Executive director reflects on 36 years of service, love for Peach State

  • Published
  • By Chrissy Miner
  • 78th Air Force Base Public Affairs
Ray Charles may have had Georgia on his mind, but Deryl Israel has Georgia in his heart.

"All roads lead to Georgia - that's my saying," gleaned the executive director of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center. Today, he retires from federal civil service after 36 years.

Growing up
As a boy, Israel grew up around the base, but really didn't know too much about what went on behind the gates.

"I could throw a rock to where I grew up, just over the interstate in Peach County," said the career engineer. He may not have known much about it, but his curiosity was ignited one day while plowing the fields at his family's farm.

"I remember riding on the tractor when I was about 15 and seeing a large C-5 doing a circle over our place... I remember thinking how big it looked - like it was suspended in the sky," exclaimed Israel.

The awe of seeing the largest weapon system in the Air Force fleet up close and personal drove Israel's interest in math and science that eventually landed him in the halls of Georgia Tech for college. The path from plowing the Peach County farm field to top civilian at Robins did not come easy. "My father passed away when I was 7," Israel said. "My mother, Evelyn, and my brothers and sister really worked hard to take care of me."

Israel also distinctly remembers being on the free-lunch program at school. "That keeps me grounded - reminds me that I need to pay it forward," said Israel.

Israel also credited his mother for putting away his father's social security death benefit to pay for his college tuition at Tech. Sadly, his mother, Evelyn Sledge, passed away last January at the age of 94. "She almost made it to 95," Israel said with a smile. "She was one amazing lady."

It wasn't until his junior year in college that a job at Robins seemed to be a possibility. It seemed like a good fit; both his brothers and numerous other family members worked on the base. The money wasn't as competitive as some of the other offers for a fresh Tech graduate, but ultimately, it came down to one simple thing - "I love Georgia - but Middle Georgia is very near and dear to my heart," said Israel.

In the beginning
He began his career at the WR-ALC, working as an engineer in the electronic warfare, counter measures and jamming systems. "It was very exciting to me to be involved in the really significant projects that had a huge impact in protecting the warfighter," said Israel, beaming with pride. "The systems I worked on helped to jam the enemy's radar systems, so our pilots could come home and fly another day."

While Israel spent about 25 years of his 36-year career at the center, he did choose to leave the state a few times for career broadening. He had assignments on the Washington D.C. beltway, and eventually landed at Ogden Air Logistics Center, in Utah, where he was named the first Director of Engineering. Prior to his current assignment, he also spent time in Florida, working acquisition issues at the Air Armament Center.

"I thought I would finish my career in Florida - until my dream job came open," said Israel with a grin. The seasoned engineer did land his dream job - capstoning his career with the top civilian job on Robins Air Force Base.

What's next
After retirement, Israel plans to spend time with family at their Kathleen home, catching up on his "honey-do list." He is also considering taking up some new hobbies.

"Jeanne and I bought some jet skis a few years back ... we hope to spend some time at the lake and do more fishing," he declared with a grin.

He also noted their love of traveling to different wineries in the Southeast. Among other things, he will need to set aside time to be the family referee when it comes to school rivalries in the family. He has two Tech grads in the family, but his eldest son rebelled and graduated from the University of Georgia. "We'll forgive him - eventually."