10th ABW commander: Sharing stories makes us stronger

Col. Troy Dunn, the 10th Air Base Wing commander. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Col. Troy Dunn, the 10th Air Base Wing commander. (U.S. Air Force photo)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- When Col. Troy Dunn took command of the 10th Air Base Wing here May 14, he had two goals: to meet and take care of as many cadets, Airmen and their families as possible.

Since then, he said he puts as much time as possible into meeting those goals.

"We have some amazingly talented cadets, Airmen and families here," Dunn said.  "They truly make the incredible and impossible look easy. They're the ones out there supporting our nation's defense and working hard. I find it an honor and a privilege to be able to go out there and get a chance to hear Airmen's stories."

Dunn said he loves the variety of experiences he encounters in the Air Force.

"One of the great things about our Air Force is the diversity, not only the ethnic and cultural diversity, but diversity of thought. I'm from Oklahoma. Our superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, is from Iowa. We have folks who come from different countries and are naturalized as U.S. citizens. We make up this great Air Force, and all of our stories make up the Air Force story. That's why it's important to me to go out there and hear those stories."

Dunn believes being an Airman - whether a cadet, civilian, enlisted or officer - means being part of the same family, and part of being in that family is helping each other become better. Sharing our stories makes the Air Force stronger, because you never know what someone is going through, he said.

"When you hear an Airman's story, and some of the challenges they have overcome, it can motivate you as you're going through your own challenges," Dunn said. "In the Dunn family, we have four children. Both of our sons have autism, and we know they're going to live with us throughout their adult lives. The beauty of it is how the Air Force has taken care of the Dunn family over the years. The Air Force community wrapped its arms around us and took care of us. These stories motivate and inspire us, and make us realize this Air Force family is truly a family."

Dunn knows the stories of numerous Airmen, cadets and civilians across the Academy.

"Cadet 2nd Class Zechariah Sparrow was working Second Beast (the second phase of basic cadet training in Jacks Valley). I saw this cadet out of the blue - he was motivated, he was enthusiastic, and I said, 'I want to meet this cadet!' We started talking and sharing stories, and I came to find out his father and I were classmates at the Academy. It's wonderful seeing those connections within the Air Force."

The colonel also said Airman 1st Class Edgar Bravo, assigned to the 10th Security Forces Squadron, and George Grove, a civilian employee, are good examples of the connectedness between all Total Force Airmen.

"When we talk about some of our Airmen, Airman 1st Class Edgar Bravo comes to mind," Dunn said. "He's one of our defenders. He shows up to work, he's professional, he loves this Air Force, he works hard and serves hard - and then goes home and serves his family. He's a role model to his sons. Those are the Airmen who motivate me to come to work every morning.

"George Grove, he's one of our civilian drivers," Dunn said. "He's in charge of making sure our cadets are delivered on-time and on-target, every time. Those are the types of Airmen we have here - all contributing to the big Air Force and to the Air Force Academy. That's what excites me about being here."

Understanding that every Airman at the Academy has a story to tell affects how Dunn approaches his duties every day. He purposefully arranges his schedule to allow him a chance to meet as many Airmen and cadets as possible.

"We have some amazingly talented Airmen, and all they need is for us to support them," he said. "General Johnson goes out and gets to know cadets' stories. Every time you see General Johnson speaking to the community, you'll see her talk about the Essence of the Academy. There are eight pillars of the Essence, but she can incorporate a cadet's story into every one of those pillars. She can splinter off and tell you stories about Airmen who work around the base, and civilians and family members as well. I'm amazed at her bandwidth, and that's part of why I consider her one of the finest senior officers I've ever worked with - and now work for - throughout my career."

Dunn has known Johnson since he entered the Academy as a 17-year old. She served as his academic advisor and later became his lifelong mentor. Her approach to Airmanship is the example he strives to emulate, as well as a continuation of the Academy's mission of developing leaders of character.

"General Johnson once said to me, 'The best in each of us is the best in all of us,' which means we have a connection," Dunn said. "We all share the exact same last name, and it's embroidered right on our uniform - 'U.S. Air Force.' It's not by any coincidence it's placed over our hearts. Being an Airman, and being proud of it, is something that connects us. That's why it's so important to understand our heritage and history, and be proud of those who went before us as we continue what we started."

Johnson said the Academy's mission developing leaders of character could not be fulfilled without the support of the 10th Air Base Wing.

"When you think about the overwhelming amount of services the wing provides to our Total Force Airmen, it's quite overwhelming and yet we've remained a World Class Installation. Colonel Dunn is the right commander at the right time for the Academy," she said.  

For more information on Col. Dunn, read his biography: http://www.usafa.af.mil/information/biographies/bio.asp?id=18443