Keizer man’s Air Force career lets him serve in unique ways

Staff Sgt. Brennan Hankins

When Brennen Hankins graduated from McNary he wasn’t sure what to do. 

“I didn’t really have a game plan I was just kind of trying to make my own way,” Hankins said. 

He spent a year bouncing between odd jobs in Oregon and Alaska, where his dad worked as a commercial fisherman, before deciding to pursue the U.S. Marshals Service.

For him, the military was a means to an end.  

“I spoke to a U.S. Marshals recruiter in Portland and he said that the easiest way to get into the Marshal Service was to be a veteran,” Hankins said, which is when he decided to enlist.

The minimum requirements to join the Marshals service are being at least 21 years of age and having four continuous years of a supervised job — both of which could be satisfied with a tour in the military.

Hankins went to the Salem Air Force recruitment office and signed up for seven years.

“I did my tour in the military and I kind of liked it,” he said. 

When his contract expired, Hankins re-enlisted for another four years.

“I’ve hit the minimum rank to retire, now I just got to put in the years,” Hankins said. 

He is an Air Force staff sergeant and, if he continued to work at this rank without advancing, he would be retired in 20 years.

“I’m still trying to get promoted because, you know, better job, better pay, but if I don’t promote I’ll still be able to make it to retirement,” he said. Hankins is working in the civil engineering squadron based in Montana.

Hankins likes the regularity of his job, and the opportunities it gives him to travel.

“I’ve been in six different countries, I’ve driven through every state west of the Mississippi with the exception of North Dakota,” he said.

One thing Hankins wish civilians knew about veterans is that they can’t all be painted with one brush.

“Not everyone in the military has seen combat, for example. I’m one of those people,” Hankins said.

There is a wide variety of jobs and duties within the military that require different sets of skills, just like in the civilian workplace. Hankins said that military jobs range from clerical work to piloting to combat and everything in between.

Hankins warned against asking veterans if they had been in combat or if they’d ever shot someone. 

“It’s a horrible question to ask,” he said. 

He said there are three types of answer to questions like those: someone who says no and then feels their role serving their country has been minimized, someone who says yes and has to deal with the unpleasant memories that are dredged up when thinking about their time in combat or, alternatively, someone ends up sounding like a braggart, which isn’t good for the perception of the person or military service as a whole. 

“None of those is a good thing,” Hankins said.

Hankins got engaged to his fiancee, Emma a couple weeks prior to talking to the Keizertimes and is contracted to serve another three years.