Maj. Gen. Timothy Gowen, a longtime Leonardtown resident, has been selected by Gov. Larry Hogan to head the Maryland National Guard as its 30th adjutant general.
Bringing with him a lengthy and distinguished history of leadership, military and civil service, Gowen was recognized during a change of command ceremony Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore.
“I am honored to appoint Maj. Gen. Gowen as the adjutant general for Maryland,” Hogan (R) said in a statement. “He is a proven leader who will ensure the Maryland National Guard remains one of the best organizations in the nation.”
Gowen is taking the helm as Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, the first African American and first woman appointed as adjutant general in 2015, retires.
Gowen will now oversee a team of 7,500 National Guard soldiers and civilian staff members across the Guard’s four Army and Air units, essentially as Hogan’s cabinet secretary in charge of the state military department, he said.
Along with its role to augment military forces during war, the U.S. National Guard also has the responsibility for domestic operations, including natural disasters and civil unrest.
The two-star general is moving into his new role after serving as the first U.S. Army National Guard deputy commanding general for the U.S. Army Futures Command in Austin, a command launched last year to oversee the Army’s modernization efforts. Prior to that, Gowen was the deputy commanding general for the Army National Guard at the U.S. Aviation Center of Excellence, based in Fort Rucker, Ala., while serving as assistant adjutant general.
“Up until now, this is the first time in my adult life that I’ve had only one job,” Gowen said last week in his office at the Maryland National Guard Armory Patuxent in Lexington Park, one of 31 National Guard armories left in the state, he noted.
Gowen joined the National Guard in 1998 and has served in a myriad of roles around the country and a total of six general officer roles, including as Singh’s assistant adjutant general from 2015 to late 2018, overseeing roughly 4,500 soldiers in the Maryland Army National Guard.
“While I was [assistant adjutant general], we responded to the Baltimore civil unrest, we had at least three or four snow storms, a couple of hurricanes and a lot of floods. So I got really good at [responding to] that,” Gowen said.
And last week — his first week as adjutant general — Gowen said the Maryland National Guard deployed two helicopters with aquatic rescue teams to North Carolina in response to Hurricane Dorian.
“He’s a really collaborative, caring leader — he likes to create highly capable teams and then let them go and do amazing things,” Brig. Gen. Adam Flasch, who serves as the director of the joint staff for the Maryland National Guard, said.
Flasch, who said he’s worked with Gowen for over a decade, added that Gowen “gets the best out of his people. He’s always looking to take care of everyone else, that’s kind of the hallmark of his leadership style. … He’s a focused leader [with] a strategic vision of where he wants to take our organization.”
With a background in aviation — the senior Army aviator has two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s degree in aerospace engineering and a master’s in strategic studies — Gowen moved to Leonardtown 24 years ago and took a position as aerospace engineer at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, rising to assistant program executive officer for NAVAIR’s Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault and Special Warfare Programs. He is retiring from Pax River this year, he said.
Gowen also served as commander of the National Guard’s Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot task force in Kuwait from 2006 to 2007, and as a captain in the 101st Airborne Division during operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia from 1990 to 1991, where he was deployed during active duty. Throughout his career, Gowen has been recognized with numerous awards, including Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars and numerous air medals.
“He’s had commands at all levels and multiple deployments,” Flasch said. “He’s a muddy boots leader. … He’s willing to share the experiences soldiers share, so that he can make sure we’re all taken care of.”
Gowen didn’t come from a military family, but his father’s career with a defense contractor that fashioned “nuts and bolts” for military aircraft inspired his interest in aviation, Gowen said.
“My love of military came from my dad, I think my leadership skills came from my mom. She was a big thinker and … I certainly gleaned from her the strategic level of thinking that I seem to flourish in,” Gowen said.
The Philadelphia native said he initially enrolled at Temple University in the hopes of becoming an airline pilot, then pursued a U.S. Army JROTC scholarship and subsequently “ended up going on active duty. … What changed my life is while I was at Embry-Riddle [Aeronautical University], I read a book called “The Right Stuff,” and that made me want to become a test pilot,” Gowen said.
“I took the plunge, and finished my time on active duty, then went back and started from scratch,” receiving a degree in mechanical engineering from Temple University, he said. “That set me on the course to come here to Pax River.”
As adjutant, Gowen said his goals for the state Guard are to improve recruitment and retention, while paying mind to diversity, an initiative his predecessor Singh pushed for.
“She was a strong advocate of inclusion,” Gowen said of Singh. “We talked a lot about that and how I can continue” that initiative.
But one of the biggest challenges of the National Guard is recruiting and retention, Gowen said.
“It’s an all-volunteer force. It’s incumbent upon me to set the conditions in the Maryland National Guard such that people want to be here [by providing] them with meaningful, purposeful work, good training, the opportunity to grow and the opportunity to perform their mission like it’s their own — to provide them autonomy,” Gowen said. “That involves not only selecting the right leaders, but making sure there’s good training, that it’s resourced, it’s well-prepared … it’s giving them opportunities for growth.
“People give up their time and their families to do this. It’s not about the money. It’s more about augmenting what they’re doing in their career with this cool thing … whatever their occupational skill is.”
Gowen’s wife is an aerospace engineer at NAVAIR, and his youngest daughter is enrolled at Leonardtown Middle School. Gowen’s older daughter and son go to school and work in Pennsylvania.