Dana Drenkowski

Dana DrenkowskiComing from an Air Force family, Dana entered the Academy right after graduating from Granger HS in West Valley, UT. He spent his first two years in 5th Squadron, then on to 3rd and when the new squadrons were added, Dana spent his First Class year in 27th Squadron. Academics did snag him now and then and his ZI field trip was cut short so he could join 22 of his classmates back at the Academy on R-Flight. Always a gung-ho warrior, he even tried to study the Vietnam war "on site" as a Cadet, but the CG of HQ PACAF said “No!” and ordered him off the plane taking an Army combat unit into action during one Cadet summer. “I didn’t even know he knew I was on that plane! So disappointing!”Click to enlarge
          After graduation, Dana went to Reese AFB for pilot training, then to Seymour-Johnson AFB in 1969 where he was a B-52 pilot in the 51st Bomb Squadron there and with the 307th Strategic Wing at Utapao AB, Thailand. After over 50 B-52 bombing missions in Vietnam, Dana went to Luke AFB in 1971 to transition to the F-4E after volunteering for another tour in the S.E.Asia War. In June, 1972, he was assigned to the 421st TFS at DaNang AB Vietnam/Takhli RTAFB Thailand, which unit lost many of its F4s and personnel shot down. Dana roomed with Classmate Bill Beekman for a short time until Bill was shot down and captured. He then moved to Udorn RTAFB Thailand where he flew as an F-4D/E pilot with the 13th TFS "Panther Pack", part of the 432nd TRWg, until July, 1973, flying over 165 combat missions throughout S.E. Asia, including raids to Route Pack VI over Hanoi. He arrived shortly after 13th TFS member Tony Click to enlargeMarshall was shot down and was present in the same wing when '68er Bill Gaunt (14th TRS) was shot down--as well as others. All the Air Force Aces of the Vietnam War were in the 432nd Wing when they made Ace, including Jeff Feinstein, '68, also a Panther Pack member.Click to enlarge
          During this time, he met and became the handler of the famous real black panther mascot of the 13th, eventually becoming bonded to the big cat, which he took out on walks and fun play dates every day. During his tour as an F-4E pilot escorting B-52 missions, coupled with his previous tour as a B-52 pilot, Dana realized that the B-52 mission planning during Linebacker II was seriously faulty, resulting in crew and aircraft losses. With the support of fighter wing commanders in S.E. Asia, he reported it to SAC commanders, which eventually cost him his Air Force career when SAC refused to admit it made certain mistakes--a position it maintained until studies and declassified information vindicating Dana were published decades later.
          From 1973 to 1976, Dana was stationed at Homestead AFB, where he was an F-4E Pilot in the 308th TFS and a Staff Officer with the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing. During his assignment at Homestead, Dana completed his Master of Arts degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Northern Colorado, receiving Air Force awards as a top scholar. In 1976, he was passed over for permanent captain (clearly a result of his analysis and reporting of B-52 mission planning) and was discharged. After leaving the Air Force, Dana embarked on a different path as a "warrior".Click to enlarge
          He began working as a military consultant or contractor for different militaries or countries, seeing more combat in countries/wars such as Libya/Chad, Rhodesia and El Salvador, among others, where he was both a pilot and later a sniper and long range reconnaissance patroller behind enemy lines. He was captured once, held at a firing squad wall, but escaped with two other Americans, stealing a C-47/DC-3 to cross over 600 miles of the Sahara Desert to a tiny air strip using only a standby compass, after the instruments and hydraulics were shot out during the escape.
          Seeing the futility of his career choice—not much money was made during that period--he went to law school in San Francisco, California, to become a true “mercenary”, aka a lawyer. He worked as a successful trial lawyer throughout the 1980s and ‘90s in virtually all the State and Federal courts of Northern California, but remained on call for military consultation, serving in various countries when needed, advising among others the indigenous tribes of Nicaragua against the Sandinista Communist government and the Afghan rebels against the Soviet Empire during the 1980s, and was involved in the Iran-Contra issues. Dana was fighting in El Salvador, flying AT-37s, C-47s, UH-1s, and O-2As, when ’68 classmate Buzz Sawyer was shot down over Nicaragua in a civilian C-123K—their paths had crossed earlier in Libya, though they didn't see each other there.
           He was recruited in the late 1980s to be a Judge Advocate General lawyer for the US Army Reserves, working weekends as an Army JAG and weekdays as a civil trial lawyer. His claim to fame was that he won every single verdict in every one of over 60 trials. His secret, as he told friends, “settle the losers long before they get to the trial phase.”
          Dana began working part time in the 1990s as a volunteer with the California Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA, saving seals, sea lions and even whales when necessary. He takes particular pride in being one of four members of a team that rescued a giant humpback whale nicknamed “Humphrey” by the world press when it beached itself in San Francisco Bay—an operation that took over four days. He wore a USAFA Class of ’68 hat during the work, which was featured in photos of the rescue in various news media.
          Following the 9/11 attacks, Dana volunteered for active military duty with the Army and was accepted, but not for work as a JAG, nor ultimately directly with the Army. Due to his “unusual” background—as one operative described it-- he began working in counter-terror intelligence work, at one point working for NORAD-USNORTHCOM out of Fort Leavenworth, KS, when Ed Eberhart was the Commanding General. He received training from several "three letter agencies" during this period, officially becoming a DIA asset in joint commands. He volunteered again for combat operations and was sent to work a tour in Iraq, becoming Chief of Political and Military Intelligence for Iraq, working from Camp Slayer near Baghdad and going out when off duty on patrols throughout that beleaguered city, providing an "extra gun" on up to nine man patrol teams “trolling for trouble” in two or three humvees—and wisely taking orders from the senior sergeant on each team. He found himself one of the oldest active duty soldiers on combat duty in Iraq, being over the mandatory retirement age of 60. Dana returned to Washington, DC, where he worked in both the Pentagon and DIA headquarters until he finally retired, as of 2007.
          Dana took a job as a prosecutor for the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, where he continued his successful trial record with no lost verdicts, bench or jury trial. Working in Stockton, CA, he said, was rather like working in Baghdad—a bankrupt and dysfunctional city, with empty buildings and houses, dirty streets, with crime everywhere and lots of shootings. He himself was less than 50 yards away during a bank robbery in which three people died. He was still working for the DA as of 2015, when this was written.
            In another "unusual" part-time career, Dana also became heavily involved in volunteer civil rights work during his latter Air Force days and through the mid-1980s, being elected President of several of the largest chapters of the National Organization for Women and Vice Chair of the Miami Chapter of the National Womens Political Caucus, serving also as Member of the Board of Directors of both the Florida and Colorado-Intermountain NOW regional boards. He also donated much time and effort to civil rights legal actions, both for groups and for individuals after he became a lawyer.
          Dana co-authored and published a novel from which, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, the buyers stayed away in droves, though it was on the shelves in the major bookstore chains for over six months and the subject of numerous media interviews and stories. He also published scores of articles in various military and civilian magazines and scholarly/peer-reviewed journals, including two pieces on the Operation Linebacker II issues, which received international attention (some of it unwanted, as Dana says).
            He never married, describing himself as the Original Bachelor: “Someone who’s never made the same mistake once!” Having said that, he admires his classmates who've had successful marriages for decades and have raised great children who are now contributing to society—he is impressed at how many of those offspring went to USAFA and had Air Force careers. Seeing that, he believes it might be time now for a family.

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Dana - Thank-you for making the world a better place!

January 2015


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