Off He Goes Into The Wild Blue Yonder: ROTC Commander Bids Farewell To Military Service

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Lt. Col. Jeff Bowles is presented with a U.S. flag during his retirement ceremony.
Sept. 7, 2004

by Julie Campbell Carlson

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bowles' life came full circle Monday, Sept. 6. Twenty-one years ago in Baylor's Barfield Drawing Room, Bowles was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant. On Labor Day, also in Barfield and with the man who commissioned him looking on, Bowles retired from military service.

"On May 13, 1983, I stood on this very spot when I was commissioned. I had planned on only serving four years," said Bowles, who served as commander of Baylor ROTC from August 2001 until last month. "But I never dreamed of the experiences I would enjoy as an Air Force officer. I got to fly while taking pictures, and I was able to work with some of the most advanced technology there is. The service has been very, very good to me.

"I may be retiring, but my life in the Air Force continues through the students who have come through our program."

Two of Bowles' former comrades spoke at the service marked by military customs and courtesies, including presentation of the colors, singing of the national anthem, narration by Commandant of Cadets Eddie L. Felder Jr., a traditional flag folding ceremony and singing of the Air Force song. Retired Senior Master Sgt. Tom Graydon, who served with Bowles at the 368th Recruiting Squadron, used a modified acronym of "commander" to list Bowles' attributes.

"Jeff has strength of character; he is open-minded; he is a mentor; he is admirable; he is a negotiator; he is determined; he is energetic; and he is resilient. He is the best CO I ever served under," Graydon said.

Retired Col. Dyek Boles, former commander of Baylor ROTC and the officer who commissioned Bowles, said of his former student, "Jeff showed up at Baylor full of energy. And during his time here, I saw the rise of a leader. He was a guy who would go out and get it done. That is the key to his success."

During the retirement service, Bowles also was presented with a Meritorious Service Medal and letters of appreciation from President George W. Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Additionally, a certificate of appreciation from the Air Force was presented to Bowles' wife of 21 years, Dawn.

A Dallas native, Bowles received his bachelor's degree from Baylor in 1983 and an MBA from California State University in 1992. His varied Air Force career included tours as a television writer/director at Carswell AFB, Commander of the 1363rd Audiovisual Squadron in Korea, Chief of Programs at headquarters of the Aerospace Audiovisual Service and Air Combat Camera Service, Chief of the advertising section at headquarters of the Air Force Recruiting Service at Randolph AFB, and Commander of the 368th Recruiting Squadron at Hill AFB.

His major awards include a Meritorious Service Medal (3 oak leaf clusters), an Air Force Commendation Medal (1 oak leaf cluster), an Air Force Achievement Medal and an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, to name a few. He also received the Air Force Association Hoyt S. Vandenberg Award for Aerospace Education in 1997 and was named Texas Air Force Association Recruiting Officer of the Year in 1998. Under Bowles command, Baylor's ROTC was selected as the top ROTC in the Southwest region.

Formed in 1948, one year after the creation of the Air Force as a separate military branch, Baylor's program is one of the nation's oldest Air Force ROTC units. Currently, 133 Baylor students are participating in ROTC. The detachment is under the command of Lt. Col David Riel.

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