Colonel Douglas C. “Swami” Sanders hails from Orlando, Florida. A graduate of Maynard Evans High School and the United States Naval Academy, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in 1996. Following Naval Aviator designation in 1999 and subsequent AH-1W Super Cobra qualification, he joined Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 269. As a Gunrunner, Captain Sanders held several key operations/maintenance assignments. In 2001, Swami deployed with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced), the Blue Knights, serving as the Squadron Adjutant.
In the aftermath of 9-11, Capt Sanders saw combat in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF): Afghanistan. He was in the initial wave of gunships to occupy FOB Rhino. Swami returned to CONUS in May 2002 and reattached to HML/A-269.
In 2003, Capt Sanders deployed to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF): Iraq for combat operations, fighting in the Battles of An Nasiriyah and Baghdad. Following return to CONUS, Swami reported to 2D Battalion, 2D Marines, the Warlords, as the Air Officer. Capt Sanders then deployed to OIF II as a Forward Air Controller, where he fought in south Baghdad and the “Siege of Fallujah”, performing numerous terminal controls and casualty evacuations.
Selected for MV-22B Osprey transition in 2004, Capt Sanders joined Marine Tiltrotor Test and Evaluation Squadron 22, the Argonauts, where he primarily served in the maintenance department. Swami was promoted to Major in 2006. He then reported to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266, the Fighting Griffins, as the Aircraft Maintenance Officer and deployed to OIF 8.2 in 2008. From 2009 to 2010, Maj Sanders graduated with distinction from USMC Command and Staff College and attended the School of Advanced Warfighting. His follow-on assignment was at HQMC Aviation as a MAGTF planner.
In 2012, LtCol Sanders assumed command of VMM-264, the Black Knights. Soon thereafter, he deployed the squadron to OEF 13.2. In summer 2014, Swami reported to the Eisenhower School where his focus was the aircraft industry and long-term strategy concentrations.
From 2015 to 2017, LtCol Sanders was assigned to USSOCOM J-35, as a Strategic Planner in the C-ISIS Cell. After joint duty, Swami returned to Headquarters Marine Corps, first, as Section Head in Program and Resources, and then later a Branch Head in Aviation. After three years in the Pentagon, Col Sanders deployed to Operation INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR) in Baghdad, Iraq as the Combined Joint Task Force, Strategic Engagements Chief.
Colonel Sanders has six combat deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan. His personal awards include: Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (2 gold stars), Air Medal (combat “V”, 3 individual, 15 strike/flight), both Joint and Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medals (combat “V”, gold star), Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal (gold star), and Combat Action Ribbon (gold star). Colonel Sanders has earned a Bachelor of Science from the U.S. Naval Academy, two Masters of Sciences from the Marine Corps University and one from the National Defense University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Conflict Analysis and Resolution Studies from Nova Southeastern University.