drafted.
“60+ technicians stationed at McCord air base with me. Everyone that was promoted to sergeant was sent to Vietnam,” Emter said.
He wasn’t sent to the jungle, but Emter kept busy studying and working. When the chance came, he volunteered for worldwide duty.
“When you’re in a military situation like that and they get you into a room and they say, from here on out, there’ll be no discussion about this,” Emter said.
That mission, should he choose to accept it, meant being sent to a top-secret base in Pakistan to spy on Russian activity.
“The bounty that was on my head was big time,” Emter said. “That’s why they didn’t allow me to go off base. They knew if they get me, the station isn’t going to work.”
For 15 months, Emter did his job at the secret base maintaining radio equipment.
“We had 20 acres of antennas,” Emter said.
His only chance to talk with his family was in letters.
“I basically communicated with my mom. Hello, I’m doing fine, I’m staying very busy. The food’s good. What else can I say? I miss being home for Christmas,” Emter said.
His active service ended in 1969, but until this interview, Emter hadn’t given it a great deal of thought. He’s been too busy.
Since returning to North Dakota, Roger transitioned from tuning radios to tuning instruments.
“I enjoy serving other people. That’s another quality I have. I enjoy making people happy,” Emter said.
Roger, his wife, his kids, and his grandkids all continue to play, hosting concerts for neighbors in their home.
“I love my 14 grandchildren,” Emter said. “They’re everything to Renae and I.”
Roger’s granddaughter Katie was also just accepted into the North Dakota National Guard’s band.
She graduates next month and will play with the 188th Army Band for the next six years.