Tom Varble was born in 1929 in Ohio. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program on March 30, 1951, and was commissioned a 2Lt in the U.S. Air Force and awarded his pilot wings on October 25, 1952. Lt Varble next completed combat crew training in the F-86 Sabre in April 1953, and then served with the 67th Fighter Bomber Squadron in Korea from April 1953 to March 1954. Varble next transitioned into the F-84 Thunderjet, serving with the 516th Strategic Fighter Squadron at Great Falls AFB (changed to Malmstrom AFB in June 1956), Montana, from April 1954 to June 1961, with deployments to Chitose AB, Japan, and Eielson AFB, Alaska, during this time. He served as an instructor pilot at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, from June 1961 to June 1962, when he went to England as an exchange pilot flying with the Royal Air Force. At the completion of his RAF Exchange Officer service in July 1964, Varble again served as an instructor pilot, this time at Reese AFB, Texas, until February 1967. He next transitioned into the F-4 Phantom II, and began flying combat missions in Southeast Asia with the 391st and then the 558th Tactical Fighter Squadron out of Cam Ranh Bay AB in the Republic of Vietnam, from April 1968 to April 1969. His next assignment was with the 6003rd Support Squadron at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, where he served from April 1969 until the mid 1970's. His final assignment was at Keesler AFB, in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he retired from the Air Force on February 28, 1979. Near the end of his active duty service in the Air Force, Col Varble started the Air Force JROTC Program (MS-781) at Biloxi High School in January 1979, and remained with the program until his retirement in 1996. Tom has been active in community activities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since his retirement from the Air Force, including volunteer service with the Boy Scouts of America, the Air Force Association, and various activities at Keesler AFB.
His Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
Major Thomas A. Varble distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as an F4C Aircraft Commander near the Kham Duc Special Forces Camp, Republic of Vietnam, on 12 May 1968. On that date, Major Varble was scrambled from alert status in response to an urgent request for air support from Allied Forces attempting to evacuate the besieged position at Kham Duc. Major Varble made repeated low level ordnance deliveries in the face of heavy hostile ground fire, under adverse conditions of weather and visibility. The devastating effects produced by Major Varble's accurate ordnance passes contributed directly to the successful outcome of this operation. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Major Varble reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.