“Those who say that we’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look,” Ronald Reagan once said.
With his quote, the former President and Palisades resident probably had Brigadier General David G. Smith in mind. The officer has spent his life flying, instructing, and defending freedom.
One of the Air Force’s most distinguished officers, Smith will ride in the Pacific Palisades 4th of July Parade.
Since joining the Air Force in 1982, he has traveled the world with the mission of spreading liberty and freeing people from tyranny.
Smith traces his heritage to the American Revolution on his father’s side of the family. His father served in the U.S. Army during World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
His mother was a combat nurse in the European theater during WWII. Smith’s grandparents were “White Russians” (The term describes Russians living in the area between Russian and Poland). They immigrated during the Russian revolution. “They would clearly have been killed if they had stayed in Russia,” Smith said.
What he learned from his family’s legacy was “freedom is not free, but a cherished commodity that not everybody on earth gets to enjoy.”
Smith was born in Camp Zama, Japan. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1976 from the Chaminade University of Hawaii and after graduation worked as a marketer for Jack Daniels distillery. Then, the company was bought out.
“The day I received the call that my position would be eliminated at the end of the fiscal year, I walked to the mailbox, and there was a brochure from the Air Force,” Smith said. “It simply said, ‘Aim High.’”
In 1994, he received his Masters of Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and added his Doctor of Business Administration in 2012 from Arizona Northcentral University.
A master navigator, he has flown B-52’s at multiple locations and served as instructor and assistant flight commander.
Smith was the lead navigator for the SAC Bombing and Navigation Competition, winning nine of 11 awards, which included the Fairchild Trophy in 1986. The Trophy is awarded to the best bomber unit in the combined fields of navigation and bombing, and he was recognized by President Ronald Reagan.
He was individually selected to serve as Regimental Air Liaison Officer attached to the elite 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, to evaluate the close air support mission in joint operations with the United States Army (1998-2001) at Fort Irwin, California.
Smith said that was also a challenging experience in many ways, but “I learned so much about our amazing soldiers on that assignment, and how hard they work.” He said he appreciated the true dedication of those serving the country.
In 2008, he was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq. After his extensive life-long career in the military, Smith said that “combat operations in Iraq was clearly my toughest challenge.”
He said it was a combination of horrors of war, signs of senseless loss, and uplifting remarkable morale from dedicated Americans and the Iraqi’s.
“The reality is there are horrors in war, but I also believe we were doing a lot of good there,” Smith said. “There are very sad stories, and uplifting ones, but the reality is, it was a war zone, and that is a challenge to any participant.”
Smith is the Special Assistant to the Commanding General, California State Guard (CSG), California Military Department, and the director of the multi-billion-dollar Air Force Production and Flight Test Facility, Plant 42 in Palmdale.
“I have cherished my time with the United States Air Force, and I have also cherished my time with the California Guard,” Smith said. “The dedication of the men and women I have had the rare opportunity to serve with is absolutely awesome.”
Smith has been in several parades, but a small community Fourth of July parade in Kailua, Hawaii, stands out. “A medal of honor recipient was in that parade and my son asked why I saluted that individual although very junior in rank to me,” Smith said. “It was a wonderful learning moment to explain the importance of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and how anybody who has earned that award warrants a salute.”
Smith is married to the former Denise Cook, and they have six children, son Damien, and daughters, Daira, Darcie, Avalon, Bailee, and Madyson, and seven grandchildren.