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Jim Hopper USN LCDR


LCDR J Hopper

LCDR James (Jim) Hopper, USN (Ret)

Facing the draft after dropping out of college, Jim Hopper made the decision to join the Navy as an alternative to the draft. He enlisted in California in 1969 and went to boot camp in San Diego. With a lifetime interest in tractors, bulldozers and the like, he had hoped to join the Seabees. Finding all Seabee ratings unavailable, he ended up being assigned to the Aviation Structural Mechanic (Structures) (AMS) rating. After boot camp it was off to training for three months as an Aviation Structural Mechanic in Memphis, TN. What a shock it was to experience, for the first time the extremely humid South in mid-summer, as well as the heavy rain and winds brought by the edges of Hurricane Camile.

Jim’s enlisted service spanned from 1969 to 1983 and included:

Training Squadron VT-31, NAS Corpus Christi, TX (1969-1971), where he worked on the TS-2A Tracker aircraft that were used for multi-engine flight training. This aircraft was known as the “Stoof,” and was used in the fleet for antisubmarine warfare. It was in Corpus Christi where he met and married Kathie Tripp, an Army brat, originally from Louisville, KY. They will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary in 2016.

Fighter Squadron VF-74, NAS Oceana, VA (1971-1978). Supporting the F-4J Phantom II he made three carrier deployments including an 11 month WESTPAC in support of the Vietnam War (USS America), and two Mediterranean deployments (USS America, USS Forrestal). His time at Oceana included initial aircraft type training at VF-101, and a staff tour (shore duty) with VF-171 supporting training of RAG pilots.

Reenlisting for orders to California, Jim’s next assignment was Attack Squadron VA-195, NAS Lemoore, CA (1978-1981), where he supported the A-7E Corsair II aircraft and was promoted to Chief Petty Officer. This tour included two deployments back on the East Coast to the Mediterranean and to the Arabian Sea via the Mediterranean Sea and Suez Canal (USS America). Leaving the squadron mid-tour, Jim continued his travels eastward enroute home, completely circumnavigating the globe.

Shore duty took him to Training Squadron VT-26, NAS Chase Field, Beeville, TX (1981-1983), where he supported the T-2C Buckeye jet multi-engine trainer. It was here he was selected for commissioning in 1983 under the Navy’s Limited Duty Officer/Chief Warrant Officer Program as a Chief Warrant Officer (CWO2) (Aviation Maintenance Technician).

His officer assignments included:

Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron VQ-1, NAS Agana, Guam (1983-1986), supporting the EA-3B Skywarrior and EP-3E Aries II aircraft, and completed two deployments as maintenance officer for single-aircraft detachments aboard USS Kitty Hawk and USS Midway.

Shore duty with Aerial Refueling Squadron VAK-208, Naval Air Station Alameda, CA (1986-1989), a Naval Reserve Squadron which flew the KA-3B Skywarrior aerial refueling aircraft. Here he was selected under the Limited Duty Officer Program as a LTJG and subsequently promoted to LT.

As a Lieutenant, he received orders back to VQ-1 in Guam in (1989-1991) as Maintenance/Material Control Officer. In this capacity, during Operation Desert Storm, Jim supported squadron elements at five simultaneous locations around the globe.

Shore duty again at NAS Moffett Field, Sunnyvale, CA (1991-1993) in the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) as the Aircraft Division Officer and Assistant Maintenance Officer, where he helped close down and transfer the department’s equipment in support of base closure.

Jim had a brief assignment with Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 (HM-15) at NAS Alameda, CA (1993) supporting the MH-53 Super Stallion mine-sweeping helicopter. Here he completed his Bachelor’s Degree through Excelsior College, and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. After a brief period at HM-15, he was offered a swap with another officer which took him to his final assignment.

Jim’s final assignment was Naval Aviation Depot (NADEP) Alameda, CA (1993-1996) as Components Project Officer and Assistant Officer-in-Charge. It was here, shortly after the NADEP closure ceremony, he retired from active duty in 1996 in a small ceremony in which his daughter, Katherine, then a Hospital Corpsman Recruit was a participant. Katherine is now a career Naval officer in the Medical Service Corps and a MOAA member.
Jim’s transition from enlisted to officer, and from aircraft mechanic to maintenance manager set the stage for a fulfilling and rewarding post-military life.  

Jim’s first post-military job was supporting the closure of Naval Air Station Alameda. In this year-long contract position as a budget analyst, he led research of prior year accounts and reconciliation of funding documents, recouping over $500,000 in unexpended funds.

Hired as an unlicensed mechanic at Alaska Airlines’ maintenance facility in Oakland, he acquired his civilian FAA Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic certification which opened the door to management. He was ultimately promoted to Production Control manager, then aviation industry downsizing in the wake of 9-11 had him looking for another opportunity.

Jim next worked in real estate as a licensed agent and office manager, leaving that industry just as the downturn began in 2007.

An ad for a wind energy project Team Leader in the Altamont Pass brought an opportunity to once again work with things mechanical. Jim’s experience with airfoils and rotating machinery made him a natural fit for the position. He enjoyed this very challenging position for nearly six years until the project was sold.

During his officer career, Jim found that he had a knack for writing, and was often called upon for a variety of writing projects. With this new-found love of writing, he developed or contributed to a newsletter nearly every place he worked, and also wrote newspaper and magazine articles. This skill led to his most recent career as a technical writer in which he has worked, on a project basis, for over two years.

Jim and his wife, Kathie, a retired tax accountant, live in Antioch. They enjoy travel, vacationing and visiting with their daughter and grandsons who live in Texas. With a heart for service, in 2015 they completed their second mission trip to Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, second only to Haiti.  

Jim finds it hard to believe that 19 years since retirement has passed so quickly. He currently writes a men’s ministry newsletter for his church, and is working on books about his California pioneer ancestors. He has a long list of other writing projects in the queue, and has an interest in helping others get started with their own writing projects.

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