Most high school baseball coaches usually do a few things during their summer vacations. Some coach American Legion baseball. Others are busy helping out with football or basketball camps because of other coaching obligations.
Finally, others just spend time with their families before school picks back up in a matter of a few short months.
Then, there is Diamond’s Nathan Cook.
While he does spend time with his wife, Navon, and 16-month-old son, Nixon, he also honors another obligation the Air Force.
Cook recently got back from a week in Gulf Port, Miss., where he was doing his training with the Air Force Reserve. It’s just part of the one-weekend a month, two weeks a year commitment required being in the reserves.
He has been teaching at Diamond since January of 2006 and became the school’s head baseball coach the following year. Last year, he was named the Neosho Daily News All-Area Coach of the Year.
In the last five years, he has spent two tours overseas as part of two military occupations, but most people would know him as the Wildcats’ baseball coach.
“The players know I’m in the Air Force, but I don’t think they know what I really do,” Cook explained. “Usually they hear I’m in the Air Force they will ask if I fly the planes. They ask questions and I tell them I build bombs and leave it at that.”
Well, here’s a snippet of how Cook handles bullets (actual) in the Air Force and bullets (pitchers) during high school baseball.
A native of Commerce, Okla., Cook attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M his first year out of high school. The spring of his freshman year, he started thinking about the reserves to help pay for college.
In June of 2001, he enrolled in the Oklahoma Air National Guards and became based out of Tulsa’s 138th Fighter Wing. His training was at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio (boot camp) and Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas (technical school).
While doing his reserve work, Cook finished up at NEO A&M. He then attended Oklahoma State for a year before finishing at Pittsburg State graduating with bachelor in physical education and a minor in history.
His last year in college was also the first time he was called up to active duty, heading to Qatar as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. So, from June to August, he was stationed overseas at the Al Udied Air Base.
His job as part of the Air Force Reserves is in the ammunition supply of the F-16 planes.
“Anything that is shot, whether bullets or missiles, we load onto the plane,” Cook said. “It could be a dangerous job, but you have a lot of steps for your safety while doing it.”
In the summer of 2007, his first year after being a head coach at DHS, he was shipped to Iraq and stationed at the Balad Air Base for three months as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. In fact, he missed the first few weeks of school teaching and his duty as softball assistant coach. He missed the first week of school last August due to training in Mississippi.
He hasn’t returned to active duty since then, instead heading to Tulsa one weekend a month and then lately going to Mississippi for his training.
“There is always the chance to go back, but you never know until about two months out,” Cook said.
He signed on for another six year commitment to the Air Force Reserve in 2007 and that term expires in 2013. Cook has no plans of slowing down, as he intends to serve 20 years, which will take him to 2021.
That’s still down the line, so until then, it’s back to family and baseball.