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Interview with Doug Hanks [1/14/2012]

David Quick:

Good morning. Today's date is January 14, 2012. My name is David Quick. I'm conducting this Oral History Interview at the NCRA Headquarters in Vienna, Virginia. Today we're talking to Doug Hanks. Doug, can you, for the record, state your name and your address?

Doug Hanks:

Yeah. It's Major Doug Hanks, United States Air Force, retired, and my address is 12801 Popular Creek Drive in Fairfax, Virginia.

David Quick:

Great. So, if we could start to get an idea of your beginning of your service, and even before that, can you talk about some of the details of your early life that led up to you joining the service?

Doug Hanks:

Sure. Certainly. Actually, I came from a very small town, Tyra, North Carolina. Their population is probably less than 500, a very impoverished, economically deprived area of the region. I was probably 17 years old. I was actually a high school dropout. I was working in the textile industry, working third shift, late night. And one day I was driving through a bigger town of Lexington, North Carolina. Not much bigger, about 19,000 folks. I just happened to catch out of the corner of my eye, this Navy recruiter station. So I decided to stop in one morning, and I actually talked to the Navy recruiter there. Of course, Navy recruiters, they want to get people to join the Navy. They gave me their pitch. I went and took the standard ASVAB test, scored high on the ASVAB test. The next thing I knew I was enlisted in the United States Navy from 1981 to 1987.

David Quick:

Had you thought about military service before that?

Doug Hanks:

No. Never thought about military service. But, to me, it was an ideal candidate, a catalyst or an area that would actually take you out of that environment, get you out, give you an education, that kind of thing. I really never really thought about it until I went in and saw what it was.

David Quick:

Okay. So once you actually talked to the recruiter, those benefits became clear to you?

Doug Hanks:

Well, I think at that time they were clear. But it really -- you know, I think I fell into it by happenstance, to tell you the truth. Once I got into the service, it was something that I really enjoyed, adapted really well. I liked the structure, which was probably something that I was missing in that young 17-year-old age. Probably, you know, hanging around, you know, the wrong crowd.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

So it kind of took me out of that environment. It gave me income, benefits. And it provided me with a lot of structure that I probably needed at that time.

David Quick:

Had people in your family served?

Doug Hanks:

My grandfather had served. He was in World War II. I know he was part of the D-Day invasion. He never really talked that much about the war, but he served, I believe, from 1941, December timeframe, actually joined right after the Pearl Harbor attacks, and served up until 1948.

David Quick:

Okay. All right. And when you did it, sign up, what was your family's reaction?

Doug Hanks:

Actually, my family was very supportive. They were actually kind of proud, to tell you the truth. I was really happy with that.

David Quick:

So you sign up, take your test. And the test, the ASVAB, is that like a verbal skills, math aptitude kind of thing?

Doug Hanks:

Right. Every person entering the military, they basically give you what they call the ASVAB test. I forgot what the acronym stands for. But it basically gives you a composite score, and that composite translates into career fields that you are -- have demonstrated an aptitude that you would be able to perform.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

So they gave me a list, a big, long list. And they let me do the dream sheet, which is typically, hey, rank your one to five, what you want to do. And then, of course, they matched it against their Navy need. So I became a radioman, which is kind of a misnomer.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

You think it has to do a lot with radios. But really it's more than just radios. It's doing comm. circuits, fleet circuits, patching secure and unsecure circuits together and coming up with comm. plans to do all of these big fleet exercises.

David Quick:

Okay. So, coordination, communication work?

Doug Hanks:

All communication stuff. Cryptographic equipment, setting up satellite transmitters, transceivers, secure, unsecure, time division multiplex circuits, which were very big back then. Far advanced today, of course, but back then very big. And I served on the Mount Whitney from 19 - actually, I had a shorter station serving at a Naval telecommunications center from 1981 to 1983. And then from 1983 to 1987, I served on the Mount Whitney, which is the Comm Second Fleet flagship for the Atlantic.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

So we went on various exercises with that.

David Quick:

We'll hopefully talk more in detail about what you were actually doing once you got your assignments. But after you signed up, where did you go for training? What was training like?

Doug Hanks:

Initial training was obviously the boot camp, enlisted boot camp. That was held in great Orlando, Florida, in the middle of summer.

David Quick:

Oh, gosh.

Doug Hanks:

I remember it was very hot. I think the program at that time was 13 weeks. After completion of boot camp, I then went through Radioman "A" School, which was in a nice, warmer climate, San Diego, California. I did that. And once you graduate from your "A" School, then you get your first assignment. My first assignment was at Telecommunication Center, at Breezy Point.

David Quick:

And how was boot camp? You mentioned earlier that the military kind of injected some structure in your life. So what was that like for you?

Doug Hanks:

Boot camp is hell.

David Quick:

Yeah?

Doug Hanks:

It is actually 13 hard weeks of sleep deprivation, of course, and training yourself -- I wouldn't say brainwashing, but it's more training yourself to know Navy terms, the Navy way of doing business, the Navy rank, structure, how to perform certain activities like fighting fires, how to fire a weapon. And then, of course, you know, grooming you. And then, of course, you always receive the typical drill instructor, you know, how much can you bare before we break you down kind of thing. But it's all designed, basically, to teach you teamwork and attention to detail. So a very hard experience for 13 weeks, but it's something that I endured.

David Quick:

Did you during those 13 weeks, did you feel like, oh, God, I want to leave?

Doug Hanks:

Oh, yeah, several times, several times. They really structure it that way. It's designed to actually make you break down. That's what they want to do. They want to show you that, you know, by yourself, you know, you're fallible. Okay? But when you work as a team together, to do something, then, you know, there's strength in numbers. And cooperate and graduate.

David Quick:

And did you get along with all of your fellow trainees?

Doug Hanks:

I would say for the most part, yes. Obviously, when you bring in a mix of people from various backgrounds: rich, poor, black, white, religious, non-religious, drinkers, non-drinkers, smokers, non-smokers, you put them all in one environment plus the fact that you're very young -- I would say most of the people at that time were, you know, 17 to 22 years of age. It was a very diverse group of people. You know, you tend to get along with most of them. But I'd say I had a couple of run-ins here and there.

David Quick:

But it was basically enjoyable?

Doug Hanks:

Oh, yeah. It was an enjoyable experience now that I look back on it.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

During the time probably not so enjoyable, but it's one of the many things you have to do.

David Quick:

Sure. So, you go to Florida, then radio training, your specialization training in San Diego.

Doug Hanks:

Right.

David Quick:

And did that come to you easily, your new specialization?

Doug Hanks:

I thought school was relatively easy, but I'm a bookworm. Even though I was a high school dropout, I'm a bookworm. And I think the problem was, with high school, was that I was very bored. It was not a challenging environment for me. And then the "A" School itself, it was designed very hand -- person-to-person. You know, demonstration with, you know, corps tests, and, you know, a very structured way of graduating.

David Quick:

You mentioned earlier that you got to make a list of your dream placements. Was that one of the jobs you had wanted?

Doug Hanks:

Actually, I was surprised, because most people who entered the Navy and go through boot camp, their initial duty station would be on board a ship.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

I actually lucked out, per se, and got a dry station.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

You know, on land for the first two years. So that was a welcomed surprise.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

And then, of course, after that two years, then I got sent to sea.

David Quick:

Yeah. So you go from training in San Diego. And say again --

Doug Hanks:

Went from San Diego to a Naval telecommunications center at Breezy Point. And that's in Norfolk, Virginia.

David Quick:

Okay. And talk about what you were doing there.

Doug Hanks:

There I was basically -- since it's a dry station, all you basically do there is message trafficking.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

You're a communication center. Back in that time, obviously not as advanced as we are today with computers. You know, receive messages via different forms, whether it be a computer, which at that time was the entire room was this one computer. Of course, now today you have a laptop that you can sit in the corner and do the same thing.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

But this big Univac, big computer, with various ways of receiving message traffic and, of course, they're prioritized in accordance with how much time you have from the time that you receive the message until the time that you have to make a delivery. And then there would be various jobs that you could do while you were in the communication station. You would either be helping the computer operator, who was a trained civil servant, you would be doing message tapes which was actually doing the teletype work, piece parsing messages together and transmitting them back out. Or the thing that I enjoyed the most, which was actually hand routing.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

Back in the day, they did not have, like, today with computers, where it could read a message and point -- you know, pick out who it actually needs to go to and what time. So we would receive a stack of messages this high. You would have to prioritize them. It sounds lame, but --

David Quick:

A hard copy of paper?

Doug Hanks:

Hard copy paper, stacks about this high. You would have to take each paper, okay, check its routing, its classification, who it's going to, how many copies it had to be sent to, make sure it wasn't any special category messages, something with high class, high classification, route it the right way. It would then get checked and then sent to distri where they would do reproduction and slide it to the right command. Then you had messengers that actually physically drove trucks to take those messages to various other stations, whether it be to a ship that had communication problems or to another -- an airplane squadron on the base, or even to the terminal itself, you know, the airport terminal on the base.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

So it was pretty much, you know, routine, monotonous work, but very fast paced.

David Quick:

So that stack of papers came from where? Transcribed?

Doug Hanks:

Yeah, various organizations that transmitted it. Every message, every station, even today, have what they call a routing indicator. It's a seven-to-eight-digit code on a piece of paper. And, like, for example, Breezy Point -- I still remember it today, because I routed probably 10,000, 20,000 messages. It was R-U-E-O-A-L-A.

David Quick:

That was Breezy Point's code?

Doug Hanks:

That's Breezy Point's little code. Whenever the computer would pick that up, it would print out that particular message, and you would have to guard for all of these other 40 or 50 organizations. And you would go through that big stack of paper and go get some more, big stack of paper, go get some more.

David Quick:

Did you have to have a security clearance?

Doug Hanks:

Absolutely. Yeah. Top-secret security clearance, because you would receive very sensitive, time critical information that would have to be dispersed. It could be war-related. It could be personnel-related, could be spy-related, Intel-related. So you really learned a lot, but you just couldn't tell anybody.

David Quick:

Yeah. The internet was kind of developed by the military. Is this, like, early days of network computing?

Doug Hanks:

Actually, not -- no. This was still back in the tactile, hard core paper copy stuff. Internet really probably didn't get its boost -- I don't actually remember using the internet a lot until around 1990.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

1991 to 1995, that's when it started really. Then it kicked out around 1995, 1996, 1997. That's when you got your Windows, your first Windows drop. Before then, it was really Xerox Company file, spreadsheets, that program.

David Quick:

And were you getting training in computers?

Doug Hanks:

Oh, yeah. On-the-job training for computers. And actually, believe it or not, during that time when I decided to get out of the Navy in 1987 to go back to school -- I tried several times during my initial enlistment to go to school. But when you're out at sea, it's kind of hard to do course work. They really didn't have it set up for continuous education back in that time. So I got out and actually studied computer programming. Because, you know, the military had exposed me to that world. So I went back to a little community college to get an Associate’s Degree in Computer Programming.

David Quick:

Cool. So there at Breezy Point, you were living in a barracks?

Doug Hanks:

No. I was living off-base in a very small apartment, just going back and forth to work. Very low pay, because I was probably only an E2, E3. So it was a challenge just to get from payday to payday.

David Quick:

And did you have enough money to have fun, too?

Doug Hanks:

No. [Laughter] No. Just enough to eat, sleep, work.

David Quick:

Did you have a circle of friends that you worked with?

Doug Hanks:

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. We would get together and do our typical buddy stuff when we could, when we could afford it, which was usually on payday. And then the other 14 days we just stayed at home.

David Quick:

So you're at Breezy Point for two years?

Doug Hanks:

Mm-hmm.

David Quick:

What comes next?

Doug Hanks:

I got an assignment after my first two years to the Mount Whitney. Once again, Comm Second Fleet's flagship. We did various exercises. A lot of North Atlantic deployments. And this was, you know, obviously during the Cold War.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

And we did have a couple of instances where we actually were out at sea and came in contact with Russian vessels at the time. It was quite interesting.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

Back in the day you really didn't communicate, you know, with opposing fleets. There was a lot of tension with the Cold War. And we actually pulled into the harbor one time in Hamburg, Germany, looked up, there in the port of Hamburg, Germany, and looked up at one of the old factories there. And you could still see the Nazi anti-Semitic symbol on the top of the smokestacks. And across from us was a Russian destroyer that had pulled in to Hamburg as well. So Germany had a relation at that time with Russia and allowed them to pull into their ports along with the Americans.

David Quick:

Huh.

Doug Hanks:

It was quite interesting. It was my, really, first up close, hey, here's the Russian environment, here are the Russian people.

David Quick:

And what -- you know, Cold War era, what was the vibe?

Doug Hanks:

The vibe was very -- a lot of tension. I mean, we were actually instructed not to come in contact with any Russian sailors that were actually visiting the port at the same time, especially with security clearances because then it's foreign contact. So everything was pretty much, you know, thumbnails and screws.

David Quick:

Yeah. And were you doing similar work there on the Mount Whitney?

Doug Hanks:

It wasn't more -- no. This was a different focus. Basically, anytime a fleet goes out to sea, it being the flagship for Comm Second Fleet, we would design the entire communication plan for the fleet for every particular exercise. So what basically that involved was taking the ship's complements of transmitters, tranceivers, receivers, all of their crypto gear, their secure gear, their non-secure gear, all the time division multiplexes, satellite systems, all the antennas onboard a ship. Like, we had like 106 antennas plus on the Mount Whitney, and coming up with a communications plan that would be able to survive any fleet exercises. A lot of redundancy. You know, if a ship got hit, you know, we'd be able to patch it in to other ships.

David Quick:

Mm-hmm.

Doug Hanks:

That kind of atmosphere. So, completely different.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

Building on-hands, with equipment, learning how to do that from scratch.

David Quick:

So you were working right on.

Doug Hanks:

Hands-on equipment. Not just message traffic. Of course, the boat did receive message traffic, but they kind of divided it up into people that were doing message traffic back with people that were doing technical control. I did the technical control stuff since I had already did the message traffic, which is a good thing the military does. They give you a lot of experience, you know, depth of experience. They give you a bunch of little things. And then as your career grows and you go up in rank, you know, you can do that by yourself. You learn how to take command.

David Quick:

So what rank were you at that point?

Doug Hanks:

At the time that I actually left NTCC Breezy Point, I was an E3. And the testing back in that time -- actually, I thought I was very fortunate. I became an E5 in two and a half years. And that's starting at E1. Every test -- like I said, a bookworm. Every test I had I scored in that first high increment which allowed me to put on rank faster. So by the time I was 19, I was already an E5.

David Quick:

All right.

Doug Hanks:

So, I was definitely on the right track for a fast advancement in the Navy.

David Quick:

And by that point when you had already been in for a while, were you thinking, you know, this might be my career?

Doug Hanks:

Well, the military definitely appealed to me. Unfortunately I saw -- what was interesting was, I saw how officers lived versus how the enlisted lived. Enlisted lived in these big, open bay, 80 people in a room, shared showers --

David Quick:

On ship, on board?

Doug Hanks:

Right. Right. The officers, however, they got to live in these nice little state rooms, two to a particular compartment, got the finer meals. So I started to think to myself, well, maybe I should become an officer versus, you know, being enlisted. So I tried a couple of times, you know, being a high school dropout, to go back to school, go to college, but it just wasn't working.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

I would get involved in a class, and then we would have to go out to sea.

David Quick:

So you were trying to do classes when you were in port.

Doug Hanks:

Right.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

It just didn't work. So in 1987, I decided to get out and go back to school. So I went to this community college for a couple of years. I got an Associate’s Degree in Computer Programming. And then the day that I graduated, this Air Force recruiter was there talking to people. And after he talked to me, he was like, well, Doug, you know, what we'll do is we will pay for your next two years of school, give you a Bachelor's Degree and give you a commission in the Air Force as a Second Lieutenant if you will go into this particular field, which at the time was missile field, nuclear ICBM's, learn how to be a missile control officer, and we'll send you to, you know, a certain duty location. He didn't tell me where those were, obviously the five worst places to go in the United States. Yeah, very cold and very remote. So he said, you know, you do that and we'll pay for your school. So that's what I decided to do. So I just happened to fall into it, each time I fell into it.

David Quick:

Before we talk more about your time in the Air Force, is there anything else you would say about what it was like, life on ship? What stands out from those days?

Doug Hanks:

Well, I think the things that stand out the most is, one, I was young and never really had any exposure to different cultures. You know, a young guy, single, being able to travel the world, visit different countries, different cultures. It gives you a really big understanding. You know, here I was living in this small bubble for quite a while, you know, and then get out there, meet different people from different countries, learn what their culture is like. And actually, it's was very quite interesting.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

The differences from country to country, even when they're close, is pretty large.

David Quick:

Where else did you go besides places like Germany?

Doug Hanks:

Oh, God, everywhere. I probably touched on -- I used to name them. Italy, Germany, France, England, Poland, Norway, Denmark.

David Quick:

Was it all in Europe?

Doug Hanks:

All North Atlantic because that's basically where Comm Second Fleet had its flag. So I probably touched about every country in Europe in one way or another.

David Quick:

Interesting. And when you're actually at sea, on ship, was that --

Doug Hanks:

14, 15, 16-hour days of working and probably eight hours of sleep. Obviously there's nothing to do other than work, eat, sleep on a ship. And, of course, not only do you have your specialty that you have to deal with, you also have to do other things like clean the ship, maintain the ship. Plus, you'd be part of damage control parties, firefighting parties. So they basically broke you up to the point where, okay, you did your job, you know, whatever hours those were. And then you were probably on watch for either fires or damage control, you know, for part of your day. And then part of your day was dedicated to, obviously, cleaning. You know, you got to keep the ship nice and neat. And you would do that for, you know -- I did it up to 90 days in a row, 14, 15-hour days.

David Quick:

And that was --

Doug Hanks:

Routine.

David Quick:

Bearable?

Doug Hanks:

Well, it's bearable. I mean, it's hard work. I mean, it's not easy work.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

The benefit though was, you know, when you pulled into port, you got some time off and you got to go out and experience those different cultures. Plus, you had been at sea for 90 days, so you didn't spend any paychecks. So you had six, seven paychecks in your locker.

David Quick:

Yeah. All right. So you get out of the Navy, go back to school. As a veteran, at that point, did they help you out with tuition?

Doug Hanks:

I can't recall, initially, at the community college them helping. I know the state helped. But once after getting that Associate's Degree, then the military definitely helped. Not only did they pay for my Bachelor's, but going into that missile career field was one where they had identified as critical, so they also paid for my Master's. So here once again, you know, you have a high school dropout, join the military at a young age, okay? Found out how much an education is needed. Pursued that avenue, and then it paid off. It paid off with the government paying for basically all my education and giving me a commission in the Air Force.

David Quick:

So where did you get your Bachelor's Degree?

Doug Hanks:

I got my Bachelor's Degree from High Point University in North Carolina. And I got my Master's Degree from Missouri State University.

David Quick:

Did you do that -- did you get your Master's right after?

Doug Hanks:

Right after my Bachelor's.

David Quick:

Had you gotten your commission at that point, graduate school?

Doug Hanks:

Right. I went through ROTC, their two-year program was a distinguished grad. As soon as I joined and went to school for missile operation, I got done with that particular school and got assigned to the 510th Missile Squadron. That's when I actually started going for my Master's.

David Quick:

And when you were in college in North Carolina, were you back near your family again?

Doug Hanks:

Oh, yeah. Back near the family. It was great.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

You know, but, at that time I had already served six years in the Navy. So you only needed 14 more to retire. So it was kind of -- it was something in the back of your mind. It just so happened that Air Force recruiter was there on campus that day.

David Quick:

So, like you said, you hadn't actually been thinking, oh, Air Force looks interesting until somebody said why not.

Doug Hanks:

Yeah.

David Quick:

Okay. So you joined the Air Force, get your Master's, and then what comes after that?

Doug Hanks:

I got assigned after going through certification to become a nuclear missile launch officer. I got assigned to the 510th Missile Squadron in Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. This is, by far, the most stressful job I've ever had in my entire life.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

This is where you and a crew partner can be responsible for up to 50 ICBM's. You go to school for that, and they teach you -- I mean, it's more than just missile -- waiting around in a capsule for the President to call you to turn the key to launch.

David Quick:

Like "War Games."

Doug Hanks:

Oh, yeah. If you watch "War Games" and see the parts where they're actually, the two officers, are down in the missile silos, that is probably the closest presentation that I've been able to see on television that truly gives you how that atmosphere was.

David Quick:

Yeah. So, a little pressure cooker.

Doug Hanks:

Oh, it's definitely pressure. Probably the most humbling event was the first time that I actually went on alert after being certified, Second Lieutenant, and the commander -- you take rotations sleeping in a capsule. You're not both up for 24 hours. You rotate. So, he gets to go to bed first. He's most senior. You get the lousy hours. He's most senior, and was sitting down to the console in that capsule, 700 feet underground, with 10 nuclear missiles assigned to you, and that first alarm goes off. Because they would go off, you know, repeatedly. Any change of missile status, that's reported by alarm. So that alarm goes off, and you're sitting there and you're like, oh, wow, this is serious business.

David Quick:

Mm-hmm.

Doug Hanks:

So you go through your training. You know, cut off the alarm, go read the tape. The tape would tell you what the problem was. And you would have to respond to it. Everything by a check list, step-by-step with no deviation. Any deviation would be grounds for them to decert you and you would have to go back through the training again.

David Quick:

So, say more about that. How - for, like, what stretch of time would be just the two of you in this capsule?

Doug Hanks:

The typical crew alert for somebody that's beginning as a Second Lieutenant, you're going to spend eight alerts a month. Those eight alerts involve 24 hours actually on station, not counting the time that it takes for you to go to the squadron in the morning. I would go to the squadron in the morning. You would get briefed on the political state of affairs around the globe.

David Quick:

What year is this?

Doug Hanks:

This is 1991. This is at the height of the Cold War.

David Quick:

But the Berlin wall has come down.

Doug Hanks:

Actually, I think that was a little bit later. 1991, the START Treaty had not been signed yet, START II, if I recall correctly, but 1991. I just lost my train of thought.

David Quick:

So you have eight alerts a month.

Doug Hanks:

Eight alerts a month for a typical -- typical for a new person coming on to the missile field. This is designed to give you experience and exposure.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

And they would typically crew you with somebody that was -- really been out for two, three years, very smart in the weapons system. You would go out with them, and you would learn from them and would spend -- you know, go to your pre-briefs, go out to the sites, so probably about two, three hours before you even got to your actual physical site that you were guarding that day, spend 24 hours there. And, of course, the relief crew the following day would come out and relieve you. And then you got to spend that two or three hours back to be debriefed and get back to the base. So overall it was probably a 30-hour day that you're doing every three days.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

So by the end of the month, you're very tired, serving what we call the crew dog. You're a crew dog, somebody that goes out and has to do alert every three days. That doesn't change for you until you demonstrate proficiency. You either become an instructor or an evaluator or become an executive officer of some kind for the commander. And then your crew time starts to get reduced. So let's say I was out there, and I demonstrated, hey, I'm a good deputy commander, about two years into that after you've served about 100 alerts, they would upgrade you to become a commander. So, you're at a first lieutenant. Now you're the commander of this launch facility.

David Quick:

But you did that for two years.

Doug Hanks:

Oh, yeah. Two years before I became a crew commander. And then after I became a crew commander this weird thing happened. Every year missileers get involved in what they call Olympic Arena, which is the same as Top Gun for pilots. Olympic Arena is missile competition. You test for missile comps. If you score high enough on your test and high enough on your simulation rides -- basically they would put you in a capsule and throw a bunch of things at you. You have a fire in this piece of equipment. You have four sorties that were reporting no-go. You have three pop circuit breakers. And you just -- you're receiving war traffic. And they would throw all of this stuff at you. And, of course, you have to do everything by a checklist, which was hard. You don't think it is, but it's hard.

David Quick:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Doug Hanks:

And if you performed well, and they scored you high, then you became part of that competition team. I scored high. I became part of that competition team and went to Olympic Arena in 1993. And our particular team actually won the event. So we ended up scoring the big Blanchard Trophy, which recognizes the top guns, or the top missileers, in the nation.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

So probably out of 600, you're looking at one that was in the top five.

David Quick:

Cool. So each of these missile units, these missile control units like yours, would send their best to this competition.

Doug Hanks:

Correct.

David Quick:

So how many people from your unit competed in that?

Doug Hanks:

Well, you start out with the entire contingent of missileers. That's 600. You test, and probably 200 qualify. They go through their simulation ride, and that probably breaks it down to 100. And then you go through more rides, harder rides. And that probably gets you down to about 10 people per wing. And there's five wings.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

So overall, 50 people go to this competition held in one of the locations with different weapon systems, because it's just not Minuteman. There's Titan, Minuteman-II's, Minuteman-III's.

David Quick:

Those are types of missiles.

Doug Hanks:

Yeah. Types of missiles, nuclear missiles. You would go, and you would compete -- your team would compete against another wing's top two in their wing on the same weapon system. They would score you based on the same scenarios given to both crews and whoever scored the highest would obviously be the winner.

David Quick:

And how often is that competition?

Doug Hanks:

Once annually.

David Quick:

Once a year. I can imagine that's a morale boosting thing.

Doug Hanks:

Oh, yeah. It was great. It was great.

David Quick:

Was that the point of it?

Doug Hanks:

It is. It's more to rub your nose in the other person's. Hey, we're the best wing in the entire nation, thanks for playing. You know, it's the Super Bowl. So, yeah. It was a great experience.

David Quick:

You did that once?

Doug Hanks:

I did the competition one time. We won the trophy that year. So, very happy. It's a very good bullet to have in your record for promotions.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

Very happy with that.

David Quick:

And so after you've been clearly successful that first couple of years, did you start moving on to other things?

Doug Hanks:

Yeah. Actually, at that particular time I was probably not one of the best politically received people in the military, because I'm prior listed as having a big mouth. So my commanders were always giving me a hard time. But after competing for that and winning that, they kind of shut up afterwards and left me alone. They actually made me an instructor and an evaluator.

David Quick:

OKAY.

Doug Hanks:

So then I would go in and actually look at other crews who were coming out of school and performing every month. Every month you have to demonstrate proficiency in emergency war ordering codes, weapon systems, and do that and maintain 100% accuracy. So it's a very stressful job with no room for error. And we would evaluate crews in the simulator whenever they would do something wrong. You know, we would correct them and then maintain their certification, sign off on their certification.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

It's very good. I mean, you're -- you're climbing up that ladder. It's basically grooming you for squadron commander. As you progress in the military, things get harder, more leadership roles, more responsibility.

David Quick:

How long did you do that?

Doug Hanks:

I did missiles. I did missiles and instructing up until 1995. I think 1993 is when they signed the START Treaty.

David Quick:

OKAY.

Doug Hanks:

So basically what you had now was a weapons system that was partially active and a weapons system that was partially inactive. Because now we're going to take these missiles offline and implode these locations in Missouri. You know, we still maintain -- even today, we still have some land-based nuclear ICBM's in operation, but no longer in Whiteman Air Force Base. So we were maintaining one side of the missile contingent, was online, ready to go while we're evaluating the Russian START Treaty, the fall of the wall, and the other half is being imploded.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

For the START Treaty. It was pretty interesting. We got to maintain -- not only was it stressful enough, now you have to maintain two sets of ways to operate. There's a way to operate a missile that is online, ready to go. And then you're still a way to maintain a missile when it's offline but not yet dismantled.

David Quick:

So did that dismantling also start --

Doug Hanks:

Yeah, started probably in 1993 and continued way past the time that I got out of missiles in 1995.

David Quick:

Is it still going on?

Doug Hanks:

No. It was all done at Whiteman. Probably finished 1995, 1996.

David Quick:

And then what? How long total were you in the Air Force?

Doug Hanks:

Well, in the Air Force for 17 years. And then after missiles -- after they decided to sign the START Treaty, basically they gave you that typical dream sheet again. Okay, here are all the jobs that you're qualified for, where do you want to go?

David Quick:

Mm-hmm.

Doug Hanks:

So I decided I wanted to be, at that time, a command post officer because basically that's your highest operational level that you can be. So I became a command post officer and got assigned to Moody Air Force Base under the 347th Wing.

David Quick:

Okay. And so then you're at an administrative level? What are you doing?

Doug Hanks:

No. Command post is basically the hub of the base. Any exercises that are going on, any real-life contingencies that are going on, they all get funneled through the command post. And then the command post has to respond to whatever that is. It could be an inflight emergency for an aircraft that's coming in and you would run particular checklists to get the fire teams out, the medical response teams out.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

The maintenance crews out. Or it could be something as simple -- I know one night, you know, some person calling and saying they saw E.T. [Laughter] Yup. Sitting there, recording everything that they're saying. And then part of that job is knowing, you know, where your commander is every minute of the day. Because if something happens, wartime environment, you know, they would send us routine exercise messages to say, hey, we're going to war. You know, you have to get your commanders to respond in a battle staff, so you have to contact them, get them back into the command post within x number of minutes, and then do their contingency planning for them.

David Quick:

Okay. And what would you do if somebody did call and say they saw an extra-terrestrial?

Doug Hanks:

Well, all the incoming and outgoing phone conversations are recorded.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

Basically there's a checklist for everything. Chicken crossed the road? There's a checklist. E.T. just landed? There's a checklist. So basically, bomb threats? Checklist. So, you would just basically record names, who it was, what they said, and then there was a list of hand questions that you would ask them, just same as there was a bomb threat. Hey, where's the bomb? When's the bomb going to explode? Did you set the bomb? What kind of bomb is it? All of these checklists have been looked at and designed just like a 911 operator, in priority. You know, a, is your heart beating? Do you need fire, medical, police? That kind of thing. So you basically respond to status.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

24 hours a day.

David Quick:

So, you were -- your task was actually being on the phone or whatever and taking those calls?

Doug Hanks:

That, plus at that time I became a captain, so I was basically the officer in charge of the actual command post. So not only did I have the console operators trained, I being one trained, but I also had 30, 40 people working for me. You know, 20 of them on the consoles and then 20 of them doing the maintenance operations for all the aircraft that are coming back from exercises.

David Quick:

And did you ever in your Air Force career work on aircraft?

Doug Hanks:

I didn't work on aircraft. No. Never worked on aircraft. I have handled their inflight emergencies. I think I had, like, three or four while stationed at Moody Air Force Base. So a lot of rapid response for aircraft that were either battle damaged or experienced a mechanical malfunction in the air. So my job was basically to get them back to the ground safe as best as I could.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

Running these particular checklists.

David Quick:

So, you're dealing with a lot of emergency situations.

Doug Hanks:

Emergency situations for the base.

David Quick:

Are there any -- one or two stories that stand out?

Doug Hanks:

Well, the inflight emergencies, they stand out. Those are the kind where you have to call the General in the middle of the night, of the base, and get him up and get him to the command post himself because it's a safety issue. So, just having those was enough that my General didn't like it when I went on alert at night because he knew I was going to be giving him a call for inflight emergencies. He's like, Doug, we're going to put you back on days.

David Quick:

And why was -- were you --

Doug Hanks:

Just coincidence.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

I think it was more, you know, whenever I was on alert, it was always because there were high tempo ops. Tooting my own horn, I was probably one of the better command post officers, so they had me there to run the operations side of the house.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

And when you're doing that, obviously more exposure. So coincidentally, you get a lot more traffic or a lot more battle damage if you're on alert during those times versus when it's quiet.

David Quick:

Yeah. But that still isn't as stressful as working in that missile silo?

Doug Hanks:

No, missiles by far -- No, I was so stressed out in missiles that I actually got the Shingles.

David Quick:

Really?

Doug Hanks:

Yeah. I got a set of the Shingles when we were -- probably my second year in the missile field because it was that stressful. And if it wasn't for the graces of some young girl in Missouri, I probably would not have made it through that.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

You don't want the Shingles. Those are bad. 103-degree temperature for two weeks.

David Quick:

Painful.

Doug Hanks:

Painful.

David Quick:

And you have -- you were dating a nice young woman?

Doug Hanks:

Yeah, dating a nice young woman at the time who did my taking care of. And thank God she was there, because I would not have made it by myself.

David Quick:

Well, I mean -- so, I imagine that a lot of you were in that position, were dealing with high stress. Were other people kind of experiencing --

Doug Hanks:

Oh, yeah. I think so. During -- when you're assigned to missiles, you're also on what the Air Force calls the Personnel Reliability Program, which basically states that you can't even take an aspirin. Okay? You have to physically -- if you have a headache, even though you could easily go take an aspirin for your headache, you physically have to go to the doctor and they have to evaluate you.

David Quick:

And that's just for the missileers?

Doug Hanks:

For the missileers. And there's a reason for that. They don't want you to go out on a strategic, nuclear missile alert with a headache. Okay? They want you at your 100% mark. So, if you -- there were times where I had headaches, and they just took me off alert for a week. They just don't want you operating missiles without being 100%.

David Quick:

Yeah. And what else did the Air Force do to help people who were dealing with this level of stress?

Doug Hanks:

Well, you know, at that time, you know -- the focus has changed. Back in that time they had a thing called Life Skills, or they changed the name of it to Life Skills. But you wouldn't find missileers going to places that they could decompress, mainly because the political ramifications was, oh, he's going to a psychiatric doctor because he is stressed out on missile work so, therefore, we have no use for this particular individual. We're going to take him off alert and put him in the office. So a lot of missileers, instead of going to the doctor when they had problems, just dealt with it themselves.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

Okay? But that changed over the years. They came up with a thing called Life Skills, which basically states, you know, if I'm in the missiles field and I'm having a psychiatric issue, I can go to Life Skills and be evaluated.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

As long as I'm doing it on my own accord. Now, if somebody else sends me there, it's different. But if I go there and I talk to a doctor and the Doc says, no, he's just stressed out, he's okay for alert, then that's okay.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

But if you go there and you find out, no, he has some underlying issues, then the doctor himself would call the commander and say we need to take him off alert for a while.

David Quick:

So that Life Skills had started during your time?

Doug Hanks:

Probably during, you know, the political changing of using psychiatric --

David Quick:

It wasn't as much of a stigma.

Doug Hanks:

Right. Not as much of a stigma. You know, depression -- even depression. I suffered from depression a lot in the military. You know? It's not something that, oh, I can't face the day. It's just depression.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

To the point where, you know, they would put you on meds for depression, Wellbutrin or whatever. I have depression today. Actually, as a disabled vet, you know, 30% of my disability is because I have depression. But it didn't make it to the point where I couldn't perform my job. The stigma attached to that back in the time was very bad. When Life Skills came around, when the new political climate came along, it made it completely different. I think it was a very positive step for the Air Force.

David Quick:

And what brought about that change in the culture?

Doug Hanks:

You know, I'm not sure. I'm not sure. I don't know if it was change in leadership. Maybe changes in leadership at the higher levels.

David Quick:

Mm-hmm.

Doug Hanks:

Or, you know, just learning that it's okay to have a problem.

David Quick:

Mm-hmm.

Doug Hanks:

I don't know. I don't know if the medical community brought that about or leadership brought that about. I don't know.

David Quick:

Interesting. And then among the missileers, because it was so high- pressured, was it a pretty tight bond?

Doug Hanks:

Oh, very tight bond. And actually, you know, there's a saying in the military. In the military you either have friends or acquaintances. I have thousands of acquaintances. But in the military, you know, after serving 23 years, I probably have two good friends. And one of those friends was actually my commander back in the missile days in 1991. And he's actually stationed here locally. So we became lifelong friends because of that bonding that goes on.

David Quick:

He's still in the Air Force?

Doug Hanks:

He got out two years ago. He's married. He performed -- he went into OSI, Office of Special Investigation, was a special agent for the military. So he does a lot of counterterrorism stuff. Maybe you should talk to him as well.

David Quick:

Yeah. Tell him to come in.

Doug Hanks:

He probably has a lot more interesting stories than I do.

David Quick:

They're all interesting.

Doug Hanks:

Matter of fact, I'll write them down. It would be a good thing for him to do.

David Quick:

So, we left off you were at Moody, at a command --

Doug Hanks:

Did OIC for a couple of years and actually got assigned there one time to do operations down at Bogota, Colombia, with the DEA.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

Worked at the embassy there. And during that particular assignment we actually captured a seven-year fugitive from the United States, and we secured probably 200 Kilos of cocaine. So, a very good 90-day assignment. I actually rotated back there to do that again since it was available. The military has these things where they try to fill positions based on certain qualifications. And my commander at that time had basically gave a reclama saying we didn't have anybody qualified. I saw it on his desk. I said, “what's this?” He said, “well, it's an assignment down to Bogota.” I was looking through it. I said, well, I can do that. He was like, well, if you want to go, we'll send you. So I went down there. Didn't know a lick of Spanish. Okay? Went down there. Got immersed in the culture for three months, met some friends. Talked to them over the years, 10, 15 years. Now I'm fluent in Spanish. Went back to school, taught -- learned some Spanish. Took the Rosetta -- very good program. Believe it or not, that works. Take Rosetta and get immersed in an environment where nobody speaks English for three months, you'll learn the language very quick. So, yeah. Caught seven-year fugitive, 200 kilos of cocaine.

David Quick:

Were you actually doing investigations?

Doug Hanks:

Actual rivering, investigation, working with the national police.

David Quick:

Pursuing.

Doug Hanks:

Directing aircraft intercept, other aircraft that was transporting drugs in and out of the country. A very interesting, fun time.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

Working at the Colombian Pentagon.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

Very interesting.

David Quick:

But those were two relatively short --

Doug Hanks:

Yeah. Two relative -- 90-day assignments, so 180 days total, half a year doing anti-narco trafficking operations in the height of Colombia.

David Quick:

Yeah. So what year was that?

Doug Hanks:

1997, 1998 time period.

David Quick:

And then what else? How did you end your time there?

Doug Hanks:

Well, after command post, you know, a lot of -- with the end of the START -- or end of the Cold War, START Treaty signed, they put me in command post. I was there for two or three years. They were downsizing the military. So, once again, they hand me that magic piece of paper for dream sheeting. Now, thus far I've been doing pretty well. I go to Orlando. I got, you know, stateside duty service. I got the best missile area to go into. I got Whiteman. All the other ones are like North Dakota, South Dakota, very remote. Got my choice at Moody Air Force Base, composite wing for a command post. Then get in there, and they give us another dream sheet because they're downsizing the military now. You know, got to save the money. So I filled out the dream sheet. And I got my last choice, my last career field.

David Quick:

Yeah?

Doug Hanks:

So, I got sent to become an acquisition officer, which you think is very -- you know, here I thought it was going to be like one of the most boring things that I would ever be. Here I have been doing operations, nuclear missile silos, chasing down druggies down in Bogota. Now I'm getting sent to someplace to do acquisition.

David Quick:

Buying stuff.

Doug Hanks:

Buying things for the Air Force. But it's not that. You think it's that. It's actually going through programs and developing weapon systems, okay? From scratch. Working with engineers, contract, business folks. Coming up with things to help the war fighter. And the thing that I got on initially in the acquisition world were air operation centers. Now, before 1998, we did not have the capability to take a group of different pieces of equipment, put them together in a coherent comm. suite, battle plan suite, and deploy those around the world. So I got to be part of that first Air Force, expeditionary force, to design and develop an AOC. And we did that in the air base in Saudi Arabia, we did that in Bahrain, and Qatar. So -- and this is right at the response time of September 11, September -- 9/11.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

So, in response to that, I was working at Langley Air Force Base doing acquisition and actually got rolled into doing all the Southeast Air Defense Sector contingency planning, got to physically design and work with the engineers to develop these AOC weapon systems, to deploy them, and actually got deployed on their first several cuds events. So we were over in the -- Arabic war, legion world, first.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

It's still bad. But imagine doing this back in, you know, 2001, 10 years ago.

David Quick:

Were you there on 9/11?

Doug Hanks:

I was actually at Langley on 9/11 and then got deployed immediately after down to SEADS, Southeast Air Defense Sector, to give them a weapons system, design them a weapons system, to help them with remote, in-transit visibility of aircraft. You know, how they downed all the aircraft?

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

So we basically designed that system to fill their gaps. And then I got sent over to design these AOC's so that we could operate a air operations center anywhere in the world and have it deployed within 90 days. So I got to do that in three different locations during the initial invasion in Kuwait.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

So it was pretty interesting.

David Quick:

But that was the Iraq invasion, not the Kuwait War.

Doug Hanks:

Right. Yeah.

David Quick:

Interesting.

Doug Hanks:

Yeah. I'm mixing them up. That was 1991. 1991 was missiles. 2001 was 9/11, so when we went over to respond.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

That's what happens when you spend 24 years in the military.

David Quick:

Was that your last stint?

Doug Hanks:

I think that was probably my most exposure to combat, was during that particular time. Because we were in a hostile territories doing red horse -- what we called red horse work, laying the foundations for a new base or an installation before all of these permanent structures get there. And then I had a couple of assignments afterwards. One was developing a chem-bio mask for aviators. The last assignment I had in the military was to put up -- I don't know if you heard of NPOESS, the National Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite System.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

It's basically a -- I think $5 billion satellite system up in space. And they just launched here recently. I think they launched about two, three months ago.

David Quick:

Interesting projects.

Doug Hanks:

Yeah.

David Quick:

And then you were a Major? Was that your last --

Doug Hanks:

Yup. I got to the rank of Major. I actually had a stumbling block when I was a Captain. As I said, very vocal. Not very politically correct at times. I think that's an integrity issue with me. I think if you tell me you have a plan -- say you're the commander, tell me you have a plan. I'm going to look at plan and I'm going to tell you straight up, well, sir, I think it's a good plan or a bad plan. Sir, I think it's a bad plan and this is why. You, know? But if you want me to execute it, I'll go do it. A lot of commanders -- I don't know what the school of thought was. Anytime you say, well, I think that's a bad plan, they think it's a negative. Well, you know, you should take -- I'm like, I get you, sir. I'm going to go execute. I look at you smartly. You're the commander. Gotcha. I'm going to go jam this square peg into this circle hole, but I'm just letting you know up front it's not going to work.

David Quick:

And that didn't serve your career sometimes.

Doug Hanks:

Didn't serve my career very good. Actually after Captain, I went up to Major probably more times than I want to tell anybody on record. And in my last year, right at my 20-year mark where I had been forced to get out because I didn't make additional rank, I actually threw the Hail Mary pass and made Major.

David Quick:

All right.

Doug Hanks:

So that made me stay another three years so that I could get the retirement benefits for that, and then I retired.

David Quick:

And that was --

Doug Hanks:

2009.

David Quick:

And you left because you had gotten your time in?

Doug Hanks:

Yeah, time in. 23 years. Thought I had done my service and was wanting to go do other things. Believe it or not, that acquisition career field that I hated the most actually turned out to be the best lucrative thing because now I'm in -- I do logistics work for the MRAPs, which were the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, big troop vehicles. I do all of their logistics, program management stuff, get these big troop tanks, more than tanks, over to the war fighter now. So it's a very good segue. And I'm still doing the same kind of job that I was doing in the military just in civilian clothes.

David Quick:

All right. Well, I think we're over an hour now.

Doug Hanks:

Have we? Okay.

David Quick:

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Doug Hanks:

No. You know, the thing that I would share would probably be to the young guy or girl. You know, joining the military at a young age, 17, 18 years old, was probably the best thing that you can do for yourself. You know, the military is looking for people who want to experience all the things that I've experienced, have chanced -- you know, chances to lead, chances to progress. But more than that, it's the benefits. You know, no other place is going to give you 30 days’ paid vacation off the top of the hat. They're not going to give you free medical and dental across the board. And they're certainly not going to offer you a 20-year retirement plan. Okay? And that's all the things -- that's all the things that the military does. So, if you're a young person and you want to get out and experience culture, do something for yourself, joining the military is definitely the right thing to do, even though at times you might be put in places of harm, you know, in a combat situation. But you'll grow as a person. That's basically it.

David Quick:

With that, you did mention dealing with a disability since you've been out. How has that been?

Doug Hanks:

That's been good. Yeah. Right in your last year, when you're in the military, you will gather all of your medical history together. And they send you to a couple of days of, hey, this is how you presented to the board. They do an evaluation for you. And actually, I thought I would get less disability than what I'm actually receiving. But there are some things in my medical history that allow for certain disabilities or allow me to qualify for it. They've been -- the VA has been very good at receiving that information and assigning disability ratings to them. Now, I did have one issue where they didn't recognize a certain disability, but mainly because it required a little bit more documentation. So now I'm working with actually Jim Procunier.

David Quick:

From Disabled American Vets.

Doug Hanks:

Right, the Disabled American Vets, to get that documentation, get it recorded back in front of the VA. But overall the experience is good. The VA is very helpful. One thing I'd like for you to take back, though, if it ever -- the new 9/11 Bill, for educational benefits, should be extended back to 9/11 in 2001, not 2009.

David Quick:

Okay.

Doug Hanks:

So, if that gets any up anywhere, venue, forum, I'd like to put that on the record at the moment.

David Quick:

Because there are people who should be getting benefits that are not currently?

Doug Hanks:

Well, that particular bill allows for military members who are veterans that do not use their educational benefits to actually transfer it to their dependents or children. Okay? So for myself, somebody that definitely was involved with 9/11, I'm not being able to get the benefit. You know? For my dependents. You know? Only because a law was structured in such a way that it takes effect on August 1, 2009. I retired June 1 -- August -- June 2009. And had I known about, you know, that particular law going to be passed or that particular benefit, I definitely would have stayed two more months.

David Quick:

Yeah.

Doug Hanks:

So by not staying two more months, I don't get that benefit. But it should go back to 2001, not 2009. Sorry.

David Quick:

Good. Thank you. Doug, thank you for your time.

 
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