helicopter mechanic to general’s stars:
Rodger ‘Dan’ Waters becomes Brigadier General after nearly 4 decades in the Army
Lt. Col. (Ret.) Steve Ranson
RENO — D. Rodger “Dan” Waters, whose Army career
began as an enlisted helicopter mechanic in 1985 and included a steady climb through
the officer ranks of the for three decades, attained the rank of brigadier
general Friday in a ceremony conducted at the Nevada Army Guard’s Army Aviation
Waters, 55, of Sparks, enlisted in the
Army at age 17 after graduating from high school in Tempe, Ariz., and he’s worn
an Army uniform ever since.
As one of two Nevada Army Guard generals
responsible for 3,300 Soldiers statewide, Waters will continue to serve in him
current position as Director of the Joint Staff, the position he assumed in
February when a Colonel.
“I love Nevada, I love the military and I
love the mission,” Waters said.
Adjutant General Maj. Gen Ondra Berry
praised Waters before promoting the renowned aviator. Waters’ initial military
branch was Aviation but his primary branch is now Infantry.
“We can’t thank you and your family for
all you have done,” Berry said to Waters in front of several hundred attendees.
Berry recapped Waters’ career in the Nevada
Army Guard and he also mentioned Waters’ foreign tours.
Nevada’s two Army Guard brigadier generals
serve as advisers to Berry, who was appointed in September 2019. Brig. Gen.
Troy Armstrong is the Nevada Army Guard’s Land Component commander and Waters
is the Director of the Joint Staff who oversees human resources, intelligence,
joint operations, cyber security, the counter drug task force, emergency management
and the 92nd Civil Support Team.
Berry, along with Waters’ wife Kimberly
and two of their adult children, assisted the state’s newest general with replacing
his rank. The general’s one-star flag was also presented to him.
After Waters was introduced and asked to
the podium, he received a lengthy round of applause from the guests.
“I am very humbled today,” Waters said. “The
people, the mission, the organization. Here I am in a position I didn’t imagine
was attainable just a short time ago.”
If he hadn’t received orders for the
promotion, Waters said he and Kimberly were set to leave Reno and he would
accept a position with the U.S. Europe Command (EUCOM). Waters thanked his
fellow Soldiers and friends for attending the ceremony.
“I am honored by the trust and confidence
shown by the governor (Gov. Joe Lombardo) and General Berry,” Waters added.
Waters’ military career has taken him to
three continents and countless countries. After his graduation from Marcos De
Niza High School, basic and advanced individual training, Waters landed at Fort
Kobbe, Panama, for a three-year tour with an aviation unit.
“It was a great assignment for a young
person,” Waters recalled. “It’s perpetual summer down there and a beautiful
In 1987, Waters transferred to Fort Campbell,
After his enlistment concluded, Waters returned
to Arizona and gained employment as a firefighter. He concurrently transferred
to the Arizona Army Guard, entered Officer Candidate School and commissioned in
What became Arizona’s loss became Nevada’s
gain in 1993. The Nevada Army Guard replaced its CH-54 twin-engine, heavy-lift “Sky
Crane” helicopters with CH-47 Chinooks, but the state lacked qualified pilots. Waters
said he was interested in flying the Chinooks even if it meant leaving Arizona.
Former Nevada Army Guard Brig. Gen. Robert Herbert (who died in an auto
accident in 2021) then recruited Waters to the Silver State.
“General Herbert scooped me up,” Waters said,
At the time Herbert, was the commander of
the 113th Aviation Company based in Stead. Although Waters initially wanted to
fly AH-64 Apache helicopters, he accepted the offer to fly the larger airframe.
The Waters met when Dan was training in
Texas. Kimberly was a Soldier in the North Dakota Army Guard. They are the parents
of three adult children: Emily, 27, who works at Renown Medical Center; Justin,
24, a human resource specialist; and Jake, 22, an active-duty soldier currently
stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia, specializing in cybersecurity.
Waters’ first foreign deployment came when
he was commander of the “Wolf Pack” company (now the 2/238th
Aviation unit) that flew UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The Nevada company was
tabbed to support the 10th Mountain Division in Kosovo in 2001 and 2002 during Operation
Joint Guardian, a NATO peacekeeping mission.
Waters reminisced as he pondered his long
association with rotary aviation.
“My dad wanted me to be a fighter pilot,”
Waters said. “But I didn’t want to be a fighter pilot. I wanted to fly
His father, Rodger, supported him 100
percent, Waters said. Waters emphasizes his middle name, Rodger, in his
signature block to this date to recognize his father. Every document that
crosses his desk is signed “D. Rodger Waters.”
Waters’ other past assignments include:
• The 82nd Airborne Division as an Afghan
National Army Planner and Operations Officer as part of Operation Enduring
• Security Cooperation and Partnering
Division Chief for U. S. European Command.
• The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment as the
Brigade Tactical Group operations officer at the National Training Center as
Part of Operation Noble Eagle.
“It was a great ground experience,’ Waters
said of the training at the NTC located at Fort Irwin, Calif.
As a lieutenant colonel he served as the
first commander of the 17th Special Troops Battalion and as a colonel, he
commanded the 991st Multifunctional Brigade.
Waters also served as staff director to
the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on Intelligence and
Counterterrorism, chair for the Department of Military Science at the
University of Nevada, Las Vegas and as a Brookings Institute Legislative
Although he completed his initial officer
training in aviation, Waters also attended the infantry advanced officers’ course.
“If you get the opportunity, go outside
your branch and take it,” he recommended.
Water recently volunteered to be part of
an international force in EUCOM where he served as the Security Cooperation and
Partnering Division chief from 2017-2020.
Other past assignments include: staff
director for the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Intelligence
and Counterterrorism and Brookings Institute Legislative Fellow.
In addition to his basic and advanced
training and flight school, Waters’ military education includes the U.S. Air
Force Air War College and the National War College, where he earned a Master of
Science in National Security Strategy. He earned a Master of Business
Administration at the University of Nevada, Reno, and a post-graduate
certificate in Advanced Public Policy Leadership from George Washington
Waters is a graduate of both the Harvard
University Senior Executive Fellows and Syracuse University National Security
Waters' decorations include the Defense
Superior Service Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious
Service Medal with one Silver Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Air Medal. He earned
the Army Senior Aviator Badge, Army Aviation Badge, Parachutist Badge,
Pathfinder Badge, Air Assault Badge, U.S. Navy Scuba Badge, and Ranger Tab.
Additionally, he is a 1999 recipient of
the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.