When Col. Tommy Cauthen took over as commander of the 134th Air Refueling Wing on June 4, he knew he didn’t get there alone, and he knew exactly who to thank.
“You don’t get to this position without a lot of help,” Cauthen said. “Maj.Gen. Fred Forster sometimes dragged me kicking and screaming into career opportunities, and I didn’t understand, but I always grew as a result. Col. Tim Dearing has been a great mentor and leader. Those are two great examples, as was Col. Glen Knable.”
The official Change of Command ceremony was held Saturday, June 4, at the McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base. The event was held inside Spruance Hall to get out of the oppressive heat. “It was a great event. There were lots of folks who came to show their support,” said Cauthen.
Cauthen thanked his wife, Penny; son, Drew Cauthen, 20; and daughter, Cayla, 19. “It was a great event,” he said.
The Change of Command was formal, yet seemed relaxed, and Dearing added his own moment of levity to the afternoon. When passing the flag to Colonel Donald L. Johnson, the assistant adjutant general of the Tennessee Air National Guard, Dearing pulled it back a moment, as if he weren’t going to give it up.
“It is gratifying,” Dearing said of his time with the McGhee Tyson ANG. “We have some outstanding people and that allowed me to focus on the future.”
Dearing said that when he was promoted as wing commander on Feb. 7, 2004, his goals were to get the personnel focused on preparing for an inspection that was six months away and put the base in a position to where it would not be closed by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
“We were ripe to be closed,” he said. “I had to find other missions to do to keep the doors open,” he said.
Dearing was able to get federal funds to help upgrade the base and also was able to get newly retooled KC-135 aircraft with more fuel efficient and quieter engines and much improved avionic systems. Moves like this put the base in a stronger position for the future, he said.
Dearing said folks in Blount County and with the Blount County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Board were also always there with support. “If I asked for community help, we got it,” he said.
The former wing commander praised the new commander. “It’s great that the person I trained for my job actually gets my job,” he said.
As a surprise for the retiring commander, his favorite singer, country music recording artist Laura Bryna, came to the ceremony and sang the National Anthem. Dearing had been told Bryna, who is a friend of the family, was out of the country.
“My wife kept it a total secret,” Col. Dearing said. “It was a complete surprise when she walked in.”
Currently Dearing is spending his last month helping Cauthen transition into his new role. But he is mixing that time with what he plans on spending a lot of time doing in his retirement: Fishing.
The avid fisherman, he will be traveling across the Southeast United States on the professional bass fishing FLW tour.
“I’m turning a page on one chapter and starting another chapter,” he said.