Retired chief says nothing beats the Navy, but teaching might
With a 22 year career in the U.S. Navy now behind him, Jesse Hickam is busy pursuing his next dream: teaching. “I would join the Navy again in a heartbeat!” said Hickam. “Everything I wanted from the Navy, I got. Everywhere I went, I loved, and I visited a lot of places around the world.”
Hickam comes by his love of teaching via his Navy experience. He served initially as an aviation electronics technician, before converting to an aviation ordnance man. Hickam became an expert on the F/A-18 E/F/G Super Hornet’s weapons systems, and was one of two sailors selected to start the transition from the EA-6B Prowler to the EA-18G Growler. “When I arrived here in November of 2006 from Lemoore, California, we were the only F/A-18 sailors here,” said Hickam.
That’s when Hickam started teaching. After attending journeyman instructor’s school at Naval Base Kitsap at Bangor, he taught sailors and Marines detailed weapons-loading procedures on the EA-6B Prowler and the EA-18 Growler. He wrote and taught the course with a cadre of Prowler veterans, and together they conducted the Conventional Weapons Technical Proficiency Inspections on all the assigned squadrons at Whidbey, along with a reserve Prowler squadron at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington D.C. and a squadron in Japan. “We were the eyes and ears of the Electronic Attack Wing in all matters of weapons safety” said Hickam. “We made sure that everyone did procedures by the book.”
Assigned to teach at the Electronic Attack Weapons School at Naval Air Station Whidbey, Hickam excelled. “I, along with another guy, helped write the weapons-loading course for the Growler,” said Hickam. “At that time, no one had any Super Hornet experience, and the loaner jets we received from NAS Lemoore in California were all foreign to them. It was both challenging and rewarding to show them the ropes of a new aircraft.”
Hickam received honors as EAWS Sailor of the Year in 2008 and was selected for promotion to chief petty officer in 2009. Upon making chief, he reported for duty in February 2010 aboard the USS John C. Stennis in the Weapons Assembly Division, and went on to be the quality assurance officer until he retired in 2012.
While Hickam enjoyed his time in the military, it wasn’t without difficulties. While attached to VFA-2, The Bounty Hunters aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2004, the aircraft carrier was among the first responders providing humanitarian aid after the devastating tsunami in Indonesia. Hickam describes that 30-day period as dire amid the death, destruction, and aftershocks, and calls it a life-changing experience. He also served in at duty stations in Virginia Beach, Lemoore, Puerto Rico, San Diego, Japan, and numerous deployments to the Persian Gulf.
Now, Hickam is looking to the future. He completed his bachelor’s degree in social science at Brandman University’s Whidbey campus, and will wrap up his master’s degree in organizational leadership from Brandman in August. “I like the ‘in seat’ classes the best,” he said. “It’s been a great experience.” Hickam also received one of the Bryan Fazio scholarships, awarded to disabled veterans attending Brandman, in 2014.
With his advanced degree nearly in hand, Hickam is settling in to home life. “Now that I’m home and retired, I also want to be able to spend time with my three girls,” he explained. Hickam has three daughters, ages 10, 5 and 5 months, and is “enjoying parenting” with his wife. He laughingly added, “The only men in the house are me and my two Papillons.”
Hickam’s ultimate aim? “My goal right now is a part-time role teaching night college classes,” he said. “I miss being around the sailors and teaching them new things. Being a college professor is my chance to give back and get back to doing what I love.”
This story originally appeared in the Kitsap Sun’s Northwest Navy Life.
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