Married to Shannon Deese; they have seven children; deacon at his church.
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Master Sgt. Rodney Deese is committed to doing things right — all of the time. Just ask the airmen he works with here at Kisling Noncommissioned Officer Academy.
When Deese sees a missed salute or an untucked shirt, he calls out the offender.
He can't help himself. He's a former military training instructor-turned-NCO educator who has seven children of his own to keep in line.
And he wants to help foreign air forces develop the same standards that he has come to live by and respect. He has been key in bringing NCOs of other countries to Kisling for classes.
"The Air Force needs more NCOs like him," said Master Sgt. Keith Castille, who teaches at the academy, where Deese is the director of resources and first sergeant.
Even on his own time, Deese is committed to good work. He is a deacon in his church and is active in the missionary program. When an airman lost a child in a home accident, for example, he raised $1,700 in 24 hours to donate to the grieving family.
"That's so hard to lose a child. I can't even imagine," Deese said. "I just wanted to do anything we could to make it just a little bit easier on them."
For his embodiment of the Air Force, both on the job and off the clock, Deese is Air Force Times' 2010 Airman of the Year.
Deese, 29, is modest about his contributions. He hails the airmen deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan who clear the roads of bombs and fly harrowing rescue missions. Castille, though, is just as quick to point out the airmen outside the wire who rely on Deese and his fellow professional military educators to get them ready for the war zone.
Castille recalls how Deese — out for lunch with his wife and children — spotted an airman wearing boots without laces and the wrong rank on his coat. Deese went up to the airman and asked why he was dressed the way he was.
"This is how we do it on the flight line," the airman answered.
Right then and there, Deese decided to find out for himself if the airman spoke the truth. He hit the road with the airman and his family to see if this indeed was how airmen did it on the flight line.
"He doesn't take a day off," Castille said.
Kisling is the Air Force's largest overseas academy, serving five major bases, 10 wings and 80 geographically separated units.
Because of its location, Kisling is reaching out to foreign air forces, offering to train their NCOs at the academy. Deese has led the project from the beginning, said Chief Master Sgt. David Lawrence, Kisling's commandant.
"Deese has been involved in our building partnership capacity from Day One," said Lawrence, who nominated Deese for the Air Force Times' honor.
In 2009, Deese helped enroll Kisling's first foreign NCO — a Romanian Plutonier, the equivalent of a technical sergeant. He also arranged for a Botswana Defense Force delegation to visit Kisling and briefed Poland's chief master sergeant of the air force on how to enroll a Polish NCO at a U.S. NCO academy.
To help U.S. airmen, Deese oversaw the installation of $500,000 worth of audio and visual equipment that allows Kisling instructors and NCOs in Iraq and Afghanistan to communicate with each other.
"I want to set this academy up for 2020 and Deese has been a point man for that," Lawrence said. "I have full trust and confidence in everything he possibly did."
Despite his family responsibilities, Deese is always on top of his duties, Lawrence said.
Deese attributes his focus to his wife, Shannon Deese, who he married 11 years ago.
"She is the nucleus of our family," Deese said of his high school sweetheart. "Without her, none of this is possible. She supports me all the way and has the most important job, taking care of our kids."
As first sergeant of a training unit, Deese has extra challenges. Not only does he have to counsel instructors at the academy, he has to learn a new group of airmen and serve as a first shirt to every class, Castille said.
One airman came to Deese after his daughter had stolen the family's passports and money and flown back to the U.S. Deese helped the NCO sort things out and made sure he returned for the next class.
"He deals with all types of situations, from alcohol issues to break-ups to problems in training," Phillips said. "He does it all with professionalism and makes sure the airmen always come first."
Castille described Deese as a controversial pick for the first shirt assignment: He had just made master sergeant and there were other NCOs at the academy who wanted the job and had more rank. Deese, though, set himself apart in his professionalism and his work ethic. And Deese wanted it the most, Lawrence said.
"I asked everyone to write something up explaining why they wanted the job. Everyone else wrote up a paragraph or two. Deese wrote five pages why he wanted to do that job," Lawrence said. "In my 27 years of experience he is probably the most professional, disciplined airman that I have ever met in my career."
Despite the extra work load, Deese makes it look easy.
"For that job, there are a lot of straightforward decisions that some guys make more difficult than they need to be," Castille said. "Not Rodney — he sometimes almost makes it look too easy until someone else does it and then you realize how important he is."