The Last Frontier: 30 years of service

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Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer David Hydock

“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you.” – Sir William Arthur

Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer David Hydock recently completed 30 years of service to his country through the Air Force, Alaska Army National Guard and Coast Guard . What is it like to serve for that long, and with so many services? Fortunately, Hydock was able to set aside some time to fill us in on his journey from airman basic to senior chief operations specialist.

He talked to us about how joining the military changed his life, and a few of the lessons he learned along the way.

Meet the Military

Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer David Hydock during his Air Force service.

Airman David Hydock during his Air Force service.

It was 1984, and Hydock was growing impatient and burned out with his current situation.

“I was attending Mobile College in Mobile, Ala., and juggling two part-time jobs around my class schedules,” he said. “Each week began to look the same as the week before and my motivation, drive, and purpose were rapidly dwindling. I realized I needed a new direction as I greatly feared I’d spend the remainder of my life in Mobile.”

Although he first flirted with the idea of joining the Coast Guard Reserve in 1982, he wouldn’t see the service as a true option for a while longer. He instead enlisted in the Air Force in Montgomery through a delayed entry program on Nov. 1, 1984.

“I entered Air Force boot camp on April Fool’s Day 1985,” he recalled. “It took a day or two at Lackland Air Force Base to fall into the routine, and it seemed unreal that I was getting paid to wreck my bunk, march around the base, do PT a couple times a day, eat three meals a day, attend classes, perform assigned duties, and go to bed early.”

His next destination was Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., for electronics school, where he met the requirements of a training specialty – tactical communications.

An Education and a Partner for Life

“I felt almost as if God were smiling on me, as Leisa Kaye Barnes and I were married on July 26, 1986,” said Hydock. “Leisa’s support was an important part of my military career from here on out, she was involved in nearly every decision we made.”

This momentous occasion was closely followed by classes at Mobile College with the Air Force’s Bootstrap program, an initiative designed to allow airmen time to complete degrees.

Now only having to focus on class work and avoiding distractions of being a newlywed, he made the dean’s list for both fall and spring semesters. With the help of the Air Force, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics in May of 1987. He was then selected for Air Force Officer Training School a week after graduation and awaited an OTS class date, or at least he thought.

The new term “budget sequestration” triggered base closures, spending cutbacks, and directly affecting Hydock’s future: the cancellation of more than 20,000 military personnel slated to attend officer ascension programs.

Hydock and his wife, Leisa

Hydock and his wife, Leisa

“A bit disenchanted, I reluctantly returned to my Air Force duties at Duke Field near Crestview, Fla.,” said Hydock.

He and Leisa moved into their first home on Eglin Air Force Base, and focused on the next direction, including plans for exiting the Air Force in 1988.

“Alaska was a far away mystical land of cold and ice, bears, fishing, hunting and adventure,” he said of a potential homestead. “Alaska never seemed reasonably possible, but my pesky younger brother, Ken Hydock, who recently advanced to ET2 in the Coast Guard, received orders to something called a LORAN Station, near a town with a goofball name: Ketchikan.”

Shortly after separating from the Air Force, the Hydocks were bound for a town in Alaska to give the Last Frontier a try.

“Leisa and I continue to tell folks, ‘We came to Alaska on vacation and stayed,’” Hydock said. “This is really not stretching the truth by any means. We intended to stay only five years at most, then 10, then once children came into our lives, we became planted for the long haul.”

It was not long before they found themselves transitioning from Ketchikan to Juneau, the state’s capitol.

A New Home

“Juneau has been very good to us. We found opportunity, numerous life-long friends, and a safe haven,” said Hydock. “Coming to Alaska expanded our travel horizons and continuously feeds our adventuresome spirit.”

In Juneau the Hydocks learned to become self sufficient, to strive for independence. It wasn’t long before he found himself working with the Alaska Army National Guard, and only a few years later found the Coast Guard Reserve.

Hydock working as a Coast Guard vessel inspector in Juneau, Alaska.

Hydock working as a Coast Guard vessel inspector in Juneau, Alaska.

For the next 24 years, Hydock worked alongside the active duty members of the Coast Guard 17th District in Juneau, networking as a civilian and a servicemember, maintaining a can-do attitude, and volunteering whenever possible.

“Volunteering for military service can change anyone,” said Hydock. “It certainly changed me, and I’m mostly certain it was for the better.”

Oct. 31, 2014 marked the end date of Hydock’s 30-year military career. In total, he spent 26 years in Juneau, two as an Alaska Guardsman and 24 as a Coast Guardsman.

What’s next?

“I say, return to passions of long ago, seek new adventures and purpose,” advised Hydock.

Hydock joined the Civil Air Patrol in 2010 and now serves as a pilot, flight crew, professional development officer, and cadet leader.

“Those that can, teach!” he exclaimed “I once again wear the Air Force Uniform as a volunteer; and as I constantly remind my cadets and children, ‘The world is run by those that show up!’”

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