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Real Thaw 2019: a milestone for Dobbins intelligence chief

A photo collage of U.S. Air Force Maj. Kerry Lyon, 94th Operations Support Squadron deputy chief of wing intelligence, displays moments during his early career in the U.S. Marine Corps. Lyon recently marked 30 years of military service during Exercise Real Thaw 2019. Real Thaw is a Portuguese-led large joint and combined force exercise held annually where Dobbins supports many of the aerial functions of the exercise. (Courtesy Photo)

A photo collage of U.S. Air Force Maj. Kerry Lyon, 94th Operations Support Squadron deputy chief of wing intelligence, displays moments during his early career in the U.S. Marine Corps. Lyon recently marked 30 years of military service during Exercise Real Thaw 2019. Real Thaw is a Portuguese-led large joint and combined force exercise held annually where Dobbins supports many of the aerial functions of the exercise. (Courtesy Photo)

BEJA, PORTUGAL --

For most Reserve Airmen, being part of an exercise involves a sharp focus on training and collaborating with counterparts both domestically and internationally. One underlying theme that often goes unrecognized during exercises is the memories formed and their lasting effect on an Airman’s career in the Air Force Reserve. 

Maj. Kerry Lyon, 94th Operations Support Squadron deputy chief of wing intelligence, recently celebrated 30 years of military service while participating at Exercise Real Thaw 2019. Real Thaw is a Portuguese-led, large-scale joint and combined force exercise held annually in Portugal. This year’s exercise was held at Beja Air Base from Sept. 23-Oct 3, 2019.

Three decades ago, Lyon joined the military with the U.S. Marine Corps where he served as an electronic technician. After 10 years on active duty, Lyon returned home and joined the Air Force Reserve. After getting a business degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology, he commissioned through the Deserving Airman Program.

Now after 30 years, Lyon reflects on some of his favorite memories.

“For every deployment you make new friends,” said Lyon. “That’s valuable memories you get to take with you.”

Lyon is no stranger to temporary duty assignments and deployments. His military career has taken him across the globe – from Canada to Qatar and everywhere between.

While participating in Real Thaw this year, Lyon helped create simulated scenarios and plotted potential threats on maps for daily briefings with all of the NATO personnel participating in the exercise.

“I work with Maj. Lyon back at home station and here on exercises,” said Maj. Aaron Brown, mission commander for the exercise and 700th Airlift Squadron weapons and tactics chief. “He provides the intelligence updates and the threat picture. It is really important for us to have that information when conducting an operational mission. As the threats change, our tactics have to change with them. We can’t change our tactics and adjust without knowing what the threats are. Our intelligence piece is huge with Lyon giving us our briefings every day. It has been great watching his colleagues learn from him and he learns from them as well. His interaction with the crew has been amazing.”

Lyon initially never thought he would put in such an extensive amount of time in the military, but said he felt fortunate to remain healthy and to serve his country for so many years. Having the ability to mentor and shape younger Airmen is another bonus, he added.

“We’ve been working together for a really long time – more than 10 years,” said Tech. Sgt. Brierly Davis, 94th OSS intelligence analyst. “When we are on a deployment or temporary duty, we are the dream team. I really enjoy brainstorming together to find creative ways of looking at problems. He has made me a better analyst.”

Looking back on his experience Lyon also has some wise advice for junior Airmen. He encourages them to be curious, always ask questions, make friends, and network. He also said he wants Airmen to focus on looking out for each other.

“We just finished up National Suicide Awareness Month in September and one of the biggest things we can bring to the table is providing an organization where we are all teammates and we have the whole wingman concept; that we belong to something,” said Lyon. “I think this gets overlooked sometimes but we should embrace it.”

Lyon said he enjoys his job in intelligence because he never gets bored. He gets the chance to learn something new and uses critical thinking skills to develop scenarios and add value to the mission by keeping troops out of harm’s way.

Whether on a simulated battlefield overseas or in his office back at Dobbins, taking care of his fellow Airmen remains a consistent theme throughout his extensive career.