Joel P. Hocker, #1671, 1986 – 2011
Joel Phillip Hocker was born on 21 November 1986 in Sierra Vista, Arizona. He joined the Cochise Composite Squadron 107 (AZ046) in February 2001 at the age of 14, and attended his basic encampment at Arizona Wing Summer Encampment 2001. While in 107 he rose to the rank of C/CMSgt and in the summer of 2002 he served as the Squadron 2 First Sergeant at the Arizona Wing Summer Encampment at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. Following the encampment he transferred to Tucson Composite Squadron 105 (AZ085) on Davis Monthan. Joel still lived in Sierra Vista at the time and had to drive an hour and a half round trip to attend each meeting; his dedication greatly impressed his fellow cadets. He received his Mitchell Award (#58936) that summer and served as a Cadet Flight Commander in TCS 105. He received his Amelia Earhart Award (#12,109) and was promoted to Cadet Captain in January 2003.
C/Capt Hocker graduated from Cadet Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base in 2003. Later that summer he completed Basic and Advanced Ground Search and Rescue School at the National Emergency Services Academy (NESA) at Camp Atterbury, Indiana and received his Senior Ground Team Badge. On December 7, 2003 he was promoted to Cadet Major, and served as the Deputy Cadet Commander under C/Maj Nate Franklin. He was promoted to Cadet Lieutenant Colonel on 31 May 2004 after received his Eaker Award (#1372). This was just in time to serve as the Cadet Mission Support Group Commander at the Arizona Wing 2004 Encampment held at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. C/Lt Col Nate Franklin served as the Cadet Operations Group Commander and the encampment was commanded by C/Col Tim Humphries and C/Lt Col Paul Sheehey served as Cadet Vice Commander. Other future Arizona Wing Spaatz Cadets, Cadet Captains Cameron Y. Philips (Spaatz #1642), and James J. Hurley (Spaatz #1644) also attended as the two Cadet Squadron Commanders. Following Encampment Joel completed Advanced Hawk Mountain Ranger School in Pennsylvania. It rained all nine days that he was there, and this proved to be one of the most miserable and most rewarding experiences of his cadet career. He later remarked that his days at Hawk Mountain were more brutal than parts of his Survival Escape Resistance and Evasion (SERE) training in the US Army.
In the fall of 2004, C/Col Nate Franklin relinquished Cadet Command of Tucson Composite Squadron 105 to C/Lt Col Joel Hocker. C/Lt Col (later C/Col) Hocker remained in the position until his 21st birthday in November of 2007. His more than three years of service as Cadet Commander brought to a close an era when TCS 105 was commanded by Spaatz Cadets for more than five years straight.
In the summer of 2005, C/Lt Col Hocker attended Mission Aircrew School at NESA, a school rarely attended by cadets. He found that he had free time in the evenings and decided to optimize the use of this time by completed all of the requirements for Ground Branch Director. At the end of the one-week school Joel received his Mission Observer Wings and his Master Ground Team Badge, a rare feat, especially for a cadet and in that short period of time. C/Lt Col Hocker was believed to be the second cadet in Arizona Wing history to earn the Master Ground Team Badge.
At the Arizona Wing Summer 2006 Encampment C/Lt Col Hocker commanded the Standardization and Evaluation Team which conducted all inspections and event grading during the activity. The following summer C/Lt Col Hocker was the Cadet Commander of the 2007 Arizona Wing Summer Encampment held at Papago National Guard Base in Phoenix, Arizona. When Joel went to take his Spaatz Examination the newly instituted online testing was still having its technical errors worked out. On multiple occasions the test locked him out or deleted his answers and of course could not be re-opened on the same day due to the mandatory waiting periods between re-tests. This was understandably frustrating for Joel and would have prompted many cadets to eventually give up. As in all things, Joel persevered and continued to retest through the months of delays and technical issues. These difficulties resulted in Joel taking the Spaatz exam three times, spread over an unparalleled five different dates. His persistent and aggressive pursuit was rewarded and he was promoted to Cadet Colonel after receiving his Spaatz Award number 1671 in November of 2007. Later that month, after his 21st birthday, Joel became a Senior Member Captain in TCS 105.
In 2010 Joel applied for the US Army Warrant Officer Flight Program. After being accepted he attended Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina from August to November 2010. Joel then completed Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort Rucker, Alabama and was promoted to Warrant Officer 1 in January 2011. He completed Aviation Basic Officer Leadership Course in June of 2011 and SERE in July of 2011. On July 30, 2011 he married his long-time girlfriend Marisela San Miguel, a former Mitchell Cadet. His wedding was attended by family and friends from across the United States including the three other Spaatz Cadets, other former cadets and senior members from TCS 105. Joel and his fiancé chose the US Army Aviation Branch Colors: Ultramarine Blue and Golden Orange as their wedding colors. It was a military wedding and Joel was married in his Army Mess Dress. His best man was 1st Lt Nate Franklin, USAF (Spaatz #1541), CPT Tim Humphries ,USA (Spaatz #1478), and Capt Paul Sheehey, USAF (a former Eaker Cadet), were two of his groomsmen, and Andrew Hay (Spaatz #1618) was in attendance.
Immediately following the wedding, he began US Army Helicopter Flight Training at Fort Rucker, Alabama on Monday August 1, 2011. He completed five weeks of academics and flew a training sortie in a TH-57, (a Bell 206 built for training US Army Helicopter Pilots) for the first time on Thursday, 1 September 2011. On Friday 2 September 2011 Joel flew to Dallas Texas to pick up the car he had recently purchased for his new bride. He was driving back to Fort Rucker, Alabama through Mississippi on the night of Saturday, 3 September 2011 when he was killed in an automobile accident. He was 24 years old. His body was escorted across the country by his best friend, 1st Lt Nate Franklin, USAF (Spaatz #1541).
Warrant Officer Joel Phillip Hocker, United States Army, was buried with full military honors at Fort Huachuca Cemetery in Sierra Vista, Arizona, on Friday 16 September 2011. His funeral was attended by 200 of Joel’s family and friends, a testament to Joel’s wide influence and the place that he held in the hearts of so many. A eulogy was delivered by Joel’s wife, his mother, and by Lieutenant Franklin. Attendees included the Arizona Wing Commander Col John M. Eggen, CAP, and Col Robert D. Anderson, USAF (Ret) (Spaatz #22) the very first Spaatz Cadet in the Arizona Wing.