Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Oral History Interview with JoAnn Damkoehler

Wisconsin Veterans Museum


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[Interview Begins]

SHUMWAY: Today is the 27th of September 2022. This is an interview with Joann Dankoehler, who served in the United States Air Force from 24 September 1979 to 30 September of 1999. This interview is being conducted by Michael Shumway at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum for the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Program. Wisconsin Veterans Museum oral historian Luke Sprague is present in the interview room. Good morning. Or rather good afternoon, Joanne. How are you doing today?

DAMKOEHLER: Good afternoon. I'm doing great today.

SHUMWAY: Great, great. So I want to just start kind of rewinding the clock before service. Where did you grow up?

DAMKOEHLER: I grew up in Minnesota, in outside of Minneapolis, a little town, Coon Rapids, and graduated from New Brighton High School.

SHUMWAY: Great. And what did your family do when you were growing up?

DAMKOEHLER: My mother worked in a doctor's office and my father worked in a 00:01:00manufacturing plant.

SHUMWAY: Okay. And where did you go to school? Um.

DAMKOEHLER: Coon Rapids High School. And then the last year was in Irondale High School over in New Brighton.

SHUMWAY: Okay. Now, what made you want to join the military?

DAMKOEHLER: I didn't join right after high school, which is what normally I think happens. I actually was married and was almost in the process of a divorce when I moved back from Texas to, uh, to Minneapolis or to Minnesota to stay with my folks until I figured out what the heck I was going to do. And at that point, I decided that I had had an aunt in the Air Force many years before that. And so 00:02:00I thought I would talk to a recruiter and see what they had to say, since I had no basic after high school education. I thought I would go in for four years and get the education benefits and, um, and then move on from, from there. So I guess the interesting part of when I went in, I was pretty close to the high end of the age because I was twenty-six and twenty-seven was when they were cutting off new enlistments. So when I came in, I was older than the average new enlistee. It was it was mostly because I really had no, no real, no real focus at that point except to find some more stability in my life than I had prior to that. So I went in on open electronics and was pretty fortunate. Actually, my 00:03:00enlistment was in July. I came in under a delayed enlistment. I'm not sure how important that is these days, and I'm not sure if it if it gives any other benefits in there. But I went in at that time because there there was not a whole lot that I had available to me at the time. And Congress had just opened up a lot of the maintenance positions in the military for women. So there were a lot more opportunities for women to get training than there were prior to that.

SHUMWAY: Okay. And it sounds like I picked up on that correctly, that there was motivating factors like in the Air Force as opposed to another branch. Is that correct?

DAMKOEHLER: Yes. Yes. Yeah.

SHUMWAY: And where were you residing when you decided to join the Air Force, you had spoken to a Recruiter?


DAMKOEHLER: I was staying between my parents house in Faribault, Minnesota, and my sister's house in Fridley, Minnesota, so I was staying with them and trying to figure out where to go from there. And once I joined the military, then it was just kind of hanging around and waiting for that day to go in. I actually joined the military on my parent's wedding anniversary, September 24th. So that was that was one of the ways my mother always remembered the day that I came in.

SHUMWAY: So what did your family think about you joining the Air Force at that time?

DAMKOEHLER: I don't know that my mother was that much for it, but my dad had been in the Army. He actually was in World War Two. And his advice was. Never 00:05:00volunteer. And. And he, that was one of the few times we actually talked about his time and and the fact that there was a lot that he. He was in Japan during the occupation. And so he and eventually I went to Japan for a year. So that was a kind of a commonality between the two of us to talk about our experiences in Japan.

SHUMWAY: Do you think that your joining the military enabled him to be more open about his military experience with you?

DAMKOEHLER: Yes. As much as he was able to be open, I'm sure that I didn't get a full, full information, maybe that he would talk to another male military member. He was he was active in the in the American Legion and the VFW. So I, 00:06:00you know, he had people that he could talk to about his military time. Yeah.

SHUMWAY: And now before we get too far ahead, I'm curious what your experience was like for, when you attended basic training.

DAMKOEHLER: We were kind of an interesting flight because it was it was almost all older women because most of the flight was reservists that were coming down there. So we had very few of the eighteen, nineteen year olds that we would normally have. We were also the third female flight to have a male sister flight. So we did our training with a male flight prior to, prior to the first two of those, it was always two female flights or two male flights training 00:07:00together and in basic training. So that was kind of interesting because the male flight that we were tagged with was, in fact, all young men. And and the training instructors were male also. And so we learned within the first day or two that if any of us were undressed, they couldn't come in. It gave us an extra 5 minutes to. Clean things up before they could get through the door.

DAMKOEHLER: And once they figured out that we had figured that out, they got a female TI in there and she came in, one morning and said, "It's a new day, ladies." [Laughs]

DAMKOEHLER: But basic training was was interesting. It was it was the first time I had actually had to have been in anything that was that structured. And it was 00:08:00it was probably one of the few times in the military that I was with that amount of women at one time. There were very few women active duty at that time.

SHUMWAY: Okay. So your first real exposure to the military is basic training and you were paired up with a flight. And just for clarification, can you explain what a flight is? Is a flight a group of enlistees?

DAMKOEHLER: Yes. A flight had several squadrons in it. So it was probably, oh, gosh, I would have to say, forty women. And then the male flight was the same. Both together was a, a group. And you went through all of your training together, all the classroom, all of the, all the things like live fire and wet 00:09:00fire and and going through the obstacle courses. Everything was done as a group with both male and female flights together.

SHUMWAY: Okay. And after basic training, you had a pretty technical job, I imagine. Did you go to advanced training for your skill set?

DAMKOEHLER: Yes, I went down to Keesler Airforce Base for Tech Control at that time. The code was 30730 at that time. And there was a basic electronics class. And then there was also a specific, specific training for for tech control.

SHUMWAY: Okay. And do you remember any of your instructors from basic training that had an impact on you or anyone from your advanced training and your follow-up training?

DAMKOEHLER: You know, I don't remember her name, but the female TI that we got 00:10:00partway through the training in basic training was was very instrumental because she was probably the first female that seemed to be in control and in her place in the military that she actually had a place. She was a strong woman, strong role model. During, during the time that we were in basic training, also, part of it was doing jobs around, around base. And we ended up three or four of us in a cleaning floors, you know, doing that stuff. And there was a female chief there. It it never dawned on me that there would be people in that at that level. During that time, women were not allowed to stay in the military if they 00:11:00got married or they had children. Either of those would be an automatic way out. So for someone to stay in for twenty years, they had to remain single and without children. The times were starting to change at that point, but it was very unusual to see to see women that had been in for a long time because of those two.

SHUMWAY: Were those two individuals, those women, were they motivational for you, looking at what women could do in a career in the Air Force?

DAMKOEHLER: Yes. Yeah. I think that was the first time that I realized that that there were women that stayed in past just four years to get the basic benefits.

SHUMWAY: So you're finishing up your advanced training. You get your orders for your first duty station. Can you tell me about that, where that was?


DAMKOEHLER: That was at Sunnyvale Air Force Station. Sunnyvale Air Force Base depends on the month and the year that you were there, what they were calling it. It was to the only systems command tech control or communications facility. Most, actually all other communications facilities, were under the communications command. So that one was the only one in Systems Command and it was there because they worked on satellite operations. They were the communications with remote tracking stations that tracked the satellites and they provided the communications for the uplink and downlink to the satellites, mostly for health and welfare, to make sure they were in the proper orbit, to get information down from, from them on, on where they were or to reposition 00:13:00them. And there was also payload data from, from them coming down that was all extremely, extremely classified at the time and extremely, extremely not classified now. So, so, that was the that was the job there. It was, it did not prepare me for anything in the normal military communications. The the information was so time critical that if they lost seconds of data coming through these transmission lines, it could mean satellites literally going off into space or falling out of the sky because those were the ones that told them exactly what to do and how to do it. So what we were doing there was, you had to be able to do it immediately. The response time had to be immediate, which is 00:14:00something that doesn't happen in normal communications.

SHUMWAY: That's interesting. Now, what, you know, were you in when you were attached to Sunnyvale? What was the name before? If you remember.

DAMKOEHLER: Do you know, there wasn't anything more than the Air Force Satellite Control Facility. Um, I actually looked up an APR from the time, and it was. I think I actually still might have it here, um. Yeah. It basically just says Air Force Satellite Control Facility, and that's Sunnyvale Air Force station. So there was no actual unit number and no designation of it then. Other than that, 00:15:00I have a lot of those. In my career. [Laughs]

SHUMWAY: That's fine. That's fine. What would your particular role be there when you were stationed there? What was your day to day job, your duties there?

DAMKOEHLER: Like I said, we controlled the communication with the remote tracking stations. There was there was one in New Boston and there was one in Guam. There was one in Hawaii. There was one in, in Greenland. They were all over the, the world. And we control, at the Indian Ocean station, we controlled the communications to it from those that were secure communications. So we directed the cryptographic changes. We controlled weather, weather, we had to move things. In the case of the Indian Ocean station, one of the oh one of the 00:16:00lines outside that they were very poor was a tropospheric, tropospheric scatter. And depending on the time of day you actually had to change frequencies or direct the change of frequencies. That particular station became very important because that's where the first shuttle launch dropped the, the, the fuel canisters. And that was where it proved whether the launch would be a success or not. So whether our lines to the Indian Ocean tracking station were up and operational depended on whether they actually launched that mission. And if it had been delayed, it would have it would have cost millions of dollars for one 00:17:00of those shuttlecraft to sit on the launch pad for twenty-four hours. So yeah, our, our stuff was was very important to the space industry for launches for any of this. But the space, um, the space shuttle was one of the one of the biggies that it was, it was, it's interesting to look back and know that I was there when they launched the first shuttle and got to listen to all of them talking while they were doing the launch.

SHUMWAY: Based on what you told me, it sounds like it was a rather high operational tempo. So what was your conditions? What were the conditions like there at Sunnyvale in your work environment?

DAMKOEHLER: Um, we worked a lot with, um, with civil service. It was a, the building was called the Blue Cube, but it looked like a great big huge cube that 00:18:00was blue. It was actually designed on springs for the earthquakes out there. And we had several of them. And the ceiling tiles and the floor tiles would all pop up and and then eventually it would go back. But there was a lot of electronics in there. And in the old days that was all analog. So, it's not like it was it was, like it is today with with all of the fiber optics and and wi-fi and things like that. Everything had to run on a huge coaxial cables. And so it being on these springs actually allowed it to move, so, the cables didn't break. Um, but the facility that we actually worked at was smaller than this room inside of there.


SHUMWAY: I would say this is a relatively small room. So that's interesting. Um, what, what kept you going day to day when you were working in this? Sounds like it may have been a stressful environment because of all of your responsibilities. What was that like?

DAMKOEHLER: Um, I really liked California in general. First of all, the coworkers there for the most part were, um, it was very cohesive. It was a very cohesive unit. There were some men there that had a hard time with the women working in the same position that they were, at this. For many of them, this was the first time that they actually had to work with women as co-workers. I actually started off on the night shift and I guess that was fortunate because they trained me very well. When I went on to day shift, I found that the two women that worked there were never actually trained to do the job. They only 00:20:00typed on the typewriter after somebody else did the work. And, and so that changed quickly because I was the training NCO. And, so though the work itself was, was fast paced, but um, California, I really enjoyed my time there every time I was stationed there. I loved the diversity. I love the fact that every weekend there was something else new going on, some kind of a festival. I love the ocean to go over to the just over the mountains and you were at the beach. Growing up in the Midwest, you know, the oceans were new and wonderful things for for me. So it was part the military community and part of the overall 00:21:00community in California that I liked.

SHUMWAY: Were there any particular experiences that you had in California that you really enjoyed or?

DAMKOEHLER: I married my husband, yes. Um, when, as I said, I was originally stationed on night shift and he was the supervisor. And when we first started dating, I moved to swing shift, uh, and uh, and then when we got married, I ended up, um, I stayed on swing shift. He ended up on day shift in the, in the front office. But there had to be a separation there because of course, once you you have any kind of a relationship, he can no longer be we can't be in the exact same chain of command, and they worked with that fairly well.

SHUMWAY: Aside from your husband, were there other memorable coworkers?


DAMKOEHLER: Yes. Um, Jeff Boggs was one of the more, more, more [laughs] memorable coworkers. We still keep in touch with him. A bit of friends that we made out there in the civilian community we keep in touch with. Also, Jeff was interesting. He and several other airmen rented a house together. That was, of course, the party house for the organization. And when I went to swing shift, I had. I had gotten senior airman below the zone, senior airman below the zone and the first time testing. So senior airman below the zone was a kind of a competition like NCO, the quarter-something where airmen first class would would be if they were very good, allowed to go up to a board and the board would 00:23:00decide whether some of them could be promoted early. So I was promoted early that way, and I made staff the first time I tested. So, all of a sudden I was a higher rate than many of the people that were there longer than I was. And that made a uncomfortable situation for many of them. When I went to swing shift from midshift shift, I went as the shift supervisor and the NCO SC they called me the night before my first shift and said the guys called and said they don't want to work for a woman. And I said, Well, what would you like me to do about that? Because I can't change my gender. And he said, I didn't know whether to tell you or not tell you and decided I would tell you. It was, it all worked out. I mean, 00:24:00they didn't have much choice in the matter and neither did I. So eventually we, we, we work things out. And as I said, I was the training NCO. These two or three guys were still in training after several months. I was so nervous. I did training for eight hours, which you should never really do. And they were happy to actually be getting training as opposed to just being given grunt work. So after a few days, you know, it all fell out and it worked. But those were the types of things that were a regular encounter back in those days. And at the time it was extremely annoying. I think it was easier for me than some of the other women because I was older, I had worked in the civilian side in several other places, so I didn't take a lot of it personally. That was probably just 00:25:00ignorance on a lot of people's parts.

SHUMWAY: So, you said that you were the training NCO and you are leading people now in this position with your role, making board early. Did you go through any formal training to take on those responsibilities while you were at Sunnyvale or elsewhere?

DAMKOEHLER: No. But it did seem as though there's a trend throughout my career, I guess, of the fact that I end up in training. I think it's mostly because I can't handle people being poorly trained, so they just eventually put me in charge of it. So, no, there wasn't really, you know, at the very beginning, it was just being in control of the paperwork and that stuff. But, you know, then it was in, you know, in charge of the training. But there isn't any. They just, 00:26:00you know, they give you an additional duty to show you a rig and say, have a nice time. You don't bother me about it. Just get it done.

SHUMWAY: So how long were you at Sunnyvale before you went to your second duty station?

DAMKOEHLER: I think it was pretty close to four years because it was right about the time where I was going to have to re-enlist or not. And because my husband and I had gotten married and because we had gotten married, we wanted to stay together and to get joint spouse was somewhat difficult. So, he was assigned to DET-7 at Sunnyvale after his assignment to the Air Force satellite control 00:27:00facility. So he went over to, to Detachment-seven. I went to Japan, to Suberiyama, to the 1956 Comm Squadron. It was a remote detachment on a mountaintop on Mount Suberiyama. And I went there for a year, and then my return was already guaranteed back to DET-7, also, so that we could get back together again. So that was, that was an interesting time in Japan. It's, uh, we, uh, we worked on the top of the mountain. We were really safe between, uh. Between Tokyo and and South Korea. And they also had a. They had a sensor up there that 00:28:00was reading air pollution from Nagasaki, which was not far away from where we were. They had been they've been testing the air for a number of years, and it continued from, from up there. So part of the job there was to change these sensors out periodically and and mail them in. But because it was a remote location, we actually lived down in in the main town and we would drive up in the morning, pick up a Japanese national that was our translator, and drive up this mountain road that was, you know, just it was a one lane road up to the top of this mountain. At the bottom of the hill of the Japanese National would call 00:29:00to see if there was anybody coming down, if there was anybody coming down, they had the right of way. And so we would drive up there. We would relieve the two people that were on top. They would drive down. You were not relieved until the next morning. So you actually worked a twenty-four-hour shift and slept up on top of the hill. And once again, I was the second woman assigned to that organization. And and there was all sorts of cultural mostly cultural differences there with the with the Japanese, because at that time, Japanese women were not allowed to work after dark unless they were in a profession like nurses or something like that. Otherwise they could not work at night. So us working up on the top of the hill twenty-four hours was contrary to their law 00:30:00and and culture for, for the women. That actually changed while I was over there. But that was one of the things that they had a difficult time dealing with, of treating us in the same way that they treated the male GIs. The male guys put the, um, cleats and stuff on the tires of the Jeep to go up in the wintertime. And they wanted to know where the women going to do that, too. Were they could have put on the tire change. Were they going to help, you know, shovel some of these things because Japanese women would not do that stuff. That's not something that they would have they would have asked a Japanese woman to do. So part of it was kind of getting them to learn that, you know, we would we could put the chains on a Jeep and we could shovel the the driveway and, and, 00:31:00and those things all the way up there. It was a it was a pretty easy job. And in Japan, you know, where you went up, you worked for one day and then you were off for three days. So, you know, you worked twenty-four hours most of the time when you went to bed at night. And it was just a futon up there that you folded out, you didn't get woken up for anything. You know, there wasn't a lot of high priority, which was a big change from the seconds of data that they were doing it at the satellite stuff to be, "Yeah well, circuits out you know we'll get to it tomorrow," kind of a, kind of a mentality.

SHUMWAY: Did you enjoy your time there?

DAMKOEHLER: Yes. Yes. Because we were out on the economy again. We each had our 00:32:00own apartment in there and the Japanese nationals actually made me up business cards so I didn't get a chance to bring one with me. It had English on one side and on the other side. It had everything in Kanji. And the nice thing about it is you could give it to, I could give it to a taxi driver and he would take me home. And most of the rest of them, I don't know if anybody else actually had cards done, but most of the rest of them lived in a very close proximity to where I lived. And so they would take my card and they would just get dropped off of my apartment building and then walk a couple of blocks to wherever their's was. The transportation systems in Japan were fabulous. The trains were great. The most of the people over there that were college age or younger took English as a second language and it was required. So all of them wanted to speak 00:33:00English to. A native speaking person. So I joined up with a guy who had his niece from the US that was over there teaching English classes to young Japanese girls. And, and I enjoyed it. They, they wanted to pay me and I didn't think that was right. So I said, we can go shopping and you can take me to all the places I want to go to shop, and we'll speak English while we do it. So that was more what I did for speaking English. There were a bunch of kids in my apartment building that that would come up to me and they would all look at each other. And then one of them would come up and say hello. And when I said hello back, they all giggled and ran away. But they were just absolutely charmed that that 00:34:00somebody would respond to them in their foreign language that they knew.

SHUMWAY: So I'm getting a little bit of an idea of what your downtime was like, but could you explain between what you did with your friends and you had these students that are learning English and you're helping them? What was your day to day downtime off for those three days that you had between shifts?

DAMKOEHLER: The other place that was there was the Itzurki, Itazuke terminal, used to be a large base, but there was only a couple of flights that were coming through there and that was where we had a recreation room. There was a TV. They would send in movies. That was also where you would catch a flight to Yokota Airbase up in Tokyo. They also had flights over to South Korea. So that was kind 00:35:00of where people went to to watch movies, watch TV programs that were sent in from them, from the states.

SHUMWAY: Did you fly to Tokyo or anywhere else when you were there with your R&R time, leave time?

DAMKOEHLER: Yes. We went up there for for testing, promotion, testing and a couple of other times there. The fun part was when we went up there, the guys that lived on base, a couple of them said, well, we'll take you out and show you the real Japan. And it was just the little bars out of base. And I said, If you guys want to see the real Japan, if you come down where we are and, and actually live out in the economy and buy in their grocery stores, that kind of stuff. So, we did get up to Tokyo, but I don't know that I ever did get downtown Tokyo. 00:36:00Once a month someone would go from from our site down to Sasebo, which was the closest naval base, so that we could cash our checks. Because you didn't have an automatic deposit, well, you had an automatic deposit, but you had to write the check to get any kind of cash. So we would send checks down with one person. They would cash them, they would get it turned over to yen and shop at the exchange down there. And it was a big deal to get potato chips and M&Ms and things that you couldn't get in the in the economy out there because they had it exchange down there.

SHUMWAY: What were some of the creature comforts that you missed from living stateside when you were in Japan?

DAMKOEHLER: I think it was mostly food and also not eating with chopsticks. I, I 00:37:00wasn't I wasn't very good at eating it with chopsticks still am not for that matter. But while I really liked some of the food there, some of it was just a little off. I could not handle eating raw fish. And, um, and. Some of the other things were very bizarre to me because, you know, I'm kind of a midwestern meat and potatoes kind of girl and that didn't really happen a lot over there. Also, things just tasted different, even like eggs and things because their chickens. They're they're animal products were we're fed different things than they are over here. So, yeah, so they tasted a bit different. I lost weight, which was a good thing.

SHUMWAY: Did you have any memorable people that you served with or civilian side 00:38:00that you met or in Japan?

DAMKOEHLER: Um, yeah, um. All of the Japanese nationals that worked as interpreters for us kind of picked up on Americanized names. Um, one of them was Andy, and he was actually, um, in Sasable which was the naval station in my time when the atomic bomb went off at Hiroshima, which was just on the other side of a mountain range. So he took every single one of the GIs that was stationed down there to the Hiroshima Peace Park. He thought it was a very important thing for everyone to see that. And that was probably the most vivid memory that I have of 00:39:00my time down there. He actually took us, me and another GI down there. We stopped at his mother's house and had lunch. And she, of course, spoke no English, but she was a lovely little lady. And then we went to a pottery shop where we were we painted a teacup and they and they fired it for us. And he took us to the peace park. And there's a cement step there that has a impression of two kids that were sitting on it when the bomb went off. And they were absolutely disintegrated. They said that Nagasaki would be nothing would ever grow there for a hundred years. And yet it's actually a very beautiful city 00:40:00right now. But in the peace park there, they show you a lot of pieces like that devastation. And they also have histories. And, Andy was one of them. Him and all of his descendants were part of a, um, a research program on how this affected and the, the first couple of generations after the, the bomb had a lot of, um, deformities in there. So, yeah, that was, that was an amazing experience to go with someone who had that personal connection to that.

SHUMWAY: Upon visiting in the Peace Park, did you form or change your opinion about things related to atomic bomb usage?

DAMKOEHLER: I don't think that I changed my opinion, but I think that I had a 00:41:00deeper understanding of what happened. To be able to go back. And second guess whether that was an appropriate behavior, appropriate choice or not. I just don't think that we can do that because what would have happened? What could have happened? What should have happened? All of those things are just guesses. That's what did happen. And so whether it was right, whether it was wrong, it was something that we definitely need to learn from. It also makes me cautious and somewhat afraid of it happening again. And with things happening in Ukraine, 00:42:00with Russia and the fact that Putin is perfectly willing to put nuclear attacks on the table. That's, that's a concern. Then, and, you know, having seen what destruction that does, I'm concerned that we are so far away from it now that we don't realize what the result of that was. And it's easy for someone to sit in Russia and say, well, just use nuclear bombs. And that'll that'll show 'em. It's like, yeah, and everyone else four generations after that. So I am hoping that the Peace Park and the experience that happened down there makes it unnecessary for that to ever happen again.

SHUMWAY: All right. Switching gears just slightly here, I want to ask you about your next duty session after leaving Japan. What was that like? Where did you go?


DAMKOEHLER: I went back to Sunnyvale Air Force Station. This is at Detachment-seven. Um, it was also at some point during that time, it was called the 1812 Comm Squadron. Um, I think there was two or three other designations that lasted probably less than a week or a month in there. That was a, that was a little higher classification, um, of security in that organization. They were considered Air Force elements, and they worked directly for the secretary of the Air Force base. So basically, we went from our person to our supervisor to our 00:44:00DET-chief to the secretary of the Air Force Base. Who was a general. And the. So, the autonomy that we had there, there were when I was there, there were no officers. There was only enlisted people in this detachment. It was headed by a chief. And there was probably, well, maybe twenty-five people involved in that. So we were the ones that, that took care of the budget, that did a lot of the things, contracts, things like that that would have normally been handled by an officer. So we had opportunities there that were not common for enlisted people 00:45:00in the in the military. It was a special duty assignment. So you did have to be chosen for it. You had to have, you know, perfect evaluations and all of that stuff in there. So, um,sd it was kind of an elite group. Also, you didn't have anybody who was basically just marking time there. You had people that were interested in what they were doing and were confident in in what they did. So and that had to do a lot with the, with satellite launchers and everything that Sunnyvale had to do with satellite launches. And so but this was more. Downstairs was more of the health and welfare. The first assignment was more health and welfare, you know, and there was there was weather satellites and, you know, all satellites. This was at DET-seven was more the, um, the payload 00:46:00information and the, um, the spy stuff, you know, I mean, we all know that there is satellites up there that can read your license plate on your car. I mean, they have pictures of it in the newspaper these days. At the time I was in, that was that was not true. People didn't know about about those. So. So that was pretty much what the what the details were. But on occasion, the the two places overlapped with each other, there would be kind of one level of of security at the same place. There was the other level of security. So you would have a little bit of overlap in the things.

SHUMWAY: What was your pay grade when you're reattached to something else?

DAMKOEHLER: Staff Sergeant. I stayed staff for a while. When did I get to be a tech sergeant? Oh, I might have been promoted there. Yeah, that might have been 00:47:00the promotion to Tech Sergeant. And then the next duty station I had was down to Los Angeles, and that was actually the group headquarters for all of these elements. I guess it would be considered a group. It was still it was still listed as elements. That one was Detachment-nine down there. Actually, this was my, this is my retirement. This is my going away from from there. Almost everything had to do with shuttles. And, and, and we did get an Air Force element, Detachment nine, Space.com Center. They kept they kept changing the names of things. I don't know. To protect the guilty or trying to hide things, I'm not really sure why the names changed so much. We actually wore in oth 00:48:00DET-seven and DET-nine, we were civilian clothes. We were authorized the wear of civilian clothes because we had to go to contractor locations that they did not want an overt military presence to be there. So, it was you know, it was the same kind of ones, up at, up at San Jose. In Sunnyvale of, you know, Lockheed Martin and those, they didn't want them knowing that there was satellite stuff going on at those places. Um, but like I said, the interesting thing about most of that was the fact that, that we were the contract advisors for a lot of contracts of, multibillion dollar contracts. I mean, how many people, let alone just enlisted people, are actually in charge of multibillion dollar contracts for the military? Almost unheard of. We were on the cutting edge of technology 00:49:00with the, with Cisco. I mean, we had Cisco routers probably before anybody else in the universe did. We were actually putting information back into Cisco on how to make their, their product better for our uses. We had an entire communications system that was separate from the Air Force communications systems. So it was a, it was a, we were kind of like the AT&T of the space people, you know. And, I started at the FAA detachment there and ended up in in network management and again doing training, doing training in DET-even doing training in DET nine, and, um, and then moved to Omaha, which I think was 00:50:00DET-four same organization. Once you got trained in that group, people just kind of moved from one place to another in there. So DET-four was in Omaha in the Martin Marrietta bomber building. And yeah, I guess it was the same thing that I did the same thing in DET-seven, DET-nine, and DET-four, you know, just in different locations. [Laughs] At DET-four, we were actually consolidating to try and get to try and cross-train people from three different AFSDs or different jobs to all be able to do the same job for everybody to be able to function in the other jobs. And so that was, that was a little more difficult of a training 00:51:00task. Also there I did training on a network basis with two or three other people. We did actual classes on what everybody in the network needed to, to know how to do standards, those kind of things.

SHUMWAY: Just to clarify, it sounds like what you're saying is you did essentially the same job at each of these DET-seven DET-nine, DET-four locations.


SHUMWAY: And you were a training officer at most of these locations as well?

DAMKOEHLER: Yes, I did training it at I did training at all of them. You know, some of them I was in DET-nine I was the network manager along with doing, um, doing training in, in DET-four it was more of teaching people from different 00:52:00AFSCs to do the the holistic job, all of the things that needed to be done. Because at that point we had to have two people on duty at any time. There had to be two-man controlled because of security reasons. And so, you couldn't have somebody from operations, somebody from crypto maintenance, and somebody from take control. There weren't enough people to do that. So whoever was on duty had to be able to do all three of those jobs. So, that was a larger training issue than just training the normal tech controllers to do their job, to do their job and coordinate with the other facilities.

SHUMWAY: And what was it like? Just to address this again, being a woman in these locations, at these duty stations? Was it similar to the beginning of how 00:53:00you had some resistance?

DAMKOEHLER: I think that by the time I got to Omaha, first of all, these were special duty assignments with people that were pretty much like the cream there. They were all people that had excellent evaluations, things like that. So none of them were really insecure about their own abilities. And I think that helped a lot. Plus, I've been at other places, so they talked to me on the phone, they'd seen me at meetings. I was not a new thing for them. There was, there were, there were still issues. You know, there were occasionally there was one young girl there and she was on nightshift. And she ended up with a young man that liked her and kept touching her hair and asking her out. She was married 00:54:00and she didn't know how to handle that. And it turned into the big kerfuffle and and the DET-chief said, "Well, what do we need to do?" And I said, "You need to get him. You need to separate them. You know, you can't have them working together anymore." And he said, "Well, for how long?" I said, "Forever. If you put them back in there together and they have another issue, when there's no one there as a supervisor for them, then it's no longer their problem. It's now your problem." And I think that was one of the things, that was one of the things that I think was the hardest was to be able to talk to these young women and say, "Look at, you got to be able to draw boundaries here and you've got to be able to make them stick. And there isn't a lot of time that there just isn't 00:55:00somebody there to enforce a boundary that you know, that you have to be able to create your own boundary." I learned probably earlier that if you look somebody that's behaving poorly in the eye and say that's not appropriate in the workplace, normally they will say, oh, sorry, you know, and, and go on about it. But it was it was unpleasant that it always had to be women that were doing that, you know, that were always the ones that had to say, look, if you're not going to say it in your mom's living room, don't say it in the workplace. For the most part, it wasn't just the fact that it was other women. There was also a civil service people. There were also civilians around. And sometimes they got in trouble with the civilian women, too. But yeah, you know, I assume that it's gotten 00:56:00better. You know, they went through Tailhook, they went through a whole lot of other things. I have to admit that I don't I don't recall in our organizations ever having sexual assaults or rapes. It was more along the lines of verbiage, probably that was inappropriate. You know, there were some guys who assumed that if you were in the military that you were easy, you know, those type of things. And and, you know, those those could be remedied without too much of an issue. I'm hoping that I left some of those guys in better shape than I found them, for the woman that they read across. That was that was kind of my my line in the sand there. I want you to treat the next woman you run across better than you treated me when I came in.


SHUMWAY: Did you have a mentor that you were working under at either of these three locations or that happened earlier? Had a different duty assignment. Someone that took you under their wing?

DAMKOEHLER: Mm hmm. I think that, um, I think that there were a couple of people who tried to do that. I don't know. I don't know if there was any actual like one-on-one mentoring, but there were quite a few very professional people that supported their support. You know, we were. We were given very good evaluations and a lot of my evaluations got a general endorsement, which is something that 00:58:00you don't normally see and went a long way to promotion. You know, that was those kind of things were, were things. Also I have, I don't know, four or five Meritorious Service Awards. That's something that enlisted people normally didn't get. And so we we had some pluses to what we did. I know when I went to the last duty station at 21-SOPS. There was a meritorious service for my troops from Omaha, and there was also a achievement medal from a temporary duty that I did up to D.C. And when they were awarding them to me at 21-SOPS, the commander 00:59:00said, "How does somebody get a meritorious service for the four years and an achievement medal at the same time?" And I looked at him and said, "I'm very good at what I do." Laughs] But those were some of the things I know the first time, the first one that I had when I met this, I think he was just a lieutenant. And he saw my ribbon rack and he looked at his own ribbon rack and he said, "How did you get those?" And I said, "I'm very good at what I do." [Laughs] So, there were a lot of there were a lot of things that that our management did that helped people through their career. But I don't know that there was a lot of one-on-one mentoring.

SHUMWAY: What about anyone special in your life? A co-worker, civilian friend at 01:00:00any of those three locations?

DAMKOEHLER: There was a there was several very special women that I met during my time in there, and I still maintain a relationship with. The most important one, I think, is Robin Ruiz. And she retired as ambassador, I think. We were never actually assigned together. However, we were often on the opposite end of a circuit that we were working out problems on. And if we were going to meetings of network people, if she wasn't there, I was the only woman there. So, while I never worked side by side with her in the same organization, her and I worked very closely together and she would be the one that I would call and say, "This 01:01:00is happening. Give me a sanity check. Am I angry because of this or is this really something I should do something about?" And she was one who would give me the sanity check on things. It's like, "Nope, just normal, stupid Joe. Just tell them to knock it off and move on or No, you need to go in and get this fixed because this isn't going to fix itself on its own." So her and I, her and I have a very close relationship. We still have a very close relationship. Rene Delamar, she ended up being a chief. She stayed in for thirty years. And she she had the best sense of humor that I've ever seen of anybody. And she could she 01:02:00could make anybody do whatever she whatever she wanted. [Lauhghs] Yeah. She just she she had that, that talent. And noone would challenge her, you know, she was they were they were most of them either at the level that I was or Yeah, were at the level that I was, there was no women that we worked with that were higher ranking, no female officers. So when I got out of the military the first time, they had a, a gathering of military women of the VA. It was a huge deal for me to see 150 female veterans. It's like, where did you all come from? You know, I mean, I had no idea that there were all these women out there in the Marines and 01:03:00in the Army and and everything else, let alone in the in the regular part of the the Air Force, because we were so insulated in these small organizations that literally I could count on two hands the number of women that I encountered in my, in my career.

SHUMWAY: After DET-four, where did you go to next?

DAMKOEHLER: I went to 21-SOPS SPEC back at Sunnyvale Air Force Station. However, it was now called an Onizuka Air Force station. After commander on Onizuka from the, from the shuttle, he was the commander of the shuttle that that exploded. And, um, 21-SOPS was actually the exact same facility. That was my first duty station. It was actually the same communications between the remote tracking 01:04:00stations. It was now just called 21-SOPS. And at that time, they were moving satellite communications from, from California to Colorado Springs. And so, as a part of that move, they were closing down the entire queue and 21-SOPS was closing down the 750th Comm Group that was there was closing down. And the last year I was there in the inspector general's office, just because there was nothing else for me to do. They knew I was retiring and.

SHUMWAY: Yeah. What was it like in the community surrounding the Cube and Onizuka over the years from when he started to where you ended up with 21-SOPS?

DAMKOEHLER: I don't know that it changed that much. Um. Going. Going through 01:05:00there. Um. Traffic got worse. Yeah. Um, crime got worse. Cost of housing got worse. Weather was still the same, you know. They had almost perfect weather out there. So you really can't, you know, you can't, can't complain about. About that. Um. Yeah, I don't really see. I saw more change in the area out there when, when we went out on vacation last year. It was. They have they have removed the cube and and now it's a community college out there. They have a few, um, momentos from, from the military base there, but that's about it. Yeah.


SHUMWAY: Anything particularly memorable about your time on 21-SOPS overall?

DAMKOEHLER: No. By that time, I had pretty much decided that I was going to retire. My husband had got out of the military several years before that, and so he had been following me. He got civilian jobs at the, uh, at the different bases. And we knew that we couldn't, we couldn't afford to live out there. So we decided to move back to Wisconsin, which is where he was from.

SHUMWAY: Was it difficult? Your last duty station at 21-SOPS, or were you looking to get out right away at that point?

DAMKOEHLER: I don't know that it was difficult. It was kind of a placeholder in the fact that I knew I wasn't going to work for promotion. I knew I wasn't going 01:07:00to stay in any longer. The organization itself was was not going to be there for that much longer. So it was it was one of those ones where everything was just winding down and the whole thing was to be able to, to move everything as of as expediently as possible to, to the new location and wind down all of the of all of the work there. So yeah, it was it was totally not exciting. Well, it's interesting just the fact that three times, you know, in the same organization and three times the same physical place and three times in the same organization. So I didn't I didn't get a very broad view of what it's like to be 01:08:00in the real Air Force, so to speak. It was kind of a insulated career for me.

SHUMWAY: You served until retirement. You did your basic training, your advanced training. You served as a training officer multiple times. Was there any sort of additional training or schools that you went to?

DAMKOEHLER: I went to, um, I went to leadership school and all of the the professional training for for that. I also went to training for different equipment, particularly cryptographic equipment, because at several of the places that I was at over in Japan and then in Omaha, we were responsible for the cryptographic equipment, both the maintenance and the updating of it 01:09:00periodically. So I was certified on several different types of cryptographic information. The interesting thing about being certified on cryptographic equipment is that you can't be on the same transportation as the equipment. So if equipment had to be brought someplace, somebody else had to bring it. They didn't want any chance of somebody taking both the equipment and the person to operate it, at the same time. So there were some interesting rules there. There was also some interesting rules for the, the detachments because they were SCI, secret compartmental information. If on our medical records, there was actually a flag on them that if they had to put you under for anything, there had to be 01:10:00somebody with a clearance there just in case you blabbed while you were under sedation, so there was, you know, there are some interesting little caveats like like that around that which, you know, I guess also never really made much difference. I mean, it's not like anybody I know ever actually had that come up, but it was on our records.

SHUMWAY: What was some of that advance or additional training? Was that stateside or was that.

DAMKOEHLER: Yeah, everything was was stateside. The only time I was actually overseas was for a, for my remote tour in Japan.

SHUMWAY: What was it? What were some of your most memorable trips that you took when you were on leave for R&R? You mentioned going down when you were in Japan. 01:11:00What about when you were stateside.

DAMKOEHLER: In Japan. Actually, one of the Japanese nationals set me up with a trip down to Kyoto and seeing the Emperor's Palace and the the Golden Temple and some of those cultural things from from Japan was was very, very interesting. I actually only have two states left before. I have actually been in every U.S. states. I have Alaska and Washington left. Other than that, I've actually been driven through, lived in, spent time someplace in, in forty-eight of the fifty states, which is pretty good. I gotta knock those last two off here pretty soon. So, I think one of the interesting trips was going to Washington, D.C. and being taken down to the comm 01:12:00center in the Pentagon, which has multiple basements that are really creepy. So, you know, having a having a a guided tour for one of the guys that worked there in the, in the Pentagon was a, was a pretty cool perk of of being out there and just seeing Washington, D.C. I was out there several times to to work, and it's now one of my favorite cities. I love the history there. I love a lot of the stuff that goes on out there.

SHUMWAY: Now, when you were in the military, how did you communicate? How often did you communicate with friends and family back home?

DAMKOEHLER: Quite often. Like I said, most of the time I was stateside. So when 01:13:00we had leave, we could go back home and visit people. When I was in Japan. My husband came over there a couple of times because we were in communications was easy for us to talk to each other. They set up at the, at the Comm center in Sunnyvale, too. If I called in on an out of bound line, they would put it out to to him so I could talk to him whenever I wanted. But most of the time he was at work. You just call up, you know? I mean, we were we were both on things. He he did more mobile communications and in some of the places. So he was gone a lot more than that I was. So there were times where, you know, we would be kind of ships passing in the night. On things.


SHUMWAY: No. I looked at your DB2-14. How long did you serve exactly in the military?

DAMKOEHLER: Twenty years and seven days.

SHUMWAY: And what was your pay grade when you retired.

DAMKOEHLER: Master Sergeant, E-7.

SHUMWAY: Okay. Um, now, with leaving the Air Force, you retired? Were there any, any sort of specific military awards that you received that have a story behind them that is special to you or an achievement for service that you thought was a notable part of your career?

DAMKOEHLER: I have brought it with me and I need to get it framed. It's a little flag that was in space. Yeah, that's not it. Yeah. This is just the funeral 01:15:00honors program. I can actually fold flags to celebrate way. Oh, here it is. This flag was flown on a space shuttle flight. So yeah, it was just one is kind of special.

SHUMWAY: What is that in recognition of? What was your service that earned that award?

DAMKOEHLER: Um, I was actually. This was the. We had a facility in Houston, um, and the detachment chief down there, um, was the one who, um, who got these for several people. I was in network management when the STS-53 mission was on and, and we have. The network connectivity that we had was important to the shuttles, 01:16:00um, being able to communicate back to, um, back to the engineers. So. Yeah.

SHUMWAY: And what about any of your service medals or anything, any of your ribbons, even, that you earned? Anything, have special meaning to them for you?

DAMKOEHLER: Um. I don't know that there's any one. I was always very pleased that whenever I moved from one duty station to another, um, that they thought my service there was important enough to give me an award. I know that that doesn't 01:17:00happen to everyone, um, and it doesn't happen to the level that I got. The only person I know that has more mature service that I do is my husband for the rank that we were at. He ended up getting out when he was a tech sergeant. But, you know, he did a lot of unique things there. And I guess I'm very grateful in my time for the opportunities that, that I was given in the in the military. There were opportunities that I would never have had in the civilian world, um. And so I'm, even though I came in just, you know, for the benefits and hopefully the training that I would be able to get on the outside, I find that that the training and the opportunities that I had in the military were vastly more 01:18:00important than what I would ever have been able to have gotten on the outside.

SHUMWAY: This is kind of a big picture question for him. What was it like for you being a female, serving in the military and also within your job specialties as well? Be it at the beginning of your career, later, just overall?

DAMKOEHLER: It was always an issue. It was always an issue of. It was always an issue because it was a novelty at the time, um. And for the most part, um, I think that the group of women that I served with were the ones that set the baseline for a lot of the, a lot of the hopefully things that came after. I'm 01:19:00friends with a World War Two female veteran and our services are 180 degrees different. Her experience and my experience. With her experience, she said men in the service were always extremely respectful of all of the women serving. They you know, the women served as a group together. She was an air tower person. With me, because we were we were working right next to these guys, we were we were their competition, we were their coworkers. We were, you know, 01:20:00those things. And in many times, like in the first duty station, I outranked them and they didn't like that. Um, most of them either had to get over it or they grew to just understand that we were coworkers like everybody else and people like everyone else. I'm so glad to see that there are less and less firsts. The first woman that does this. The first woman that does that. I'm hoping that we get to the point where it's no it no longer makes the news because we're now a part of the military that it's not a big deal, that it's the first woman to do this or the first woman to command that. So, yeah, it was an issue during my whole entire career and I hope it's not for the next woman that 01:21:00goes in.

SHUMWAY: And how did it feel for you leaving the military?

DAMKOEHLER: Oh, it was it was kind of good news. It was kind of bad news. I was sad to, to leave some of the people, but I was also excited to get out and move on. I knew that that I wasn't going to stay for thirty years. It was time for me to leave and, and move on to, to other things. So, um, I, I, I'm finding that, um, that the veteran community is different than, than the active. And I found that the American Legion is just as misogynic as the military was. I'm a, um, I'm a paid-up for life member, but I don't, I don't have anything to do with 01:22:00the, with the American Legion locally. And I don't think many women do. It's it's really unpleasant for me to go to the things that I'm tired of telling them that they're sexist assholes, you know. I guess that's just kind of the way it is. The VFW, I think, is a little better, but I don't, I'm not eligible for that because I haven't done any overseas in time of war. The thing I, I found that I really like is the women veterans get togethers where I can actually talk to women and talk about the different experiences that all of us have that are common and uncommon, and also the different, the different eras. The different 01:23:00eras for women, we're very different experiences.

SHUMWAY: And what did it feel like coming home after your service some years had passed?

DAMKOEHLER: You know, because we I was really stateside most of the time. It's not like the world moved on without me. So, it really wasn't that big of a deal to go back to the civilian community. I wore civilian clothes three quarters of the time I was in the military.

SHUMWAY: So, what was it like comparing civilian world after service to military service? You just mentioned there that you were in civilian clothes often when you were at your duty station. So, what was it like to transition back? Was there anything notable?

DAMKOEHLER: Oh, not really. You know, we, we came back. I took a year off. My 01:24:00husband had gotten out early, um, went to, um, with college. And so he worked in corporate America for a while and I just kind of did a few things here and there. Um, I was a school bus driver for a while. That was interesting. And then I just retired and I'm enjoying retirement. I'm, I'm enjoying traveling overseas now, which is somewhat interesting. You know, it's like join the military, see the world. I joined the military, saw the United States. And now we've been we've been going, doing a lot of traveling. We're going to be leaving in January to go down to New Zealand and Australia for about a month. So yeah, I, I've, 01:25:00I've wanted to see a lot. I've wanted to travel. So that was one of the good things about getting out.

SHUMWAY: Do you have any specific thoughts on Memorial Day or Veteran's Day, for example?

DAMKOEHLER: Oh, Memorial Day, I suppose, because my, my father was in World War Two or actually the occupation of Japan. He was in the Army, the fourth Battalion. And my grandfather, my dad's father, was also in the military. He was in Europe in World War One. So Memorial Day and I have uncles and there's a lot of military veterans in my, in my family and even on my mother's side. One of her sisters, of course, was in the Air Force and actually was kind of 01:26:00instrumental in me wanting to go in there, too. So, there's been a lot of people in there that Memorial Day holds a personal meaning for me. Um, Veteran's Day, I guess I see is more of a fun day for all of us that are still alive and kicking me out of I. Yeah. I don't know. It's just. Yeah, I. I'm kind of with a lot of the women that just don't identify on a day-to-day basis with being a veteran, you know? I mean, I am. And, and when it comes up, I'll talk about it. But for the most part, I don't know how I don't know how we get women to start feeling more like they actually are veterans and a part of the veteran community. 01:27:00Because I don't see most women that I talk to that feel that way.

SHUMWAY: Did you use the GI Bill or any other sort of veterans benefits after you got out of the military?


SHUMWAY: How about the leadership skills that you used and were taught in the Air Force to those translate to anything in the civilian world?

DAMKOEHLER: Oh, yeah. Yeah, there's very few people that can make me lose my cool. You know, I guess I. My philosophy is when anybody gets angry or calls me names or anything like that, it's like, you know, I've been called worse by better people. So, you know, there's just somebody else's issue is not my issue 01:28:00and they can't make it my issue. So, yeah, you know, being through many of the things that I did in the military, there's, it's given me a confidence and, and an ability to lead when that needs to happen. That definitely comes from the military.

SHUMWAY: Have you had to use the VA hospital system or clinics to address anything that happens during your service time?

DAMKOEHLER: No, I, I normally had, prior to being sixty-five, we had insurance through my husband's company and then we had TRICARE as a second. So there was, in my opinion, there wasn't any need for me to take up facilities at the VA that were needed by other people that I didn't. So I never actually signed up for a for anything in there. I don't I don't believe that any of my disability has to 01:29:00do with the military. Everybody in my family has bad hips, so, that's so much for the for the walker. I'm actually having surgery on it, then in another month. So, you know, well, I well, I have some aches and pains and things like that. I don't have anything that I believe is specifically connected. [Cell phone jingles]

SHUMWAY: All right. And you've talked about the American Legion and the VFW. You talked about women veterans. Is there a women veterans organization or some other organization that you belong to that you interact with somewhat often?

DAMKOEHLER: I signed up for the women's memorial out there, and I and I followed them a lot. I belong to the United Women's Veterans, but since COVID, they 01:30:00actually haven't been meeting. And I don't know if they're going to continue as an organization, um, at least once a year, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs does a women's, get together weekend up at Trinity Farms. I didn't go this year, but I do like those. I like going to the to the women's. Occasionally. Occasionally I volunteered at the stand down and some of the other things. And um, I haven't recently because of COVID and because my mobility is kind of limited these days. Um, but I, I like staying in touch with the, with the military community. I, I'm on a few Facebook pages of, of the, and, and I, 01:31:00and I keep up with my girls, you know, from, from when I was in. And like I said, there's four or five of those that, you know, are our friends for life.

SHUMWAY: That gets to one of my other questions. How often do you stay in touch with some of the people that you served with?

DAMKOEHLER: Oh, you know, through Facebook daily. You know, I see them in my travels if I'm anywhere near there. Is that a couple of times where we've gotten together and it's like, let's meet in Savannah or something like that. So, we regularly get together. I actually have found new female veteran friends on some of the, um, Facebook pages and have met them, when I've traveled in the area where we met them, I met them on Facebook, but I've actually also then met them 01:32:00in person afterwards. So that was pretty cool. Yeah.

SHUMWAY: Not every organization has these, but does your do any of your old units have reunions that you attend?

DAMKOEHLER: They've had two. One was the closure of Onizuka I didn't get out to that. And they had one organization, organizational meeting in D.C. that I also didn't get to. But we did have one for DET-7 down in Las Vegas, so that was kind of fun. There was probably about maybe seventy-five people there.

SHUMWAY: Anyone that you'd served with?

DAMKOEHLER: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

SHUMWAY: Now, what does it mean for you to serve as an individual?

DAMKOEHLER: I think that it's important for everyone to do something to make the 01:33:00world a better place. I hope that my time in the military and my, just my time on the planet has made it a better place for someone.

SHUMWAY: How would you say your life has changed as a result of your military service?

DAMKOEHLER: I don't take any shit from anyone anymore. [Laughs] And I'm not afraid to say it.

SHUMWAY: How would you say you'd describe your military experience, your career?

DAMKOEHLER: It was it was unique. It was unique in the grand scheme of what a normal career would be. I'm, I'm very happy for the way it turned out. The good, 01:34:00the bad, the indifferent. There were a lot of times of stress, but there was also a lot of times of real enjoyment and real camaraderie.

SHUMWAY: Is there anything in particular that you're proud to have been a part of during your service?

DAMKOEHLER: Yes, I am extremely proud of being a part of the space program. Um, from the time where they first launched the satellites to, um, to the space station. I've, I've been a part of that whole growth through there. And it's, it's something that, yeah, that I personally am very proud of.

SHUMWAY: Would you encourage any younger family members of yours that are 01:35:00considering joining the military to do so?

DAMKOEHLER: Maybe. It would depend on the person and what they're doing. I think that anybody who doesn't have a plan after they get out of high school, that it wouldn't hurt them to go into the military for four years. It's a good place to find a direction.

SHUMWAY: What motivated you to do this interview today?

DAMKOEHLER: I was jealous of all the "I am not invisible" people that I saw. And when I, when I look back on of on my father's and my grandfather's and my uncle's military careers, I don't know anything about them. And I don't know 01:36:00much about my aunts or many of the others. And I wish that they would have done something like this so that I could hear it or see it or understand it in their own words. And so, I'm hoping that by doing this, maybe somewhere down the road, someone will be able to understand what me and my friends went through, what we went through, what we enjoyed, you know, how we how we lived during this time.

SHUMWAY: So is there anything about your military service or civilian life before or afterwards that we didn't talk about that you'd like to bring up now?

DAMKOEHLER: No, no. I think you covered it. Good job.

SHUMWAY: Well, I just wanted to say thank you again for giving us your time and telling us your story and being a part of this project.


DAMKOEHLER: Thank you.

SHUMWAY: Thanks. That concludes the interview. Thank you very much for your service and your time today.

[Interview Ends]