Leader Spotlight: Cal Hickey

Veterans for American Ideals is recognizing veteran leaders who are continuing their service by building unity and standing up for American values. Through a series of interviews, we’re asking VFAI leaders to share more about how their service shaped them and what responsibility they feel veterans have to speak up on issues that relate to our national ideals.

Today’s interview is with Colonel Cal Hickey (Ret.). Colonel Hickey served a 30-year career in the U.S. Air Force both on active duty as a Mapping Charting, and Geodesy Officer and a Combat Targeting Officer and in the Reserve. Since 2013 he has used his expertise to address the issue of global climate change and the threat it poses to U.S. national security.


Tell me about your military service.

I spent thirty years as a commissioned officer in the USAF, twelve years in the Regular component and eighteen years in the Reserves.

During my service in the Regular component, 1970-1982, I was stationed in New Mexico, Virginia, California, Montana, Nebraska, Colorado, and Seoul, Republic of Korea (1980-1981).  During my service as an Individual Mobilization Augmentee, 1982-2000, I was assigned to HQ Pacific Air Forces (Hickam AFB, HI), twice to HQ Air Combat Command (Langley AFB, VA), and twice to HQ USAF (Bolling AFB, DC).

The simplest and first answer as to why I joined the military is that when I was six years old I received a Revell model airplane kit (a B-29) for my birthday. I pretty much made a botch of assembling it because I insisted on doing it all by myself and my Dad had no experience with something like that.

But I distinctly remember that from that day forward I knew I wanted to grow up to spend my adult life around airplanes and aviation, and I knew I wanted to go into the Air Force. Sounds rather cliché, but that’s actually how it first came together for me. Later, in high school and when I was searching out college choices (one criterion being an AFROTC program), my motivation to join the military matured into a desire to become involved in something bigger than my personal self-interest and engage in work that would continually challenge me to exceed my expectations.

How did your service shape the person you are today?

It taught me three lessons:

  1. Self-discipline and the ability to think “seven moves ahead” are the two most essential qualities a person must cultivate to succeed in life.
  2. The criteria which define a life truly well lived are often vastly different than those the world regards as standards of success.
  3. A teaspoon of wisdom will propel you much farther down the road than a gallon of knowledge.

As a veteran, what sort of responsibility do you feel to speak up on issues that relate to American ideals?

The oath of service doesn’t come with an expiration date and its conditions are absolute. If you take such an oath seriously it only seems natural that to one extent or another all it entails will become essential defining qualities of your life for the rest of your life.

Tell me about one issue related to those ideals that is of particular importance or concern to you right now. What are you doing about it?

The Constitution lays out a structure for self-governance that can only operate in a manner that will achieve its fullest aspirations if all people, regardless of their gender, nationality, political persuasions, ethnicity, or professions or non-professions of faith are accorded dignity and treated equally. The oath to support and defend this Constitution completely overrides and nullifies any obligation to adhere to or execute any countermanding whim or dictate issued by any official, political party, and/or public or private institution.

The tone of recent political discourse in our nation has deteriorated to such an extent over the past two years that I have chosen to speak out against what I perceive as a rising tide of un-Constitutional acts and utterances by individuals and organizations either in or attempting to occupy positions of authority in our government or our society.

What would you say to other veterans about the role that they can play in these issues as citizens?

Take a quiet five minutes every day to read your oath of service and then reflect on whether you feel an obligation to act. If you feel the tug of conscience, then move out and draw fire.

VFAI Leader Spotlights

Published on June 13, 2017


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