LAST WEEK: Jimmie Hanes Jr., who trained at James Connally Air Force Base in Waco, volunteered to serve in Vietnam. After the war, he served at various bases, including Oman in the Middle East.
In 1963, Ohio native Jimmie Hanes joined the military, earned his wings, and volunteered to serve in Vietnam at Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base with the 41st Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron.
When Hanes passed the requisite 100 flying missions at six months (he finished with 107), he returned home to join his wife of less than a year, Mary. And he continued to move up during his military career.
Other assignments followed, including flying B-52s as part of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Wright-Patterson AFB in Florida; a move to Ohio’s Homestead Air Reserve Base near his hometown; and — his favorite — serving at Site R in the “Underground Pentagon,” or, more formally, the Alternate National Military Command Center. It was used as an alternative site to command military/governmental affairs during emergencies.
Changes were coming, as Hanes soon found out.
At the end of his three-year assignment in 1978, he returned to SAC and moved to Fort Worth, spending three years with the 7th Bomb Wing at Carswell AFB. He was an instructor/evaluator and, later, director of current operations, where he commanded two B-52 deployments to the United Kingdom in support of NATO.
In 1981, Hanes was one of 15 senior officers invited to join the Air Force Research Laboratory’s association program in Ohio, where he spent the duration of the scholars program. In 1982, he went to MacDill AFB in Florida, where he joined the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, a precursor to U.S. Central Command, he said. It was during this time he was promoted to colonel.
The other side of the globe
It was also the place that would lead to another compelling assignment: U.S. Defense and air attache to the Sultanate of Oman on the Arabian Peninsula.
It was an exciting time for Hanes and the entire family, who took the trip with him. Hanes trained for his position and learned Arabic before they left for Muscat, Oman. At the time, his daughter and wife were happy. But his son thought otherwise.
“If you asked my son today he’d say it was the greatest experience,” Hanes said, laughing at the memory.
And it was an amazing experience. The family had a home overlooking the Indian Ocean, a live-in housekeeper and a Pakistani cook with whom Hanes remains in touch. Of course, these benefits always had a purpose: part of his attache duties included regular entertaining. “We even brought our own china,” Hanes said.
Middle EastVaried duties in the
There were more important tasks at hand, such as reporting on the Oman military, frequent flights to naval carrier battle groups and, as part of the Iran-Iraq War, fact-finding missions in the Strait of Hormuz. Hanes also managed a build-up of pre-positioning equipment that came in handy during Desert Storm. While doing all that, he helped found the American-British Academy for expatriate children, which is still in operation today.
After returning stateside, Hanes served as deputy director of Bomber Operations at SAC headquarters in Nebraska. During this time he was involved in the planning and execution of Operation Just Cause — the ousting of Manuel Noriega in Panama. He was a director of the SAC battle staff during Operation Desert Shield.
In 1992, Hanes left the Air Force and his final position as commander of Wurtsmith AFB after 29 years and more than 3,600 hours of flight time. As the final head of the base, he called it “a very exhilarating experience.”
During his service, he earned an extensive list of medals, including the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 10 Oakleaf Clusters.
For 10 years as a civilian, Hanes was a city manager in Michigan before the family moved to Waco. In 2000, he became director of aviation services at Waco Regional Airport and became involved with the community.
He has served on numerous boards and committees, including chairman of the board of Clifton Lutheran Sunset Ministries, board member of the Baylor Bear Foundation, and a member of a variety of committees and boards at First United Methodist Church in Waco, among others.
Today Hanes lives in Crawford. Married for 51 years, he and Mary have six grandchildren. Most of the time the couple attends Baylor athletic events.
Despite being reviled after the Vietnam War, and even though Hanes says the military is quite different from when he enlisted, he’d still choose the same path. He has fond memories of his impressive career.
“I’d go back tomorrow if they called,” he said.
“Voices of Valor,” featuring stories about Central Texas veterans, publishes every Sunday in the Waco Trib. To suggest a story about a Central Texas veteran, email email@example.com. Voices of Valor is proudly sponsored by Johnson Roofing.