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Rising up the ranks

Soaring through the ranks

There are at least a couple reasons why Brig. Gen. Andrew Hansen, United States Air Force, Europe-United Kingdom, formerly of Klamath Falls, almost didn’t achieve his dreams of flight.

While nearsightedness and a tendency for motion sickness at first kept piloting a fighter jet out of reach for Hansen, such obstacles were no match for the 1988 Henley High graduate’s drive and determination to achieve his wings.

During the past month, the U.S. Air Force promoted Hansen to brigadier general. He is stationed with his wife and two sons in Mildenhall, England, in Suffolk County. From there he travels extensively as the senior military representative to the U.K. at Royal Air Force Base Mildenhall, England, to bases around the region.


“I never really did what I did — in all sincerity — to make rank,” Hansen told the H&N in a phone interview on Monday. “It was just kind of a validation that I was on the right track.”

While the journey hasn’t been easy, his persistence has only increased throughout his career.

“I didn’t have the eyesight to qualify for being a pilot,” Hansen said. “Folks went to bat for me to get a waiver for my eyesight to go fly, to be a pilot. And so, here I am today,” Andrew said.

Overcoming the odds

Not only would Hansen fly — he’s logged more than 2,300 flight hours in a F-15E and an F-16 in his career so far — but throughout his life, Hansen would soar past seemingly insurmountable odds to reach his goals.

The 48-year-old said that none of this would have been a reality, had it not been for a pivotal conversation with his dad, Harry Hansen, as a fourth-grader in Tulelake.

“You need to pick what you want to do and go for it,” Hansen recalled his dad telling him.

Harry, who taught school in Tulelake for 35 years, reminded Andrew at the time that the family didn’t have a farm to depend on for income. He told Andrew he could go far beyond Klamath Falls if he focused on setting and reaching for his goals.

Around the same time, Harry and Carolyn moved their family from Tulelake to Klamath Falls, where they currently live, so their children could attend larger schools.

“I started to focus on school and started to get better grades,” Andrew Hansen said. “For whatever reason, that just kind of clicked at that point in my life. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and everything I did was directed toward that goal.”

Andrew poured his heart into everything he did, from participating in school government and in cross country and track at Henley High, activities he thoroughly enjoyed as a Hornet.

His work ethic was no different following high school, an element of character he’s carried on throughout his career.

“Army, Navy, and Air Force all offered ROTC scholarships, and I chose the Air Force,” Hansen said.

Hansen earned his flight navigator wings in 1995, which helped him toward his goal of piloting an aircraft.

Later on, he was recommended for a waiver and earned his pilot wings in 1999. Among three masters degrees, he earned a masters in aeronautical science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 2002.

Striving to be the best

Throughout his 25-year career, he has served in nearly 20 military assignments that have taken him all over the world. He circumnavigated the globe twice, by way of Italy, South Korea, Japan, as well as assignments stateside in the South and Northwestern United States.

And everything he’s done has been with a heart of persistence to be the best he can be.

“I’ve had people in my career that have kind of gone to bat for me to put me in positions hoping that I would succeed, and I was always hoping to do right by them for giving me those opportunities,” Andrew said.

“It was about trying to be the best that I could as opposed to tying it to promotion, so the promotion came with the mindset of improvement.”

Military service in his blood

With military service on both sides of his family, it’s easy to see why Andrew joined up in the first place.

His grandpa on his father’s side was a deep sea diver in the U.S. Navy who dove to excavate materials from sunken ships following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and after Japan occupied the Philippines.

Andrew’s grandfather on his mother’s side served as an Army Air Corps medic in Pearl Harbor. As the story goes, his grandfather was attending church during the bombing at Pearl Harbor.

Andrew still keeps his grandfather’s prayerbook with him, a gift bestowed him earlier on in his career.

“They certainly provided a lot of the inspiration for me wanting to go in the military, and probably why I’ve stuck with it, despite all the challenges,” he added.

“There’s nothing in the world I’d rather be doing because there’s nothing that has the impact.”

Calling home

As Hansen’s parents, Harry and Carolyn Hansen, of Klamath Falls, waited for their son to call on Monday morning, the pair sifted through news clippings and awards he earned over the years.

The telephone’s rang out in the living room, and Harry excitedly picked it up.

More than 5,000 miles between the Hansens and their son fell away as Harry spoke into the landline phone.


“Is this somebody I know?” Harry quipped, with a smile at hearing his son’s voice. “Hi Andrew, how are you doing? … Well, by golly, we’re doing excellent.”

Carolyn, sitting on the couch nearby, chimed in for her childhood sweetheart and husband of nearly 50 years – an anniversary they’ll celebrate in August – to put the phone on speaker mode.

The call was highly anticipated, since visits with their son are few and far in between with his travels.

But a surprise that he announced was not anticipated.

The Hansens smiled as Andrew shared plans to visit his parents in Klamath Falls in November, the soonest he could visit to celebrate their anniversary.

While the morning light shining into the Hansen’s living room in Klamath Falls, Andrew, talking over speaker phone from England, shared that it was early evening across the pond.

“The history and the bond between the U.K. and the United States is amazing over here, and it’s all tied to that time period,” Hansen said.

“That’s what makes being over here right now even that much more special.”

He also talked of new duties at his position, of family – of his wife, two teen boys, and a Great Dane named Remington – and of their new home in England, and of course of plans on base for Independence Day.

“All the bases have fireworks over here and events throughout the day, so it’s a pretty big deal that each of the three wings are putting on over here,” Andrew said.

“It’s die-hard patriotism,” he added.

“What we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

Military milestone

Even as Hansen has reached a milestone in his career, he acknowledged that he hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

He’s had chance meetings with those connected with the Klamath Basin, including making a connection with a 92-year-old World War II widow whose husband was stationed at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls.

For Hansen’s parents, most obviously proud of their son, his accomplishments haven’t changed the son they love.

His mother, Carolyn, said with a laugh, that even as a one-star general, she still “outranks” him.














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