U.S. Air Force colonel discovered Church, military service compatible

In May 1968, Robert and Roberta (Robbie) Drewes felt they weren't getting anything out of the church services they were attending. They wanted a religion that would help them in their new responsibilities as parents.

Their search led them to the LDS Church. Now Drewes, a 47-year-old colonel, has become one of a handful of Latter-day Saints to have ever been selected for promotion to brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. He is the vice commander of the Air Force Contract Management Division, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.Drewes was then a young Air Force officer living in a military housing area in Dayton, Ohio. Among their neighbors were Paul and Lynette Hancock.

"We had always enjoyed the Hancocks' company, and we were very aware of their membership in the LDS Church," Drewes said.

Another friend had visited Temple Square and had returned expressing admiration for the Church. This piqued Robbie's interest, and when she saw Lynette taking out her trash one day, Robbie yelled, "What's this about eternal marriage?"

A few weeks later, the missionaries taught the Drewes the first discussion. In July 1968 they were baptized. Soon after they joined, the Drewes realized that the Church would demand much of their time – not an abundant quantity for a young Air Force officer and his family.

But Drewes, now a member of the Albuquerque (N.M.) 9th Ward, devoted himself where called, serving as a bishop, high councilor and financial clerk. As he grew in the Church, he continued to progress in the Air Force.

"I have found service in the Church and military very compatible," Drewes said. "The Church's emphasis on correlation, accountability, planning and teamwork have been helpful to me in my work and profession."

Through his Church service, Drewes also learned to focus on the importance of the individual and his contribution. It also helped him and his wife as parents. Two of their three children are attending BYU.

His military career began with his commission as a second lieutenant in 1964 and assignment to the Aeronautical Systems Division, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, as a contract negotiator and program manager.

In 1968 he attended Harvard Business School, earning a master's degree in business administration. Two years later he became a procurement staff officer at Andrews AFB, Md., and later took command of the Department of Defense operation at the Bendix facility in Teterboro, N.J. There he served as bishop of the Emerson (N.J.) Ward.

"It was a heavy responsibility for me, but I enjoyed it," he said.

Col. Drewes was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force in Washington, D.C., from 1977 to 1980 as an acquisitions staff officer. He was executive officer and later military assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Research, Development and Logistics. From 1982 to 1984, he was a military adviser in the executive office of the President of the United States at the White House. From 1985 to 1988, he led a large organization at Hanscom AFB, Mass., in charge of acquiring high performance military systems.

As he looked back on his military career, he reiterated the counsel a bishop once gave him. "As long as you serve the Lord and your profession to the best of your ability, everything works out for you," Drewes remembered the bishop saying. He added, "I have always found that to be true."