Ross enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at age 18 and was living in Florida early in his military career when the Air Force transferred him to Eielson AFB (in Alaska), where he first saw the snow and mountains that later became recurring themes in his artwork; he developed his quick-painting technique in order to be able to create art for sale in brief daily work breaks.
Having held military positions that required him to be, in his own words, "mean" and "tough," "the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work," Ross decided that if he ever moved on from the military, "it wasn't going to be that way any more," "vowing never to scream again".
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