Story by Lt. Col. Mikol Kirschenbaum on 08/23/2019LAS VEGAS Judging by his Marine Corps aviation resume, it's a safe bet the new Deputy Director of the Virtual Test and Training Center Maj. Geoffrey Franks will thrive in the Nevada Air Guard. Franks, whose call sign name is "El Gato," officially joined the Nevada Air Guard Wednesday during a swearing in ceremony at Nellis Air Force Base.
Franks, an F-35 pilot in the Marine Corps, is replacing Lt. Col. Jacob Hammons. Hammons is now the vice wing commander of the 152d Airlift Wing in Reno. Franks will continue to fly the F-35 with the 6th Weapons Squadron.
"This is an unbelievable opportunity," Franks said. "The Virtual Test and Training Center is an incubator where we can make things happen."
Franks, 39, a native of Portland, Ore., joined the military in 2003 after graduation from the University of Idaho. He served at bases across the country including in Florida, Texas, South Carolina and Arizona before landing in Nevada.
Early in his career, he flew the F/A-18C Hornet and was a Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WIT) before transitioning to the F-35 in 2016. While flying the F-18, Franks recorded deployments to Iraq (2008-2009), Afghanistan (2012) and the western Pacific. He graduated from TOPGUN in Fallon in 2010 as a Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (SFTI).
After converting to the F-35, Franks moved to Nellis and was one of the 10 initial cadre of instructors at the 6th WPS. He was the A flight commander and focused on air-to-air tactics.
For the past 18 months, Franks was a liaison between the military and the aviation industry and previously he had worked closely with the Virtual Warfare Center run by Boeing in St. Louis, Missouri.
"My background in the simulation world is the reason I was selected to be here," Franks said. "I have test, industry and simulation experience that I bring to the table."
The VTTC provides the U.S. military a facility to test and practice tactics, techniques and procedures needed to combat adversaries in a classified and controlled environment.
Franks has actually come full circle. While in college, he was interested in the Air Force and met with an Air Force recruiter, but because his Criminal Justice degree was not associated with engineering or mathematics, the Air Force was disinterested. Instead, he joined the Marines to fly jets. Now, 16 years later, the Air Force lured him away from the Marine Corps.
Franks has been married to Andrea, a speech pathologist, for 17 years. They have twin 11-year-old daughters, Claire and Isabelle, and reside in Las Vegas.