McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, Knoxville, Tennessee --
The fourth time's the charm. Col. Timothy T. Dearing is scheduled to retire June 30.
"People joke that this is the fourth time that I've said I'm retiring," said Dearing, 134 ARW Commander.
After 38 years in the military, it looks like it's going to happen this time.
Dearing began his military career in 1973 as a pilot with the Kansas Air National Guard flying EB-57B aircraft. He transitioned to the KC-135 in 1978. While in Kansas, he held several leadership positions including Chief of Mission Development, Director of Training, Chief of Maintenance, and Operations Group Commander.
Dearing transferred to the 134 ARW in June 2000 as part of the initial cadre for the Pacer Crag transition. He went on to hold positions as the 134th Logistics Group Commander and 134th Maintenance Group Commander before being officially appointed as the Wing's ninth Commander in February 2004.
Dearing is a Command Pilot with over 4,300 flight hours in aircraft such as the T-37, T-38, B-57, EB-57B, C-131, and KC-135 (A, D, E, and R models). He also serves as the Senior Director of the Tennessee Air Operations Center.
Dearing has seen a lot of changes in the military during his career.
"Probably the biggest change I've seen since I've been in is the draw-down of the active duty military, and the increased reliance on the National Guard," said Dearing. "When I was first a pilot in Kansas, it was like a big flying club. By the time of the first Gulf War, it was the end of the active duty draw-down, and they had to rely on the Guard to get the job done. Ever since then, there's been more and more reliance on the Guard. The days of the Guardsman doing one weekend a month and two weeks per year are gone."
Here at McGhee Tyson, Dearing has worked to make many changes since becoming the commander.
When I took over the Wing, I worked to diversify and develop the base so that it is so valuable they wouldn't consider closing us during a BRAC, said Dearing. Consequently, we've spent over $40 million on new buildings and refurbishing/remodeling others. We've expanded the ramp. My hope is that people here have learned that corporately, all the entities on this base are a lot stronger together if they rely on each other to get stuff done. Individually, they're not that strong. We've removed the obstacles that would prevent us from getting the new Air Force tanker, the KC-45, when it's sent to the field. That'll be a lot of years down the road, but if the leadership keeps their focus on that, this base is perfectly suited for that new tanker.
There is one thing Dearing really hopes doesn't change after he's retired. It's the thing that stands out the most when people come to the base, the orange hangar.
"I've come under attack for that orange hangar many many times," said Dearing, "but Gen. McKinley likes it. He chose to hold the Order of the Sword ceremony there because he likes it. It shows the pride we have, it's our community identity."
Many significant events have occurred throughout the world during Dearing's career, but one stands out to him as the most significant that he was involved with. During the first Gulf War, Dearing, a major at the time, was a scheduler for the Air National Guard.
"I'd be the first one to tell you that I've just had a charmed career," said Dearing. "We had the largest tanker force that had ever been assembled in one place, and we had B-52s, and there was a Guard commander in charge of all of that. He sent me to Riyadh, and I got to sit down and help plan the war. I knew the date the war was going to start. I got to plan a war! That's what I got a bronze star for."
As most Guardsmen know, the support of family is incredibly important to success in the Guard. Dearing's family is no different, and he says his wife supports him in his decision to retire.
"My wife, Lisa, is really ready for me to retire," said Dearing. "She's relieved that we're not moving to Nashville. We look at our lives as chapters in a book, and she's ready to turn that page and get on with the next chapter."
Due to his retirement, Dearing will no longer be able to be a member of the National Guard fishing team. It doesn't mean he's going to stop fishing. In fact, he says his wife is very excited about his plans to make a living fishing. He currently has three sponsors, and he's hoping to get a few more. Dearing said fellow fishermen can find him on Ft. Loudon Lake in his Ranger boat with his name and blue stripes on the side.
There's no doubt in Dearing's mind that the people are the biggest thing he'll miss being a retiree.
"The people, the people here at McGhee Tyson, they are just fantastic," said Dearing. "They have risen to every occasion, they're just a proud group of people."
We've had three Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards in the last three years, said Dearing. These are not the goals we set out to achieve, it's the result of what our people are. This is the crown jewel of the Air National Guard.
Dearing isn't planning to spend much time on base after he retires, but he does expect a call when the date of the base Christmas party has been established. The rest of the time, he plans to remain supportive and connected to the military through the Air Force Association and his connections with the East Tennessee Military Association.
"I'm not going to be in Col. Cauthen's way at all," said Dearing.
As every great commander does, Dearing addressed his last words to the men and women of his unit, the people who allowed him to be the commander he was.
Thank you. I don't know what else to say. I've appreciated the opportunity to be the pointy end of the spear for you. I've appreciated all of your support, you doing your jobs. I hope I didn't disappoint you. This is the first place I put on a military uniform when I came here for AMS. This is where Lisa and I have always talked about retiring. I'm very grateful and very thankful, I can't think of a better way to end it.
Dearing can be reached on Facebook at Col Tim Dearing. Anyone is welcome to "friend" him.