Leader Spotlight: Col. Leonard H. Dyer, Jr.

Leader Spotlight: Col. Leonard H. Dyer, Jr.

Col. Leonard H. Dyer, Jr., a Bear Lake, Pa. native, joined the Arizona Army National Guard in 1988 after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. His final active duty assignment at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, is what brought him to Arizona, where he retired as the chief of staff of the Arizona Army National Guard after 35 years of military service. (National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Adrian Borunda/RELEASED)

Editor’s note: This is the fifth article in the AZDEMA Leader Spotlight series, a collection of features about the diverse experience and leadership perspectives of Arizona guardsmen. Join the conversation on social media using #AZNGleaderspotlight. Comment on these articles with your take on leadership and nominate other AZDEMA leaders you think should be featured.

PHOENIX – A tall, physically fit senior officer walks through the large hexagonal rotunda of the Arizona National Guard Joint Force Headquarters building. Soldiers and Airmen alike recognize his commanding military presence and they willingly give him well-deserved respect.

“Good morning, sir,” hails a junior Soldier passing through the rotunda.


A kind smile and genuine greeting – the other side of his stately and authoritative aura – is returned to the Soldier. The respect the former Arizona Army National Guard Chief of Staff, Col. Leonard H. Dyer, Jr, garners is well-earned, both as a professional leader of Soldiers and as a whole-hearted human being whose example of dedication is easy to follow.


Dyer, a native of Bear Lake, Pa. graduated from Eisenhower High School in Russell, Pa. in 1979.


He began his military service, shortly after graduating high school, with the U.S. Marine Corps, where he spent eight years as an enlisted active duty Marine. His final active duty assignment at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, is what brought him to Arizona.


The importance the Marine Corps placed on education made an impact on the young Dyer, so by the time he left the Marine Corps, he had earned his Bachelor of Science in Electronics Management, and well on his way to his Masters of Arts in Business Administration.


“Coming into the Marine Corps I had no concept or no idea that I would ever go to college. I didn’t do so well in high school,” Dyer said. “I probably did some things I shouldn’t have done in high school. The Marine Corps was very good at pointing you in a direction and helping you get those secondary education opportunities.”


After separating from the Marine Corps as a staff sergeant, Dyer tried his hand at selling insurance and investment opportunities – but there was something missing.


“That didn’t last very long,” remembers his wife Karen Dyer. “He realized that he really liked the military way of life and he felt that there was more that he could still do. I think that he has really enjoyed serving.”


Only about a year after starting a business in Yuma and still wanting to see that venture through, he began looking into reserve opportunities with the Marine Corps in Arizona. Because the Arizona based Marine reserve choices were limited to a fuels unit, he started exploring other options.


In 1988, Dyer joined the Arizona Army National Guard as an officer candidate.


Dyer completed Officer Candidate School as a quartermaster officer (supply and logistics) and served in that career in several different assignments as a company commander and battalion commander. He went on to serve as the deputy chief of staff of personnel, then as the deputy chief of staff of operations before becoming the Arizona Army National Guard chief of staff.


“His resolute dedication to duty has led him to take on a whole lot of different assignments and endure quite a bit if adversity, both at home, in his duty, and on the road,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael T. McGuire, the Arizona National Guard Adjutant General. “At every turn I have never seen Colonel Dyer waver in his resolute dedication to his duty.”


Dyer’s rock throughout his career has been the undying support from his family.


“My family over the years has been phenomenally supportive of everything that I always wanted to do,” he said. “There are times where they thought that the Army comes before them and I would hope they still don’t feel that way but sometimes throughout a military career you do have to make decisions which impact their lives.”


Dyer met Karen, his wife of 35 years, when they were young as she grew up in Corry, Pa., where both his mother and sister now live, near his hometown. She understands the reasons why he works so hard and specifically why he works so hard to ensure other Soldiers and their families have access to support while they are deployed and when they return.


“It’s not always easy for the family when they leave and it’s equally difficult when they come home to readjust,” Karen said. “I think it was more difficult when the children were teenagers having had dad gone for a year and then when he came home, that was a little bit of a struggle and I think that’s part of the reason why he works so hard and tries to make sure that the family services are there.”


Dyer places a very high importance on the personal relationships he has built throughout his career.


“My biggest memories of the military are the people that I have had an opportunity to impact and that have impacted me,” he said. “There is nothing more rewarding for me than to train alongside other Soldiers and do the things that are necessary for us to be ready units. So I would say the most impacting thing for me is just the day-to-day interactions with Soldiers.”


Brig. Gen. John Hoefert, Arizona Army National Guard Land Component Commander, echoed the significance Dyer places in the Soldiers serving with him.


“He is committed to the mission, he is committed to the organization and most importantly by those two commitments, he really is committed to the Soldiers of the Arizona Army National Guard,” Hoefert said. “That’s what I mean when I say loyalty. Up the chain and down the chain, Len Dyer never has a bad thing to say about anybody.”


The Arizona National Guard bid farewell to Dyer, in a retirement ceremony held at Russell Auditorium April 3, celebrating his contributions during his 35-year military career.


McGuire presented Dyer with the Legion of Merit Medal during the ceremony.


“We in Arizona were the lucky beneficiaries of having, then Staff Sgt. Dyer, transfer to the Guard,” McGuire said.


Dyer’s advice to those attending the retirement ceremony was that having military presence is not about how well Soldiers wear the uniform or how high they score on a physical fitness test. He counseled those in the room to make the mission happen, to make their subordinates lives better, to care for their wellbeing, and to inspire them to reach for greatness.


“Your presence can inspire action, inspire those around you to believe in your vision, and inspire others to act on their vision and propagate greatness,” he said. “Your presence as a leader and how you treat others will ensure the greatness that dwells throughout our formation will shine brightly for all to see and there is nothing our Soldiers cannot do.”


Karen rightfully boasts of the high standards Dyer has for service members, for his family and for himself.


“I am extremely proud of him,” she said. “I think that he is a man of integrity and honesty and he expects nothing less than somebody’s personal best. That’s his expectation for his wife and his children as well as his Soldiers.”


Dyer has touched many lives during his long career, and he said he is very satisfied with what he has been able to accomplish so far.


“Reflecting back on my life as it’s come to this point, I said maybe I have one regret but I really don’t. My life has worked out really well,” he said. “I have enjoyed my service to the nation in multiple different uniforms. It’s been a phenomenal experience for me and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.”