From helicopter mechanic to general’s stars: D. Rodger ‘Dan’ Waters becomes Brigadier General after nearly 4 decades in the Army

Brig Gen Waters Small Photo
From helicopter mechanic to general’s stars:

D. Rodger ‘Dan’ Waters becomes Brigadier General after nearly 4 decades in the Army


By Lt. Col. (Ret.) Steve Ranson

Nevada Army Guard


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 Support Facility.

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 sportsman’s paradise.”

In 1987, Waters transferred to Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

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 1992.

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, smiling.

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 helicopters.”

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 Freedom.

• 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 Fellow.

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 University.

Waters is a graduate of both the Harvard University Senior Executive Fellows and Syracuse University National Security Management Programs.

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.