Ian Dickinson only spent three years of his childhood in Las Vegas, but he still considers it his hometown.
"And it’s not just that my mother still lives there right across the street from Western High School," he said.
In July, the career military man earned one of his highest personal and professional achievements when he was promoted to brigadier general in the Air Force and commander of the 81st Training Wing at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.
Dickinson, who has master’s degrees in public policy and computer science, will lead a relatively new operation to teach military personnel how to protect communication networks from attacks from enemies.
"Our enemies try to attack us in the air, space and now cyberspace," he said. "We have to teach our airmen how to defend our country in every space."
It was in Las Vegas that he solidified his decision to go into the Air Force and prepare for his future career, he said.
Dickinson said when his father moved the family to Las Vegas in the late 1970s, he was entering the 10th grade and researched quite a few schools. One of them was Western High School, which had a junior ROTC Air Force program and was very close to their new home.
He was thrilled, he said.
"It was great preparation to get in to the Air Force Academy, which I’d adopted as a goal at that point," he said. "I was very much influenced by leaders and teachers there."
Dickinson said he felt his time in Las Vegas and with the junior ROTC, which gave him the chance to fill leadership roles during his junior and senior years, provided him a "leg up" when he went to the Air Force Academy in Colorado.
Because he already had learned basic skills, such as marching and shining shoes, he could spend more time doing different things.
"I spent my time helping my classmates learn those tasks, and focused on learning the heritage and knowledge about the Air Force and the military," he said.
Dickinson’s mother, Sheila Dickinson, said her son’s interest in the Air Force began when he was a boy.
He started talking about the Air Force when he was around 8 or 9 years old, she said.
But in Las Vegas, he flourished, she said. During his senior year at Western High School, he was one of two presidential scholars in Nevada.
"He was invited to the White House," she said. "I have a wonderful picture of him shaking hands with Nancy Reagan."
Although his decision to join the Air Force was made because of his strong desire to be a pilot, Dickinson was ruled unqualified to fly fighter jets after developing asthma after high school.
It was an initial disappointment, but he said he is thrilled with the number of airmen he has been able to teach throughout his career.
As for flying, that might be a dream for another day when he has time to pursue a private pilot’s license.
"After I leave active duty, maybe."
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0283.