Bob Hansen joined the Army in 1961 while the draft was in effect, and the experience enhanced and shaped his character and his life to the extent that he wished the draft was still in effect today.
“I feel we have lost out on the benefits the military give(s) us,” he said. “We lost a lot in losing the draft. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t come away stronger and with a sense of patriotism.”
Hansen has been alarmed by the decline in patriotism, maturity, perspective and other critical elements in society that he finds lacking. He says there is something about being thrown out there, crawling on the ground, with trace bullets shooting over your head, that builds critical character in a man.
“It’s serving in the military that helps us in society. The less that people serve, the more problems we seem to have in society. The tougher it is, the more resilient they are. It just elicits something more inside of them,” he said. “We lost that when we gave up the draft. I’m a firm believer in the draft.”
Hansen recognizes the difficulties of military service.
“It’s challenging. That’s the interesting part. Sometimes we need to feel uncomfortable. That’s what the Army does, and it moves things forward into the future. We need more of it. People would be better if they did military service. We’ve lost something in society that was part of the greatest generation.”
Growing up in Ogden, Utah, Hansen’s scoutmaster had been one of the great generations, serving in the military as a pilot.
“He taught us to march and even discipline. But I still remember the man,” Hansen said. “He had faced death and faced these obstacles.”
When Hansen joined in 1961, “that was during the time of the Berlin Crisis when the Russians were making it rough for us,” he said. “They told us we may end up in Berlin. When you have to face that, when you put on your battle dress and are put in harm’s way, that does something to a man. We don’t have that today. We have it too easy. I will be grateful for my military service as long as I live.”
Hansen wanted to go on a mission, so he, along with many others from his high school, signed up for the reserves. He went to basic training at Fort Ord, California. It turns out there were nearly 35 people he knew.
“We had camaraderie there,” he said. “We still keep in touch. There is something about somebody being there with you, experiencing the same things, and the same issues.”
At advanced training, he was assigned to the big Howitzers. They were similar to guns on battleships; they would pull them in, set them up and feed in those projectiles. It would take two of them to lift them. A couple of forward observers would tell them the exact coordinates.
“I was running those Howitzers,” he said. “I wasn’t in battle, so I don’t have stories that way.”
He completed his months of active duty at the end of August 1961. Then in February of 1962, he left his hometown to serve a two-year mission to the northwestern states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. He had wanted to serve his mission in Holland because his mother and father had immigrated from there a couple of years before he was born. But the northwestern states mission proved to be very fruitful.
“We had 300 missionaries then, and we baptized 8,000 people. It was a great experience,” he said.
He believes his service in the military helped prepare him to be a successful missionary.
“No question about it,” he said.
He had also had the opportunity to work on a ranch when he wasn’t attending school, and that also helped him to be independent and hardworking.
“I was in better shape going into the military than most people. And on my mission, I had a maturity and perspective that I got from the military. The military does something to you to bring out the independence and perspective that you can’t get any other way.”
When he was training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Hansen was able to witness military advancement in action during a demonstration. They had a missile on a tank, and they told them not to look away or they would miss it. Sure enough, they fired that missile and in about one minute, that missile had gone 4 or 5 miles.
“I never felt more proud of being in the uniform,” Hansen said.
When Hansen returned from military and mission service, he earned a bachelor’s and an MBA in business from Utah State. He came to Ricks College to teach in 1969. He enjoyed teaching, but had spent time ranching and in agriculture, so with an insurance license and a real estate license, he was ready to own his own business. He did that for 40 years. He was also a Madison County commissioner.
Hansen believes the reason the Ukrainians are fighting so hard is because it’s in the cause of freedom. They have been free from Russia for 30 years, and they know how important freedom is, he said.
“It’s all about freedom,” Hansen said. “I would have gone wherever I was assigned. We’ll be there and we’ll fight.”