A native of Clevelands Cross Roads, Alabama, Captain Don C. East enlisted in the United States Navy in 1957. Following boot camp, he attended Cryptographic Technician “R” and “T” Branch training at Imperial Beach and March AFB, California. He then served operational tours at Karamursel, Turkey and Bremerhaven, Germany.
During these tours, he participated in operations involving the support of VQ-2 missions in the Black and Baltic Seas. After attending the one-year Cryptographic Supervisors Course at the National Security Agency, he was then assigned as an instructor in the “T” Branch Curriculum at the Cryptologic Training Center Corry Field, in Pensacola, Florida. While at Corry Field, he attended night classes at Pensacola Junior College in the Russian language program. At the end of that assignment in 1965, and while awaiting the results of the CPO and Warrant Officer examinations, he was selected for Naval Flight Officer training.
Graduating as his Pre-Flight Course Class Honor Man, he then completed various courses at Pensacola and NAS Glynco, Georgia. He was selected as the runner up for the Admiral Thurston James Award for the highest academic average in the Naval Air Technical Training system for year 1966. He was then assigned to the NAS Glynco as an instructor in the Airborne ELINT Course. He then served a Junior Officer tour in VQ-2 Rota, Spain, where he was assigned as the ELINT Analysis Officer and was a Senior Evaluator in both the EA-3B and the EC-121M. He was also a member of the EP-3E design team. CAPT East was then ordered to the USAF Security Service Headquarters in San Antonio, Texas as an Electronic Warfare specialist. He served a portion of that assignment with a special project at site 51. In 1972 he was accepted as a student at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where he received a BA in International Relations and an MA in National Security Studies, both Cum Laude. He maintained foreign languages as his minor studies through his academic career, resulting in a degree of proficiency in Russian, Spanish, German and Turkish.
He was then assigned to Patrol Squadron Special Projects Unit (VPU-1) at NAS Brunswick, Maine, where he served as the Operations Officer, and later as the Officer in Charge until 1979. He was then selected to attend the USAF Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama, where he was a Distinguished Graduate. He was subsequently selected for aviation command and assigned to VQ-2 in Rota, Spain. He served as XO and CO of the squadron, and as a Senior Evaluator in both the EA-3B and the EP-3E.
He was then selected to attend the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, where he again was a Distinguished Graduate. While assigned to the NWC, he attended night classes at Salve Regina College where he received an MA in International Relations. After graduating from the NWC, he was assigned as the NWC Admiral Thomas H. Moorer Chair of Electronic Warfare, where he served until 1986.
CAPT East was then assigned to the Navy Technical Intelligence Center in Suitland, Maryland as the Data Exploitation Department Head. Next, he reported to Maxwell AFB where he served as the Senior Naval Advisor and Professor of Naval Operations and Russian Studies at the USAF Air War College until his retirement. During his later assignments, and even after his retirement in 1992, Capt East accepted additional duty in several projects involving working with the Soviet and later Russian Republic military in Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).
CAPT East has been awarded the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal (4 awards), The Navy Commendation Medal (2 awards), the USAF Commendation Medal (2 awards), the Navy Achievement Medal, and the Navy Good Conduct Medal (2 awards), along with various campaign and unit awards. He has also logged nearly 8,000 flight hours during his career.
CAPT East retired with 36 years of active duty in 1992 and returned to his roots in east central Alabama on Lake Wedowee.
Captain Don C. East died on March 9, 2016 at the age of 77.