CMSgt Gary Hull U.S. Air Force (Ret) (1967-2008)
Read the service reflections of US Air Force Veteran:
CMSgt Gary Hull
U.S. Air Force (Ret)
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE AIR FORCE?
I was a college freshman at a time in my life when I was not mature enough to be a college student. My decision to enlist was spurned on when I was jilted by my first love during our second semester freshman year. She told me she was not ready to settle down with just one guy and wanted to date other guys. My heart was broken and I finished my freshman year with a GPA that would not have kept me out of the Vietnam draft. I knew one way or the other I’d be in basic training by the fall and decided to enlist thinking if I did not return to college after active duty, I might be able to learn a trade that I could carry into my civilian life. I wanted and was selected for electronics communications training. I chose the Air Force because I did not like the Navy uniforms.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?
I served 3 years, 9 months, 27 days active duty as a Ground Navigational Aids Electronics Equipment repairman (304×1). I elected to get out to return to college but soon missed the camaraderie I had experienced in the USAF. In an attempt to recover it, I enlisted into the MN ANG and pretty much stayed in for more than 38 years. I was forced to retire in July 2008 when I turned 60 years of age but would have stayed in and would probably still be in today.
During my career I have served in many diverse assignments including: Maintenance Technician as a Ground Navigational Aids Flight Facilities Electronics Repairman; Ground Electronics Engineering Installation Agency (GEEIA) Navigational Aids Team Chief while serving in Southeast Asia (Thailand), Key punch and Computer Operator, Social Actions Counselor and office Manager, Quality Assurance Technician, Wideband and Satellite Communications Supervisor, and Information Operations Analyst and Communications Superintendent. My military service included duty in direct support of the Vietnam War, the Global War on Terrorism, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.
Many of the missions I was assigned to supported combat operations, but I never once felt my life was in danger. The closest I came to actually being involved in combat was when I served in Thailand from July 1969 to July 1970. One of the US Air bases within
Thailand I was TDY to was attacked twice by the NVA. Being with GEEIA, I was staying off base in hotels and I never was present when shots rang out. I was later escorted back to base under SP protection so the unit I was TDY to could account for my presence.
The first time this happened and I reported to the Communications Squadron at Ubon RTAFB, I was handed an M-16 with an empty clip and ordered to guard the squadron perimeter. I was astonished and asked if I saw anyone suspicious was I supposed to hit them over the head with the empty weapon. The Commander told me the shooting action was over but I had to do something since I was called in. Instead I volunteered to report to the TACAN facility to begin my day of work to which the Commander agreed since it was probably a better use of my time.
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I regard the year I spent in Thailand as the best year of my life. I was young, impressionable and not at all worldly. Enlisting in the USAF changed all of that for me! Being on active duty was an exciting period of my life and it was punctuated bythe year I spent in Thailand. 1969-1970 represented my coming-of-age year. In that one short and very fast year, I experienced what many guys my age took years to experience. I have nothing but fond memories of serving in Thailand! I went over there as a boy and came home as a man simply because after several months in country during which I continued to save myself for my college girlfriend, I could no longer resist the temptations of young girls who just wanted to sleep with a blonde haired, blue eyed man and offered themselves to me for free.
Saving myself for my college girlfriend went out the window to Alice (she told me I could not pronounce her Thai name and suggested I just call her Alice). We stayed together for a short week while I was sent to Udorn, Thailand, for an emergency fix of a critical communications site. I returned a couple of months later for another job and when I saw her, she was beaming when she announced she was pregnant”. I asked her if she knew who the father was and she just smiled saying yes, but did not offer the father’s name and I was afraid to ask. What she did say however scared the daylights out of me, “I know my son will be as suimoch (beautiful) as you”. Believe it or not, I saw her at the BX during my last year in the USAF while stationed at Kelly AFB, in San Antonio. She had married another GI and moved to the states with him. Her son had blonde hair and blue eyes. She saw me and smiled back, winking. I was newly married to my first wife who caught Alice’s wink and asked if I knew her. I had already told her about Alice and our history and simply answered her, “that was Alice, from Thailand”. Her response was, “Oh, I didn’t think she would be that pretty”.
During my one-year tour, I learned a lot about life from the Thai people I became friends with. They were always laughing and finding something good in their lives. I grew up relatively poor but I knew after being there for only a short time, I had more tangible wealth then did the average Thai. Still they were happy and their positive outlook on life was infectious. I made many friends during that year and will never forget what they all taught me about life in general and growing up to become a man.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?
Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the sense of accomplishment and pride bestowed me by the USAF while serving in Thailand. I was a first term Airman who because of my apparent good reputation for fixing communication sites, was made a Team Chief and Supervisor. Iwas the first and as far as I know the only first term Airman to be made a Team Chief. I supervised career Air Force troops who outranked me by 2 and 3 stripes. The amount of responsibility was tremendous and I was in charge of millions of dollars of equipment at the age of 21-22. I know the work I did saved the lives of many pilots and I took great pride in always doing my best job. I was also volunteered for a mission that included humping into Laos.
I was “escorted” by an Army Green Beret Lt and 20 Thai Special Forces whose job it was to protect me. We saw no combat but it was quite scary. I could not stop wondering if attacked, would the Thai army troops run or fight. I did not carry a weapon either. The Green Beret Lt told me I was USAF and did not need one because I probably did not know how to use one anyway! I fixed the site and we humped back, all quite an uneventful but long day. Air America, a CIA owned/run US organization with HDQTRS in Udorn, Thailand tried to recruit me in April of 1970. They told me I was what they were looking for and they guaranteed me an Honorable Discharge after only serving 3 years of my 4 year enlistment and $22,000 tax free/year to continue doing what I had done for the USAF. I turned them down because I wanted to go home to see my college girlfriend.
I was TDY to Udorn RTAFB when a damaged F-4 crashed into the Armed Forces Radio Station building killing 9 personnel. The site I was working on was on the other side of the runway and I exited the shelter to see the fire. The SSgt with me and I jumped into our jeep and headed over to help. When we got to the sight, I was handed a rake and told to look for evidence. Within minutes I found a boot with a foot still in it. Although I was at Ubon RTAFB twice when NVA sappers attacked it, this incident drove home to me how fragile life is during war. Had the F-4 dipped left rather than right, it would more than likely have crashed into the site I was working in. I will never forget that day for as long as I live.
WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER?
I am most proud of my last 10 years service while with the DC ANG. In 1998 I was transferred from Combat Communications to a Joint Services Mission named the Joint Web Risk Assessment Cell (JWRAC). Our mission was to identify information contained on military web sites that singularly orin aggregate could divulge mission capabilities to the enemy. I was awarded the Meritorious Service medal twice for what was described as; “positively impacting DOD’s operational security posture by providing Open Source Assessment reports that directly reduced the Department of Defense OPSEC exposure. He initiated, researched and developed customized reports that identified Information Assurance and Operational Security vulnerabilities for the National Command Authority, Combatant Commands, the National Guard Bureau and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. During this period Chief Hull’s outstanding professionalism and exemplary technical skills significantly enhanced national security by creating a more secure operational environment for the entire DOD. Immediately following September 11, 2001, Chief Hull provided daily web OPSEC briefings to the Commander of the Global Network Operations Security Center at the Defense Information Systems Agency on major and critical web OPSEC discrepancies. CMS Hull provided continuous support to OPERATIONS Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom without regard to duty status. The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Chief Hull reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force”.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
My first Meritorious Service Medal is the one I am most proud of. It was awarded for exemplary service to the District of Columbia Air National Guard, the National Guard Bureau, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the National Command Authority and Combatant Commands throughout the United States and its territories
from 1 September 2001 to 30 October 2004. The award states “CMSgt Hull’s exceptional technical competence and analytical insight conceptualized the Department of Defense abstract Operational Security battle space and developed comprehensive Information Assurance products in support of national security. His initiative and personal drive elevated the Joint Web Risk Assessment Cell level of support to the Department of Defense beyond expectations. CMSgt Hull’s combined knowledge of Information Security and military objectives in support of the warfighter focused the JWRAC to report on mission, force protection, infrastructure protection both physical, communications and weapons of mass destruction, and logistics.
Immediately upon the events of September 11, 2001, CMSgt Hull transitioned to a wartime operations tempo in support of both OPERATIONS Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom without regard to his duty status. Chief Master Sergeant Hull has lead the JWRAC into a new analytical direction by providing unprecedented information security awareness in support of the heighten OPSEC posture of the Department of Defense. His knowledge of web site security has allowed him significant contributions to improving the DoD Internet OPSEC posture by incorporating aggressive risk analysis methodology which identify known vulnerabilities that if exploited, could pose a risk to national security.” I am quite proud of having been recognized in this way.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
TSgt Robert Coleman, my first Nav Aids NCOIC while stationed at McChord AFB, 1905 Communications Squadron probably influenced me the most. We called him CC because his favorite adult beverage included Canadian Club. CC also enjoyed mentoring young troops like me and he gave me the confidence to succeed as a newly graduated nav aids repairman. CC impressed upon me that the most critical period for becoming a good electronics maintenance technician are the experiences and OJT following graduation from tech school. In my case, CC gave me the responsibility with every opportunity to succeed. Under his direction and confidence in me, I believe I grew into a pretty good technician which later influenced my career path when I arrived in Thailand.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
During the Christmas and New Year holiday of 1968-1969 at McChord AFB, our NavAids shop decided to split the on-call responsibility. We had 4 maintenance men in our duty section and we decided two of us would share all of the on-call responsibility during one week while the other team had the entire week off and then during the second week, which was New Year’s week, the other team would have maintenance responsibility while the first team had that week off. I was on the team that worked Christmas week with New Years week off. I decided to submit leave papers for my week off so I could go home to visit my family and friends and CC told me he’d approve it.
When my week came I reported to the orderly room to sign out and CC told me it wasn’t necessary to “burn” leave time to go home since the week off was already approved so I did not sign out. I did enjoy my week off at home but when I returned to McChord, I was told I had been AWOL because I did not sign out and would be given an article 15. Both CC and our Communications Officer, a Captain, went to bat for me and the incident went away. I was terrified when first told I was recorded as AWOL and would have to pay the consequences. As I think back I now can laugh at the entire event which probably would never have occurred had I not filed leave papers, but at the time, I could only see Leavenworth in my future.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
I used my military electronics experience to get into computers and today I am an IT Security person with 37 years experience and the President and CTO of Insure IT Security. I provide client consulting services using industry best IT security practices in the areas of architecture, strategic systems design, network assessments for security and policy compliance, penetration and vulnerability testing, and disaster recovery planning for several agencies of the United States Government to include NASIRC, ASSIST, AFCERT, DoD, NSA, DOE, SSA, US Dept of Education and the AFOSI as well as for large and small businesses in the private sector. I have also authored several security software tools and security bulletins published by CERT and NASIRC and several articles focusing on both Computer Security and Mass Storage research for NASA. I am a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Superior having earned a B.S. degree in Liberal Arts and an M.S. in Psychology. I still work full time for the FDIC and in my spare time I pursue my hobby as a fly fishermen.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
Air Force Sergeants Association and Air Force Memorial.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
I enlisted in the United States Air Force in June of 1967. I did so not out of a great sense of patriotism but because after my freshmen year in college I had to. I discovered a social life to include girls and my grades were not what Uncle Sam
and the Army expected in order to keep me out of the draft. It was the Vietnam era and I knew if I waited until the Army called me, I’d be a grunt humping the boonies in Vietnam. So I enlisted in the Air Force thinking if I didn’t return to college, at least I may learn a trade at the expense of the US taxpayers. I wasn’t afraid of going to “war” at least I didn’t think I was. I just felt the war experience would not provide me with the life skills I would need to become a productive and successful citizen when I returned. I never once thought if I ended up in Vietnam that I would not return home either.
Many of my friends either enlisted to go to war, or were drafted and forced to war. Some came back to start their lives over, others came back and never had the “coping” skills to start over and still others never did return having given their lives in Vietnam. I felt if I went to war, I’d come home and fall into the first group of returnees. When I enlisted I had no grandiose visions of making the military my career. Instead, I rationalized it as something I had to do in order to acquire skills that would allow me to move through life and become a productive member of society. The USAF grew me up, taught me confidence and most importantly, showed me how to be the man I was capable of becoming. My successes in my chosen civilian career were in great part directly related to what the military taught me as an individual and a team player.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE AIR FORCE?
I am honored to have served our nation as a 38.5 year member of the USAF/ANG and would do it all over again. The greatness of a nation is punctuated by the sacrifices of those who serve to protect and guarantee our freedoms. I have no advice but rather a thank you for those still serving as well as for those who have served.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
Everyone of us have sacrificed something to continue our service and even now, TWS members will not let each other down. There is a camaraderie amongst those who have served that continues on TWS.