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Illinois Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Henry Dixon is about as Illinois as they come, but as part of the National Guard’s extended active duty program he is enhancing the nation’s defense worldwide.
On April 9, Dixon was selected as the Assistant Chief of Staff, Director of Operations (G3), for the U.S. Army Central Command. Dixon was offered this position after a successful tour as the Deputy Director, Operations (J3) for U.S. Northern Command; which was preceded by a strong run as Deputy Chief of Staff of Operations for Multinational Division North East based in Elblag, Poland, under NATO and U.S. European Command. The new position has Dixon working under his third geographic combatant command since entering the extended active duty program as a colonel in January 2018.
While Dixon’s military service has taken him all over the world and the United States, his roots in Illinois run as deep as the Rock River. Dixon grew up in Dixon, Illinois, along the banks of the river. The general’s ancestor, John Dixon, established the town in 1830. John Dixon worked as a mail carrier between Peoria and Galena before acquiring the river ferry service and establishing a tavern at what became the town that now bears the Dixon name.
“General Dixon is representing the Illinois National Guard well throughout multiple combatant commands,” said Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, the Adjutant General of Illinois and Commander of the Illinois National Guard. “We can all be proud of what this native Illinoisan is doing on the national and international stage.”
Dixon’s new position gives him a key role in developing and maintaining U.S. interests in the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility, which includes the Middle East and parts of North Africa and Southwest Asia.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to continue serving,” Dixon said. “It is clearly a demanding position. There is a lot to be expected with significant responsibilities.”
Dixon is no stranger to U.S. Central Command. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2005 to 2006 and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) from 2008 to 2009. During OEF, he served as Chief of Staff of Afghanistan Regional Security Integration Command-West. This time he will be serving at ARCENT headquarters at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. Unlike his two combat tours, he will be able to take his spouse, Mary Pat, and the couple’s two dogs, thanks to the flexibility of Mary Pat’s employer, the U.S. Employment Benefits Security Administration.
Prior to entering the extended active program in 2018 and excluding those two combat tours, Dixon spent the majority of his military service, 29 years, as a traditional Illinois National Guard Soldier.
He was an attorney in the Chicago area and his hometown while also serving as a National Guard officer. “I do look at things differently than officers who spent their entire careers in the active duty. From my experience and education as an attorney, I look at problem sets from a different perspective.”
He moved up the ranks as a traditional Guard Soldier going from a rifle platoon leader with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry to the Commander of the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He commanded the 33rd IBCT from October 2014 to August 2017.
He enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard in July 1987 and commissioned as an Infantry officer from the University of Illinois ROTC in May 1989. “When I first commissioned I had aspirations to become a battalion commander. I didn’t think of anything beyond that at the time.”
As he worked his way up the ranks, he took many key and varied command and staff positions doing the best job he could no matter what position. These included the Commander of the 135th Chemical Company; the State Physical Security Officer; the Intelligence Officer for the 66th Brigade; the Executive Officer of the 2-130th Infantry Battalion; and the Chief of Internal Review and Audit Branch, United States Property and Fiscal Office. In August 2007, he fulfilled his goal of battalion command when he was named Commander of 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment.
(The 2-130th Infantry Battalion are known as “The Blackhawks” for the unit’s service in the Blackhawk War. In 1832, Gen. Henry Atkins established his base of operations against Chief Blackhawk in – you guessed it - Dixon, Illinois. Fort Dixon would bring a young Illinois militiaman named Abraham Lincoln to the town along the Rock River during the future president’s service in the Blackhawk War.)
After battalion command with “The Blackhawks,” then Lt. Col. Dixon served as the 65th Troop Command Brigade’s Executive Officer. He then served as the Joint Forces Headquarters Plans and Operations Officer; Chief of the Illinois Army National Guard’s Force Integration and Readiness Branch and the Illinois National Guard’s Director of Strategic Plans and Policy.
Brig. Gen. Dixon encourages Soldiers and Airmen in the Illinois National Guard to “be forward-leaning in your military education.” Aside from his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his juris doctorate from the John Marshall Law School, Dixon has a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.
He has also completed more than a dozen military courses including the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the NATO School at Oberammergau, the NATO Senior Officer Policy Course, Harvard University’s Senior Executives in National and International Security course, the Army Senior Leader Development Seminar, and the Dual Status Commanders Course.
“I encourage Soldiers to take the time to read a broad spectrum of materials. Keep up on advances in technology. Do professional reading within your military occupational skill,” he said. “Understand what’s going on globally and how that affects you locally.”
Even in Dixon, Illinois.