True 'blue' family: Siblings follow in father's footsteps to rank of colonel

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tammie Moore
  • 376th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
It is not uncommon for children to decide they want to embrace new experiences when they graduate from high school and begin forging their own path in life, facing the unknown.

This was not the case for now retired Col. Mark Dierlam.  Each of his three children chose to follow in his footsteps seeking a commission in the Air Force. Col. Todd Dierlam is deployed to the Transit Center at Manas as the 376th Expeditionary Operations Group commander, Col. Scott Dierlam is the director of the U.S. Air Force Academy Office in Washington, D.C., and Col. Tish Norman is the Reserve advisor to the 24th Air Force commander at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

"He didn't push the Air Force, but I could see how much he enjoyed serving," Scott Dierlam said. "Also, I saw firsthand all the great opportunities the Air Force offered."

Each of the Dierlam children attended the U.S. Air Force Academy located outside Colorado Springs, Colo., and was commissioned by their father.

"Growing up with a father who was a Texas Aggie and an Air Force pilot, I always thought I'd become an officer and fly," said Todd Dierlam, who soon departs the Transit Center to return to Patrick AFB, Fla. "My dad always said you can go to school anywhere you want ... but I'll pay for you to go to Texas A&M. Not that there is anything wrong with Texas A&M -- I still root for them come football season -- but we all just found an alternative in the AFA. My sister learned about the AFA and decided to go. It was a very natural decision for me to make with my sister and brother there."

Throughout the years the Dierlam siblings have had opportunities to serve together, creating several lasting memories.

"All three of us were together at the Academy my freshman year, (which was my) sister's senior year and (my) brother's sophomore year," Todd Dierlam said. "Then, my sister was a Squadron Officer's School instructor when I went through SOS at Maxwell AFB, Ala. I showed up at intramural volleyball and discovered she was the referee. During the match, she called me for a carry that to this day, I firmly believe it was not. (I'm) still not over it."

The two brothers, both C-17 Globemaster III pilots, served together for a year with the 14th Airlift Squadron at Charleston AFB, S.C.

"I remember my squadron commander coming to me in the flight planning area with an inbound rip (notification) with my brother's name on it," Todd Dierlam said. "He asked me if I recognized the name. I said yes. He said ... sponsor him. So I did."

The times the family members served at the same location has meant a lot to them.

"Two of my career highlights include the one year all three of us were cadets at the Air Force Academy, and the year Todd and I served together in the 14th AS," Scott Dierlam said.

As the years passed, the Dierlam siblings chose to embrace the Air Force and like their father, each attained the rank of colonel.

"We were very proud to see they had all achieved this distinction," Mark Dierlam said. "It was the collimation of many years of hard work on their part."

Despite the miles the Air Force has often placed between them, they agree the family has remained close.

"The one challenge associated with us all serving is the limited amount of time we are able to spend together," Scott Dierlam said. "However, with all the technology advances, it is easier and easier to stay connected."

The brothers believe there are numerous rewards to having a few Airmen in the family.

"I love serving in the Air Force and it is great to have family members who share this love and truly understand what you are going through," Scott Dierlam said. "We never run out of things to talk about and we constantly run across common friends."

"I like to talk about three F's, faith, flag -- meaning service to country and the Air Force -- and family.  Those are my priorities," Todd Dierlam said. "It's nice to be able to share all of those aspects together with my siblings. It's been great to be able to share experiences throughout our careers."