Thursday, November 19, 2009

For new 1st Air Force commander, duty is a ‘family affair’

The Dean clan at a pre-change of command ceremony breakfast at Tyndall AFB, Fla., Nov. 12. From left to right: daughters Daron and Summer, wife Lisa, Maj. Gen. Garry C. Dean, and daughters Diana and Olivia Trueblood. Dean, an Oregon Air Guard member, assumed command of 1st Air Force during a ceremony attended by some 500 airmen, friends and family.


To say family is important to Garry Dean, is to understate his level of devotion.

And when Maj. Gen. Garry Dean puts on his Air Force uniform, his devotion extends to his military family as well.

Left: Gen. Garry C. Dean, commander of 1st Air Force, meets with members of the Oregon National Guard contingent. From left to right: Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, The Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard; Gen. Craig McKinley, Director of the National Guard; Dean; Mr. Harvey Fink, local Oregon business and civic leader; Mr. Larry Diebert, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army.

So it was no surprise that among the more than 500 people who attended his change of command ceremony at Tyndall AFB on a sunny Florida morning—where Dean took command of 1st Air Force—there would be a large number of former commanders, coworkers, and friends from the Oregon National Guard.

Also dominating the guest seating, were 11 of his immediate family members. Seated in the front row, beaming with pride, was Dean’s mother, Jeri.

“I feel that we put a lot of love and caring into our family,” she said about the way Dean and his two siblings were raised.

“I can now see him raising his children with the same qualities that we expected out of him,” she added.

But Dean’s abilities as a father don’t stop with his children. According to Jeri, her son takes a genuine interest in the people he views as part of his other family—the military.

“Garry knows how to get along with people, and he notices the little things,” his mother said.

As an example, she recalled how during his speech at the change of command ceremony earlier in the day, Dean made it a point to thank as many people in the room, including the Air Force Band.

Left: Gen. Craig McKinley, Director of the National Guard (left), congratulates Maj. Gen. Garry C. Dean, prior to his change of command ceremony at Tyndall AFB, Fla., Nov. 12.

“Sometimes we forget people in the organization,” she said. “Garry knows these people work hard, and at times, you should give them accolades.”

“He pays attention to detail,” she added.

Perhaps it was this attention to detail that caught the eye of the organization’s leadership, after Dean transferred into the Oregon Air National Guard in 1990.

According to Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, The Adjutant General for the Oregon National Guard, the well-educated, well-qualified, and highly skilled Dean showed promise as a potential wing commander.

“It then became apparent that Dean had future promise as a general officer,” Rees said.

Through the Command Management Process, Dean’s military “family” began grooming him for a bright future by making sure he received the right schooling and assignments.

Rees said Dean’s new position as commander of 1st Air Force is a major step in his career, and the move bodes well for later assignments.

“I think Gen. Dean has great potential for service at the national level,” Rees said. “I feel this will turn out well and he will compete favorably for positions at NORAD, NORTCOM or at National Guard Bureau.”

Rees also made it a point to compare notes with Jeri on who was more proud of Dean. On one side was the Dean family, and on the other, the Oregon National Guard family.

“I had the pleasure of talking to Gen. Dean’s mother, and I told her I was nearly as proud of Gen. Dean as she was,” Rees said.

Back in the reception hall, Dean’s family arranges themselves around a large table, where they will soon have lunch. Wife Lisa, and daughters, Olivia, Diana, Daron and Summer, arrange themselves in and amongst Dean’s oldest brother Don, and older sister Debra Volley, and other extended family members.

The entire family is very proud of him, his sister said. And while she and Don didn’t foresee such lofty positions for their youngest sibling, they knew he was destined for something big.

“He was the type of person who didn’t settle for mediocrity,” Debra said. “He always excelled at everything he did.”

Dean’s daughter, Daron said she was very happy to see her father recognized for a career of hard work.

“He’s probably the hardest worker I know,” she added.

The general makes his way around the table, ensuring each of his family members are comfortable, much in the same way he would ‘work the room’ at a military function, chatting with airmen and soldiers of all ranks.

What is most apparent is the importance of family ties in this group—not much different, says Rees, from the ties Dean has to his Army and Air Guard ‘brothers and sisters’ back in Oregon.

First Air Force and the Oregon Air National Guard are directly linked because of the Air Sovereignty Alert mission, Rees says. Under this construct, Oregon pilots are tasked with protecting the skies over the entire Pacific Northwest as one of 16 units throughout the nation tasked with the ASA mission.

Above: Col. Mike Stencel, wing commander, 142nd Fighter Wing, Oregon Air National Guard, greets Maj. Gen. Garry C. Dean at a reception following Dean’s change of command ceremony.

The 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland is responsible for protecting a wide swath of airspace, extending from northern California to the Canadian border, and from Idaho to beyond the Pacific coastline.

In Klamath Falls, the 173rd Fighter Wing is one of two schoolhouses in the nation tasked with training F-15 pilots who fly the ASA mission. The other F-15 training facility is located at Dean’s new home: Tyndall AFB.

“So we train them (at Klamath), and we put them into operation (in Portland), and First Air Force benefits from the skills of the Oregon Air National Guard,” Rees said.

That connection is not lost on Dean. While he has served in diverse capacities ranging from the Georgia Air National Guard to the 12th Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base in Japan, his loyalties lie with Oregon.

“I’m an Oregon Guardsman,” Dean said. “Oregon is where I really grew.”

After the ceremony, Dean said he personally thanked Rees and other members of the Oregon National Guard who helped develop his career.

“It’s really special to have been sponsored by Gen. Rees along the way,” he said as he stood on the patio outside the reception hall. “And to see all the Oregon Guardsmen here was truly amazing.”

The consummate teacher and father, Dean paused as an F-4 Phantom flew overhead. Seated nearby, his youngest daughter Summer squinted into the sunny skies.

“Summer, there’s no one flying that plane,” he said pointing to the plane. “That’s an unmanned drone. They used it for target practice.”

Dean’s philosophy about teamwork in the military transcends duty and service. He said military members’ willingness to lay down their lives for their country and their fellow men and women in uniform help to build a strong ‘family’ bond.

“When people are willing to lay down their life, a special bond is created,” Dean said. “We must continue to cherish and build (this bond) to ensure our success.”

And like a family, Dean believes in looking out for those who serve alongside him—and the ability and willingness to help out if needed, is tantamount.

Above: Gen. Victor E. Reunart, commander of NORAD/NORTHCOM, (center), talks with Jeri Dean, mother of Maj. Gen. Garry Dean, (left), during a pre-change of command ceremony breakfast, at Tyndall AFB, Fla., Nov. 12.

“We work as a family, and when the person next to us needs a helping hand we’re ready to step in and provide that help,” Dean said. “Because in the end that really effects how our mission is done.”

Dean underscored his commitment to excellence—a mantra he has carried throughout his career.

“Excellence transcends budgets, states, everything,” he said. “It’s the great equalizer, and Oregon’s record of excellence helped enable my selection to this position.”

As lunch arrives for the Dean family back inside the hall, Jeri calls her son over for a photo opportunity. He gives her a hug and kisses her on the forehead. Like most moms, she hopes he can relax a bit before throwing himself into his new responsibilities of leadership for 1st Air Force.

“I hope that he’ll get plenty of rest, because I know he has a lot of work ahead of him,” she says.


Story and photos by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon Military Department Social Media Manager

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