General Wayne A. Downing
General Downing was born May 10, 1940, in Peoria, Illinois and graduated from Spalding High School.
He received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated from West Point in June 1962 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He later earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Tulane University.
He served in Vietnam from 1964-67.
In 1984, he was chosen to form and lead the 75th Ranger Regiment; Downing is considered to be the father of the modern Rangers.
In 1989, he was appointed commanding general of Joint Special Operations.
During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Downing commanded 1,200 U.S. Special Forces that halted Iraq’s SCUD missile attacks and eased missile threats in the war zone.
In 1993, he was appointed to the rank of four-star general.
In 1996, he retired as the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, where he was in charge of the special operations forces of each military service. That same year he led a task force to investigate the terrorist attack on part of a housing complex in the city of Khobar, Saudi Arabia, where foreign military, including U.S. Air Force personnel, were housed.
In 1999, he became a member of the National Commission on Terrorism.
In 2001, Downing came out of retirement to coordinate the national campaign “to detect, disrupt and destroy global terrorist organizations and those who support them.” He held the title of National Director and Deputy National Security Advisor for combating terrorism. He reported to then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security director Tom Ridge.
From 2003 until his death he held the Distinguished Chair at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
Downing was formerly a director of Metal Storm and a senior executive with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). He also performed various speaking engagements.
Besides working for the US government in his retiree years, he also worked for NBC News as a military analyst and performed various speaking engagements.
In 2006, he received the United States Military Academy’s 2006 Distinguished Graduate Award.
July 18, 2007 General Downing died at the age of 67 at Proctor Hospital, of meningitis. He is buried in the West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York on September 27, 2007. His grave is just north of the main cemetery building.
On September 24, 2008, the Metropolitan Authority of Peoria voted unanimously to change the name of the Greater Peoria Regional Airport to the “General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport”.
Military Honors Include:
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