Hundreds of family, friends and co-workers pay tribute to Dornbush at official retirement

  • Published
  • By SrA Vicky Spesard
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
More than 300 family, friends and co-workers packed into the Annex at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base Jan. 13 to pay tribute to Brig. Gen. Michael Dornbush as he completed his last official act -- a formal retirement ceremony.

Dornbush, the outgoing director of Joint Staff for Joint Forces Headquarters--Kentucky, served in the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Kentucky Air National Guard for more than 40 years, rising from the rank of Airman Basic to Brigadier General.

Along the way, he helped shape the future of the 123rd Airlift Wing, said Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky's adjutant general.

"I have watched Mike, and I believe that he has been a leading mentor of both officers and enlisted members throughout his career," Tonini said. "He has made a tremendous difference in their careers and personal lives."

Tonini presented Dornbush, a former vice commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing and past Kentucky Air National Guard chief of staff, with the Distinguished Service Medal and a Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster) in recognition of his outstanding leadership from Dec. 1, 2006 to Dec. 1, 2012.

During that time, Dornbush molded separate Air and Army staffs into a cohesive joint team, according to the award citations. In 2009, for example, he directed the formation of a Joint Task Force that successfully responded to an unprecedented ice storm that paralyzed much of the state for several days, leading to the largest call-up of National Guard forces in state history.

Dornbush also served on the director of the Air National Guard's Strategic Planning System Steering Committee, where he was instrumental in revamping the Air Guard's strategic planning process. His work in developing a Future Missions Database, Air National Guard Roadmap and Air National Guard Flight Plan allowed the Air Force and Air National Guard to integrate planning efforts, and attain balance, alignment and proportionality between the two forces.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kraus, Kentucky's assistant adjutant general for Air, offered congratulations to his long-time friend and colleague, whom he called a superb leader.

"For many years, we have walked this road together, sometimes at a distance, and sometimes close, but always in step with a shared horizon," an emotional Kraus said. "You have finished well my friend, exceedingly well. I wish you continued good health and good fortune in wherever life takes you next. If you hear footsteps behind you, those will be mine, as it always has been."

After presenting Dornbush with a few mementos, Kraus invited him to offer his own remarks.

"I'd like to share a quote," the retiring general said. "'Being a warrior is not an (Air Force Specialty Code). It's a condition of the heart.' Throughout my career I have seen those traits developed and practiced by the men and women in this wing."

"How do you put 40 years of service into a few words?" he asked. "There are so many events that are important to me, and so many people that I would like to acknowledge today that I don't know where to start. So I'd just like to say, 'Thanks for the memories.' The 123rd is a wonderful place to make a career."

He also expressed gratitude to his family and close friends for their support throughout his career, but he singled out his wife for special recognition.

"I would like to give my wife, Linda, the biggest thank you for her total support," he said. "You are simply superb. My career would not have been this successful without you."

With a final salute to family members, friends and co-workers, Dornbush took his seat only to be called back to center stage for one more gift: a rousing audience performance of "The U.S. Air Force," the official song of the United States Air Force and a personal favorite of Dornbush's.

The Southern Indiana native joined the Kentucky Air National Guard as an enlisted communications specialist in 1976 after serving more than three years in the active-duty Air Force and Air Force Reserve. He was commissioned in 1984 upon completing the Air National Guard Academy of Military Science and has served as a flight and squadron commander.

Dornbush is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, having served a tour in 2003 and 2004 as the deployed expeditionary commander of the 438th Air Expeditionary Group in Jacobabad, Pakistan.

In addition to the Defense Service Medal, his decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters.