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  • Retired United States Air Force Colonel Mike Turner graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1973 and immediately entered pilot training at Ft. Wolters, TX as a second lieutenant helicopter trainee. Eleven months later, Col. Turner graduated at the top of his pilot training class and spent the next five years as an air rescue helicopter pilot, first at Thule Air Base, Greenland, 600 miles from the North Pole, and then at Elmendorf Air Force Base, AK. During those five years, Capt. Turner was credited with 14 lives saved, including the rescue of an injured crewman from a barge on the Yukon River during an ice storm for which he received the Air Medal.

    In 1979, Capt. Turner attended Squadron Officers School, where he was a Distinguished Graduate, and later entered fixed wing conversion training in Texas. He became a fighter pilot, and, over the course of the next seventeen years, accumulated over 3,500 flying hours and flew the F-4, the F-16, and the F-111. He was “Top Gun” several times during his career. In 1992, as an F-111 Squadron Operations Officer, he led his squadron on a deployment to Turkey where the unit enforced the no-fly zone over northern Iraq for 110 days.

    From 1989-1991, then Lt. Col Turner served in the United States Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base as a staff officer and as General H. Norman Schwarzkopf’s personal briefing officer for two years. After deploying on the first U.S. aircraft to land in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia at the start of Operation Desert Shield, Lt. Col. Turner briefed Gen. Schwarzkopf, senior commanders and, on one occasion, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. During Desert Storm, Riyadh was attacked by SCUD missiles for 30 days. He was awarded the Bronze Star for service for his duty in Desert Storm.

    In 1993, Col. Turner became a staff officer for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, first serving as the Egypt/Jordan/Libya desk officer. In that capacity, Col. Turner met King Hussein of Jordan twice, and attended a two day planning conference with then Crown Prince, now the present King of Jordan, King Abdullah. For three years, from 1994-1997, Colonel Turner served as the Africa Branch Chief, responsible for representing the uniformed military on all African matters within the Washington Interagency (White House, Dept. of State, Dept. of Defense, Joint Staff). Col. Turner worked every day for two years with Dr. Susan Rice, now the President’s National Security Advisor, and attended frequent meetings in the White House situation room to address crises such as the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda, the civil wars in Liberia, Zaire, Burundi and several others. In 1995, Col. Turner joined an eight-person team led by then Ambassador, later Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright on a 10-day trip to every crisis spot in Africa. Later that year, Col. Turner personally authored a concept paper creating a U.S.-trained African peacekeeping force. The paper was approved by the President after which Col. Turner briefed the concept to 16 African governments including at least six African heads of state and seven European foreign ministries. Two years later, Congress approved $150 million supporting that program and, to date, the program has trained over 50,000 African peacekeepers.

    After retiring from the U.S. Air Force in 1997, Col. Turner became a national fundraiser, serving five different nonprofit organizations culminating in his current work at Mental Health America. In 1998, he led a national fundraising campaign that helped make the American Red Cross the top charity in America for public fundraising.

    In 2003-2004, Col. Turner was invited to become a national military commentator for National Public Radio. Following his appearance on that network, he became a regular television commentator for CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Boston and San Francisco public radio, and

    In 2009, while serving as the Chief of Congressional Affairs at Wounded Warrior Project, Col. Turner wrote the original white paper proposing training, respite care and financial support for the caregivers of severely disabled veterans. He personally advocated the program’s merits with the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees, the Depts. of Veterans Affairs and Defense, and the White House, and he planned and executed a national summit for 18 caregivers who obtained 17 co-sponsors for a Senate caregiver bill. That Senate bill became law in May, 2010, the first law ever to directly care for the caregivers of severely disable veterans.

    Col. Turner is a ten-year nationally certified ski instructor, a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, a member of Mensa, the high-IQ society, a lifetime member of the NAACP, a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and a lifetime member of the Jolly Green Pilot’s Association.

    Since he was 17, Col. Mike Turner has dedicated his life to public service. It has been a life well and fully lived, and a rare life indeed.

    Michael R. Turner is an Eagle Rare Life Award Nominee. Read his story and vote here:
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