Gary Doolittle, Director of Fixed Operations, Midway Chevrolet
Each month, Fighter Country Partnership features an Honorary Commander – both alumni and current members. This month’s feature is on Mr. Gary Doolittle, Director of Fixed Operations for Midway Chevrolet. He is responsible for overseeing all day-to-day business operations for the Fixed Operations division, including managing, leading and working with 175 fellow employees.
Mr. Gary Doolittle has worked in the automotive business for 33 years. He started his management career at the age of 21, running the collision center for long-time Valley Chevy dealer, Ray Korte. Gary stuck with the GM brand throughout his career and has weathered the ups and downs of three decades in the automotive business, winning numerous awards along the way. For the past ten years, he has worked with the Van Tuyl Group at Midway Chevrolet in Phoenix.
His family history includes some prominent military ties. Gary’s cousin, General Jimmy Doolittle, commanded the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. General Doolittle and his all-volunteer crews flew B-25 bombers off the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet for the epic raid on Japan in April of 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Gary considers it an honor and a privilege to be associated with such a legend.
“I have been blessed with a great family,” Gary said. “I have a beautiful wife, six children, and seven grandchildren. My wife, Margo, is my biggest supporter and the major contributor to the successes we have shared.”
On August 4, 2010, Gary received a letter from the Commander of the 56th Fighter Wing, Brigadier General Kurt F. Neubauer, inviting him to become an Honorary Commander at Luke Air Force Base. “My blood was running fast through my veins both from the sheer excitement and the wonder of what this all means,” Gary stated. “I had no idea of the adventure I was about to embark on.”
Gary remembers his first visit to the base on December 6, 2010.
“I can vividly remember driving through the guard station at the south gate. As I turned onto Fighter Country Avenue, I saw my first glimpse of the F-16s lined up in their hangers waiting their turn to hit the skies. As I drove north, three jets started to taxi out to the runway. I had to pull over and enjoy the moment. One at a time they lined up on the runway, revved up to full throttle and then were off. I watched them as they flew out of sight. It still brings chills up and down my spine,” Gary said.
Gary has thoroughly enjoyed the time he has spent with his adopted squadron and host commander, Major James Blackman, Commander of the 56th Component Maintenance Squadron.
“The Midway team and I have had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with the 56th CMS through our company events and personal time. We had a company-sponsored paintball event in Glendale. Major Blackman and his team came out and destroyed the competition. It was awesome. They also were at our company-sponsored day at Chase Field Ball Park to see the Diamondbacks play, our company Christmas party, and golf outings. Major Blackman even made it to my 50th birthday party,” Gary said.
“One of the coolest things is how the 56 CMS has brought me in and treated me like one of their own,” Gary explained. “I think the poet Maya Angelou said it best: ‘”I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
“Major Blackman and his wife Jennifer invited us to their daughter’s ballet performance of the Nutcracker in November. Their daughter, Julia, is a budding ballerina. Julia put on a wonderful show. My wife and I brought our granddaughter, Reagan, who thoroughly enjoyed the evening.”
“Margo, and I have enjoyed all the events at the base, including when Brigadier General Jerry Harris, current commander of the 56thFighter Wing, and his lovely wife, Heather, opened up their house for a holiday party,” Gary said. “The Air Force is close-knit family. They have many events together that help build solid relationships and teamwork for the squadron.”
Gary explained that one of the highlights of the year was the bomb loading competition. “As it was explained to me, when the planes land back at the base from their mission, they have to be reloaded with new bombs. Accuracy and speed are key in making sure the planes are always war-ready. The base trains relentlessly for this. Just one more reason why we have the greatest Air Force in the world,” Gary said.
Major James Blackman, Commander of the 56th Component Squadron comments on his experience with his assigned Honorary Commander:
“Mr. Gary Doolittle, his wife Margo, and the team at Midway Chevrolet are such outstanding supporters of the Airman in CMS, and at Luke AFB,” explained Major Blackman. “Gary is a superb Honorary Commander. He and his wife’s eagerness to attend our many base functions have made it an absolute joy to get to know them more. They have become part of the CMS family and welcomed me and my family into theirs. Each opportunity I spend time with Gary, I get a chance to see the mission of Luke through the eyes of a great supporter and advocate, and I benefit greatly from these times as I am left reminded once again of the awesome trust and confidence our nation has in its military.”
- Since 1964, Midway Chevrolet has been a supporter of Luke Air Force Base and its airmen. Here are just a few things Midway and its employees have done to support the troops.
- In 2006, Midway Chevrolet and its employees donated a Chevy Suburban to the family of Major Troy Gilbert, an F-16 pilot assigned to Luke AFB who died in combat while engaged in support of coalition ground combat operations north of Baghdad. The loss of Major Gilbert was a true tragedy, Gary stated. “Midway Chevrolet and its employees saw that the family had a need and wanted to meet that need.”
- In 2009, Midway raised money to contribute to Fighter Country Partnership at its Community Day/Support the Troops event, which was held at the dealership. Luke’s Bomb Dogs, the National Guard, and Congressman Trent Franks were just a few who attended the event and made it a great day. More than 1,200 people attended.
- This will be the third year for the golf tournament that raises money for the Folds of Honor program. The GM Parts Departments in the Valley and Midway’s Parts Manager, Rod Martin, run this successful fundraising event. Rod’s son-in-law, Lt. Col. Michael Loforti, is an F-16 pilot who was stationed and flew out of Luke.
“It is a great feeling to be part of a company that is focused on helping, taking care of and working with Luke AFB and the community we live in,” Gary said. “Being an Honorary Commander has given me a dose of optimism and a chance to pause and consider a brighter future.”