No matter how many stars are on his uniform these days, Rob Palmer still has to take the garbage out.
It’s part of his military family tradition that keeps him grounded, he told the Observer – one that since 2015 has made its home in Oregon.
And after this weekend, they’ll have a certified general around to help keep perfect order on the weekend “honey-do” list.
Palmer, a long-time Air Force and Army veteran, will reach a career-defining moment Friday, Jan. 10, when he’s set to be publicly promoted to brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Senate confirmed the promotion Nov. 21, 2019. It is the capstone of a career in the military that started in 1990.
While he’s officially been a brigadier general for about six weeks, he’s not yet wearing the rank insignia yet, Palmer wrote the Observer in an email last week. In the U.S. Armed Forces, a brigadier general wears a silver star on their shoulder or collar; the first of four rankings for general officers.
“It is all still very surreal,” he wrote. “I don’t really feel differently, and my wife still expects me to do chores around the house, so I can’t really tell if anything has changed.
“It is both a tremendous honor and deeply humbling, and I know that I could have never done this without the help and mentorship of the unbelievable men and women with whom I’ve served,” he added.
Palmer works around 30 days a year at the Pentagon as mobilization assistant to the Air Force director of public affairs in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. He’s responsible for providing public affairs policy and communications strategies to the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force and other senior leaders on issues like recruiting, readiness, operations, force structure and personnel.
“When (the director) travels on Air Force business or takes leave, I fill in for him, kind of like a substitute teacher,” Palmer wrote.
Back home in his “regular” day job, Palmer is vice president of government affairs at WPS Health Solutions in Monona, representing the company to state and federal agencies and military beneficiary associations. When he left active duty in 2015 to accept that position, he and his family moved here from Warner Robins, Georgia, the home of Robins Air Force Base.
Palmer, whose father served in the Army Reserves, said he was “always” interested in the military, with childhood heroes like generals Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur and Dwight Eisenhower. “As a kid, any vacation that included a trip to a battlefield was the perfect vacation for me,” he wrote. “Unfortunately for my wife and kids, that is still true today.”
After attending the prestigious South Carolina military institute The Citadel, the Plainfield, Indiana native soon found himself in the middle of historic world events.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the military started to downsize, he said, so when he was commissioned in 1990, he joined the Indiana Army National Guard as a field artillery officer. In 2001, the unit was deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of the NATO Stabilization Force, where Palmer got the chance to work alongside Air Force officers.
“(I) realized the Air Force treats its people very well,” he wrote.
Within a couple of years, he decided to continue his service in the Air Force Reserve.
“Every assignment in my career, both green and blue, has been rewarding,” he wrote. “Every job I’ve had taught me something new, and I’ve had the chance to work with truly great people.”
Palmer, who has a son who’s a theater major at DePaul University and another who’s an Oregon High School junior, credits his family for being “very understanding” through his globetrotting career, he said.
“While I’m off doing glamorous and exciting things, my wife, Kim, keeps the family running smoothly,” he wrote. “There have been plenty of missed ballgames, performances, and parent-teacher conferences. What has been really heartwarming for me is that Kim and the boys have been more excited about my promotion than I have.
“They should be, because it is as much theirs as it is mine,” Palmer added.