Each year, the nation pauses on Veteran’s Day to remember the service of brave men and women who set self aside to commit their lives to something bigger than themselves. Although the stories of great Americans across history are innumerable, the Exponent set out to find a handful of Bobcats that had served their nation and continue to do great things after their time in the armed forces.
Eric Hastings is a Bozeman native who graduated from Bozeman Senior High School. Although he was offered a full scholarship for music to Missoula, he turned it down, knowing that the only place he truly wanted to go was Montana State College (now MSU). At the encouragement of his father, Hastings enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1960 at the age of 17. He wanted to be an aviator and knew that the Marine Corps was the connection he needed. Hastings graduated in 1964 with a degree in history, philosophy and English, also earning his officer’s commission and marrying his high school sweetheart in the same year. Subsequently, Hastings attended every level of military school imaginable and earned two masters degree along the way.
After attending the necessary military schools, Hastings moved to Hawaii where he learned to fly the F-8 Crusader, an airplane he “fell in love with.” He then learned to fly the A-4 Skyhawk, which he flew for the majority of his career, including the 168 combat missions he flew in Vietnam. After his tour in Vietnam, Hastings was sent to several places around the world, eventually reaching the rank of colonel. Remarkably, Hastings was the chief of staff for Marine forces during Operation Desert Storm, in 1990-91.
Hastings retired from the Marine Corps in 1994, and went to New York City where he finally fulfilled his musical aspirations by earning a master’s of piano performance at the Mannes School of Music. After New York, he returned to Bozeman at the age of 56, Hastings was by no means finished serving.
After some trial and error, he started the Warriors and Quiet Waters (WQW) foundation in 2007. WQW has since become a successful therapy and rehabilitation tool for the injured veterans who attend WQW’s week-long fly fishing experience. “WQW serves those who have gone to war, and because of that, will be at war for the rest of their lives . . .The Naval Hospital in San Diego holds WQW as the gold standard. No one does it better,” Hastings explained. WQW literally saves lives, intervening and healing when our nation’s injured need it the most. Thus far, 387 veterans and their spouses have attended, and Hastings isn’t close to being finished.
A native of Stanford in central Montana, Alan Aamold graduated from the high school in 1962 and immediately attended Montana State College for its excellent engineering and animal science programs. Aamold graduated with a B.S. in animal science with a minor in engineering. Leading up to graduation, Aamold knew he would be drafted into the conflict in Vietnam; all of his high school buddies had received the letter in the mail. Sure enough, Aamold received his notice the day he graduated from MSU. Aamold had foresight, however, and had already signed up to be an officer in the Marine Corps.
After being commissioned in 1968, Aamold attended flight school at Pensacola, Florida. The Marine Corps put on Aamold on a track he would follow his entire professional life: flying helicopters. After flight school, Aamold was trained on the CH-53 helicopter which he flew during his one year tour in Vietnam.
For Aamold, who primarily supported infantry, “There were some times it wasn’t a whole lot of fun.” His unit lost eight men and four helicopters in the 13 months Aamold was in Vietnam. “Somebody was always getting goddamn bullet holes . . . I caused those mechanics a lot of trouble,” said Aamold. “I never lost one of my own birds though. Not entirely, anyway.”
In one particular mission, Aamold was sent to pick up a wounded Marine who had stepped on a landmine. As Aamold set down his aircraft, one of the helicopter’s skids set off another mine, destroying one of the engines and gravely wounding a member of his crew. Aamold flew the wounded chopper home safely nonetheless.
After his time in the Marines, Aamold returned to Montana to continue studying animal science, in which he earned a master’s degree. He then went to work for American Breeders Service but quickly transitioned to flying helicopters again for the Montana Army National Guard in 1981 and the Montana Department of Natural Resources in 1988. Aamold continued to serve in the Montana Guard until he turned 60, retiring at the rank of chief warrant officer four.
After doing everything from fighting fire to chauffeuring the governor to transporting grizzly bears, Aamold flew his last mission for Montana in 2010 and is currrently enjoying retirement in Helena.
Tanya Casey-Reinhardt, originally from Great Falls, attended Montana State University in 1984 on an Army ROTC scholarship. Reinhardt was commissioned in 1988 after graduating as a distinguished military graduate with a degree in mass communication and public information. Soon after, she served a tour in South Korea in 1989 and later was assigned to serve with the Central Army Group for NATO in Heidelberg, Germany.
Reinhardt worked alongside many high-profile allied leaders during her time in Germany in the early 1990s. Germany was adjusting to life after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Reinhardt experienced these transitions first-hand.
Reinhardt had the opportunity while in Germany to attend German parachute training. When she arrived at the training facility, she had to convince the gate guards that she was in fact a soldier since the German Army had no women in their military. “There were no facilities for women, so I stayed in the post hospital,” said Reinhardt. “I had to walk past all of the people who had failed [jump] attempts every morning to get to the drop zone” Reinhardt successfully completed the school, however, despite not having properly fitting equipment (she had to wear a motorcycle helmet) or even fully understanding the language of the instructors.
Reinhardt served in Germany for over three years and then returned to the U.S. and served an additional tour in Japan. She transferred to the Army Reserve in 2001 at the rank of major. Nine years later, Reinhardt retired from the Army with 22 years of service and the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Reinhardt returned to Montana in 2011. Like many other veterans, Reinhardt’s service didn’t end when she exited the military. She has continued to develop her professional skills, writing and editing for professional journals and magazines. Additionally, she volunteers in schools and her church.
Graduating from Butte High in 1983, Jim Tweet attended Montana State University on an Air Force ROTC scholarship. Tweet was commissioned and sent to flight school and navigator school after graduating in 1987.
Tweet was sent to Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, where he trained on the F-111 and EF-111 aircraft, the former a fighter jet and the latter a radar-jamming jet. “Our entire purpose was to turn enemy radar into channel three without HBO,” said Tweet. His squadron was deployed to Kuwait in 1990 for Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Tweet said, “I was the youngest crew member to fly the EF-111 in Desert Storm. We were very successful.” After Desert Storm, Tweet was sent to Clovis, New Mexico.
Still flying the EF-111 in New Mexico, Tweet spent the next few years honing his craft and raising a family with his college sweetheart. He then served in Korea for two years with his family before returning to Mountain Home in 2001. Soon after 9/11, Tweet’s squadron was the first Air Force squadron to be deployed.
Over the course of his career, Tweet would spend a third to half of the year deployed around the world, including Bosnia where he was involved in the recovery of U.S. Air Force pilot Scott O’Grady. Tweet flew a total of 190 combat missions over the course of his career. In the last four years of his career, Tweet changed gears from navigator to instructor, working closely with Army officers.
As an instructor at the Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Tweet taught his students about air power. Tweet retired from the Air Force in 2008 to return to Bozeman. Earning a master’s in education online from MSU in the final years of his service, Tweet was hired as a middle-school math teacher in Belgrade where he continues to teach today.