News: Opportunity of a lifetime awaits Army officer upon return home
Story by Sgt. Antony Lee
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – It was a gloomy day in Colorado in January 2013 when Lt. Col. Diana Loucks received a career-changing phone call.
Loucks, a Benbrook, Texas, native, was busy getting ready for her upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. She was focused on her work, preparing for her tour as chief of Space and Special Programs for Regional Command (South), when Col. Edward Naessens called.
“At first I didn’t realize who was on the phone,” Loucks said.
Naessens is head of the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering at United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where Loucks taught physics from 2008 to 2011. She had interviewed for a position as an academy professor at West Point in December 2012.
When Naessens asked how things were going, Loucks said that it was “a little overcast and gloomy,” and Naessens responded: “Let me brighten your day.”
He then informed Loucks that the department had decided to offer her the job at West Point.
“I cried a little,” Loucks says now with a smile.
Loucks is set to become the first female academy professor in the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering at West Point.
Loucks says her first tour at West Point was the most rewarding assignment of her career and that she wanted to one day return. She has run into at least a dozen of her former students – mostly lieutenants now – in Afghanistan, where she has been serving with 4th Infantry Division since June 2013.
“They’re all doing really well and they all seem to remember me,” she said, adding that one particular student remembered the physics lessons Loucks taught, which she was pleased about.
Loucks says she wants to be more than an academic instructor for West Point cadets she works with. She wants to be a mentor for her students who helps them develop their careers from the outset.
“It’s not just teaching them, it’s shaping their future as Army leaders,” she said. “You have an opportunity to shape how they think and feel about their role as leaders in the Army. To be able to influence that is really what I’d like to do.”
Loucks herself commissioned into the U.S. Army in 1996 after completing Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Texas Christian University. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Math with a physics minor.
She later served as a company commander at Fort Bragg, N.C., and deployed to Iraq to serve on her first tour in 2004-2005. Upon re-deployment, she received an opportunity to further her education in physics and to teach it at West Point.
“West Point saw my background and offered to send me to school so I could teach physics,” she said.
So she went to graduate school at the University of Colorado at Boulder and earned her master’s degree. Loucks began teaching physics in 2008 at West Point, where she also participated in the local chapel and served as an officer representative with the softball team and as a faculty adviser to the Astronomy Club.
Loucks must first earn a doctorate before she starts her new job at the United States Military Academy. She is set to return to the University of Colorado in June to earn her doctorate in aerospace engineering before becoming an academy professor at West Point in 2017. She is then scheduled to teach there for the duration of her Army career.
For now, Loucks is focused on finishing her deployment in Afghanistan, which she says is her most fulfilling operational assignment in the Army.
Loucks says her faith is important to her and she even volunteers by singing at a Protestant service at KAF on Sundays.
She works as part of the Combined Joint Fires cell, which is located at the headquarters of Regional Command (South). Her job is to advise the command on anything related to space.
“We protect and administer access to need-to-know programs and are the subject matter experts for anything space,” she said.
Loucks’ husband is also a commissioned officer in the Army; Lt. Col. Gary Loucks Jr. is a section chief for United States Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. Diana Loucks worked at Peterson Air Force Base before being stationed at Fort Carson in 2012. Although they have not yet started having children, they have two furry beagles named Max and Ruby.