‘Ability to get the job done’

State Rep. Dennis Fowler, R-Advance, discusses the factors that led to his enlistment in the Navy and the manner in which his military service helped prepare him for elected office.

State Rep. Dennis Fowler, R-Advance, discusses the factors that led to his enlistment in the Navy and the manner in which his military service helped prepare him for elected office.

Many veterans can identify a single reason for joining the military, but for state Rep. Dennis Fowler, R-Advance, a combination of several factors converged to influence his decision to become a member of the Navy.

A 1966 graduate of Puxico High School, Fowler notes that running out of funds two years after beginning college, combined with the receipt of a draft letter, helped motivate his decision to enlist.

“The draft was really going (in 1969),” said Fowler, 65, during a recent interview in his Capitol office.

“And my father had served in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II and was adamant about me not joining the Army,” he laughed.

“I also had a friend at college who had been in the Navy and we had talked about his service quite a bit,” Fowler added, “which certainly helped influence by decision to join.”

Completing his boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill., Fowler traveled to Pensacola, Fla., and received training as a communications technician, learning the basics of Morse code and cryptology.

Finishing the six-month school in 1970, the fresh recruit’s first duty assignment was with the Naval Security Group

Activity in Bremershaven, Germany.

While on leave after leaving Pensacola, Fowler was married and the Navy allowed his wife to accompany him during the overseas assignment.

While with the security group, Fowler’s professional duties found him performing classified communication functions, in addition to a few opportunities to enjoy time away from his naval duties.

“I had a good time in Europe,” Fowler remarked. “During my time off, my wife and I were able to camp along the Rhine and in the Black Forest. It was a very trying military experience,” he jokingly added.

But in October 1972, the Navy made the decision to close the German base, which would bring to an early end his naval career.

“Anyone with less than one year remaining in their enlistment,” Fowler said, “the Navy went ahead and let out of the service rather than to transfer them somewhere else.”

Following his discharge, Fowler returned to his hometown of Advance and spent the next several months trying to find a job along with, he recalls, numerous other veterans recently released from the military.

In January 1974, he returned to college using his GI Bill benefits, graduating with a criminal justice degree from Southeast Missouri State University the following year.

For the next 20 years, he went on to work in several criminal justice related positions including the chief of police of Advance, service with the Board of Probation and Parole, and as sheriff’s deputy and member of the Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force.

But in 2004, as Fowler mirthfully stated, a “middle-age crisis” and the search for an “adventure” helped propel him toward the next chapter of his professional career.

“I became a contractor for DynaCorp, and traveled to Tikrit, Iraq, to help train the Iraqi police force,” he said.

Upon his return from Iraq in 2005, he went on to serve the next seven years as the superintendent of detention at the Stoddard County Juvenile Detention Center.

While working at the center, he made the decision to run for state representative, and following his retirement from state government in 2012, won election to the state’s 151st District seat.

Recently completing the first half of his initial term, Fowler explains that even though his military service wasn’t fraught with the perils or complications experienced by other service members, it has nonetheless prepared him for state elected office.

“I’ve been exposed to government and a certain amount of politics my entire career … to include the time I spent in the Navy,” Fowler said.

“The one thing I’ve learned from this experience,” he added, “is that those who have been in the military are prepared for virtually any challenge — regardless of the office they hold — and have demonstrated their work ethic and ability to get the job done.”

Jeremy Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.

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