News: Guns, pucks: putting 'Thunder' on the ice
Story by Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. - One might ask how someone determined to join the Marine Corps ends up a master sergeant in the Kansas Air National Guard. If Master Sgt. Frank Cook is asked that question, it's best to pull up a chair and get comfortable because it's not a simple story.
Born at McConnell Air Force Base and raised in Wichita, Kan., Cook, 184th Security Forces Squadron supply mobility NCO in charge, runs the 184th Intelligence Wing armory. He is responsible for tracking weapons and equipment, keeping it all in working order, and replacing items that are no longer fit for action.
He spends his time off-duty as the assistant equipment manager for the Central Hockey League team, the Wichita Thunder. His responsibilities there entail the same duties as in the armory but instead of assault rifles and handguns, he deals with sticks and skates.
"I have to make sure we have the correct equipment for the team," said Cook. "The difficult part is making sure we can afford the stuff we need, but I've had plenty of practice doing the same thing in the military."
Cook went through several different phases before he settled into his current lifestyle as an airman and a member of the Thunder.
He joined the Marine Corps in 1986, separated in 1993 and joined the Wichita Police Department a short time later.
"My grandmother still lived in Wichita and sent me a newspaper clipping that the Wichita Police Department was hiring," he said. "I applied, was accepted and, in 1995, I graduated from the WPD academy."
Cook had been a fan of his hometown team since its founding in 1992, when he received a random call from a friend in 2005, asking if he knew how to sew socks.
"My mom taught me a lot of things when I was young," said Cook, "and sewing was one of them. So I told her 'Yeah, I can darn socks.'"
He learned that the Thunder needed to have their game socks sewn after every game. He would have to go to each game, take their socks home with him, wash them and sew them back into shape. Cook gladly accepted the opportunity to work with the team.
Eventually he began to help with the visiting teams' socks and was offered the assistant equipment manager spot when it became available.
"When my current boss was promoted to equipment manager," said Cook, "he asked if I would be willing to take on the role of his assistant. I've been there since 2008."
Affectionately known to the team as "Sarge," Cook makes sure he gets to know each player individually. This helps him "fire-up" the team before each game, he said.
"Sarge is great," said Jon Madden, Wichita Thunder defenseman. "He comes in here and volunteers his time to help us. He'll do anything for anyone; he would even give you the shirt off of his back. What more could you ask for from a guy?"
Cook is tentatively retiring from the Air Force in summer of 2014, and is preparing to leave his longtime home at the 184th SFS.
"The squadron is young right now and many of them look up to Master Sgt. Cook, so we will miss his mentorship," said Chief Master Sgt. Donna Buckman, 184th SFS manager. "I've personally known him for 13 years. We were partners on the Wichita streets. He's been my wingman for years, but most of all he has been a friend."
When it comes to his plans for the future, Cook is aiming for his dream job of working in the National Hockey League team for his favorite team.
"My long-term goal is to work with the Detroit Red Wings," said Cook. "Will I ever make it that far? I don't know. But I believe that with the drive and determination and work ethic that has been developed in me, not only in the Marine Corps but also through the Air Force, I have every confidence that I will continue to move up through the leagues."