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Ret. Army Special Forces officer who deployed 10x dies during Mt. Rainier climb in WA

Mount Rainier summit area (Stan Shebs/WikiCommons)
June 06, 2019

A retired Army Special Forces officer died in an accident while climbing Mt. Rainier in Washington state last week.

Retired Lt. Col. Arleigh William “Bill” Dean, 45, was among a group of six Mt. Rainier climbers on Liberty Ridge who suffered from a rockfall at an altitude of 10,400 feet on May 29, leaving Dean dead, two airlifted with injuries, and three unharmed, KIRO7 reported.

KIRO7 was the first to release Dean’s identity, but Task & Purpose was the first to identify Dean as a decorated Special Forces officer who played a large role in defeating ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.

Army records indicate that Dean’s military career sprawled over two decades within Special Ops. He had been deployed ten times, nine to Iraq and one to Jordan, Task & Purpose noted.

Public information officer Kevin Bacher said, “Only about two percent of the people who climb Mount Rainier every year attempt this route,” which is packed with steep, icy slopes and terrain that is ripe for avalanches.

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“These climbers actually were very well prepared, they were very experienced climbers, they were taking all of the steps necessary to make sure that they would be safe,” Bacher added.

Dean graduated from the West Point Military Academy in 1997 and retired from the Army in Aug. 2017.

Dean endured some of the harshest military training, including Special Forces Qualification, Army Ranger School, Army Air Assault School, Military Freefall School, and Special Operations Dive School.

His awards and badges include the Legion of Merit, four Bronze Star Medals, two Defense Meritorious Service Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Expert Infantryman Badge.

Dean is survived by his wife and two daughters. Dean’s memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. on June 17 in Juneau, Alaska. A GoFundMe is underway to support Dean’s family.

An Army officer who had been deployed with Dean and wished to remain anonymous said, “He was just completely devoted to his family. The hardest part is coming to terms with not having a father to raise them, because he was such an incredible dad.”

Wesley Morgan, a military affairs reporter for Politico tweeted, “Dean was a ‘critical figure’ in the campaign who “effectively ran the SDF counteroffensive from Kobani to Raqqa.”

Jan Rutherford, a fellow former Special Forces officer, friend, and business associate of Dean’s said, “he was a native of Alaska and a true outdoors man who was experienced in rock climbing.”

Rutherford added that Dean had just started a company that offered wilderness guiding and experiential learning.

Former special presidential diplomat who oversaw the anti-ISIS coalition from 2015 to 2018, Brett McGurk, said, “Our nation owes a huge debt to Bill. There are many unsung heroes like him. But he was unique: tenacious, patient, tactically acute, strategically wise, a warrior, leader, diplomat, and friend.”

“He was a warrior but also a tenacious diplomat who built close-knit relationships with a diverse group of Syrians and then organized them into a cohesive military force known as the SDF. His ingenuity together with others on his team gave confidence to senior leaders in Washington and led to America’s investment in a campaign plan that delivered beyond expectations,” McGurk added.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Tom DiTomasso, a former special operations officer and friend of Dean’s said, “A lot of what Bill Dean did is classified. Bill was the ultimate gray man; most people would have never guessed he served in the Army’s elite ranks. He looked maybe more like he ran the sales department at a Fortune 500 company. But he played such a significant role in our national security. He didn’t look gruff. He didn’t talk overly aggressive. His professionalism and personality made him one of the best Special Forces officers.”

DiTomasso concluded, “America lost one of its greatest leaders.”