Much of what Bill Dean did in his professional career was classified, but his impact on individuals’ lives is well documented.
Dean, a 45-year-old Juneau man who died last week in a rock fall on Mount Rainier, was a commander and operations officer for the U.S. Army, leading special operations in over a dozen deployments in the Middle East and North Africa, according to Lt. Col. Loren Bymer. Bymer, the director of public affairs for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, said Dean trained and led special operations teams in “sensitive missions” from 2011-2013.
Jan Rutherford, a longtime colleague both in the military and in leadership programs over the years, stated in a public Facebook post that Dean was a gifted leader.
“Bill Dean was Superman and Captain America combined, and it’s inconceivable that mother nature did what the enemy couldn’t,” Rutherford wrote. “I know Bill would want us to keep pushing the limits, so in his honor we shall.”
Brett McGurk, a lecturer at Stanford and foreign affairs analyst for NBC News, wrote on Twitter that Dean “was a quiet warrior who helped lead the campaign against ISIS in Syria.”
This is devastating news. Bill Dean was a quiet warrior who helped lead the campaign against ISIS in Syria. His courage and ingenuity turned a bleak situation into a winning campaign. Thank you, Bill, for all you have done for our country. Rest In Peace. https://t.co/88VeaLWjqS— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) June 1, 2019
Family members declined to comment for this article.
There’s been a huge outpouring of support for Dean’s family since his death. A GoFundMe page, entitled “In Honor of Bill Dean,” raised nearly $40,000 in just three days (the stated goal was $1,000). The money is going to benefit Dean’s wife Ruth and their two daughters, Rutherford wrote on Facebook. More than a thousand people shared it on Facebook, and dozens of people have left comments with anecdotes, tributes and thoughts about Dean.
Dean’s body was brought back to Juneau on Tuesday and was welcomed back by family as well as personnel from the Juneau Police Department, Capital City Fire/Rescue, the Transportation Security Administration, Alaska Airlines and airport employees. It was a private event, and the media was not invited.
Dean, a graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School, the United States Military Academy at West Point (1997) and the Naval Postgraduate School (2011), helped others push themselves and learn about what they’re capable. He began studying at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in 2017, according to his LinkedIn profile, and was involved with multiple programs that organize outdoor excursions for veterans.
Among those excursions were trips to the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau and to Mount Rainier. Maggie Ward, who had just left the U.S. Coast Guard in 2017, went on the trip to the glacier with Dean’s group. She was nervous, as she wasn’t very experienced outdoors, but she said Dean’s confidence and positivity made her feel better even when she struggled to believe in herself.
“He felt like a father figure to me and a mentor, in that you could really push yourself,” Ward said in an interview. “For me, knowing he believed I could do something, I didn’t care if I thought I could do it, because I trusted him so much that I knew it was possible.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.