He emerged as a respected, powerful advocate for Guard service members who pushed the Bush administration for more support for those men and women.
Ret. Maj. Gen. Tim Lowenberg, who led the Washington Army National Guard and Air National Guard through the post-911 era of war and repeated call-ups, died Sunday.
Through those years, Maj. Gen. Lowenberg emerged as a respected, powerful advocate for Guard service members who pushed the Bush administration for more support for those men and women. In a statement released Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee praised Maj. Gen. Lowenberg for working to “ensure they had the tools and funding they needed to carry out their mission overseas … I want to thank him and his family for their service and sacrifice.
Maj. Gen. Lowenberg, who resided in University Place, Pierce County, was 70.
Cathy Lowenberg said her father died of an apparent heart attack.
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“My dad felt that the military was what general society should be like — a true meritocracy,” she said.
He served as the state’s adjutant general from 1999 until 2012, when he retired after 44 years of military service. In that position, he also oversaw the state’s Emergency Management Division, where he pressed for greater cooperation and preparedness among government agencies.
“He could be tough, but could also be very introspective and compassionate,” said Jim Mullen, a former director of the state Emergency Management Division. “He did a lot of good things. And people in the state now and the future will benefit from his efforts.”
Maj. Gen. Lowenberg was raised in the small farming town of Donnellson, Iowa. His military career began as he enrolled in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Iowa. He received a law degree there in 1971. He then served on active duty at McChord Air Force Base, where he put his legal skills to use as a judge advocate.
Maj. Gen. Lowenberg came of age in the Vietnam era, when the Pentagon largely bypassed the Guard and, instead, relied on a draft to fight the war.
By 9/11, as he headed up the state’s Guard, the draft was long gone, replaced by all-volunteer forces. Within this military, Maj. Gen. Lowenberg felt that the citizens soldiers — drawn from communities all over the nation to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan — were an important part of the war effort whose service helped bring home the human costs of a conflict to the American public.
“I think it helps raise the stakes for a president when he wants to go to war,” Maj. Gen. Lowenberg said in an interview with The Seattle Times. “It creates a natural check and balance on executive power and helps elevate the public discourse in a way that would not otherwise happen.”
During the Iraq war, Maj. Gen. Lowenberg was a leader in a successful national campaign to increase the funding, equipping and clout of the Guard.
That fight sometimes put him in opposition to the Bush administration, whose first defense secretary — Donald Rumsfeld — chafed at the need to call up Guard units to fight a war.
At one point, the Pentagon sought to call up a portion of Washington’s 81st Brigade Combat Team. He pushed back, saying the brigade had trained to deploy as a unit — not piecemeal. He won that argument, with the brigade — as an entire unit — twice deploying to Iraq.
His civilian career included two years as an assistant state attorney general, in private practice and teaching at the University of Puget Sound and Seattle University’s law school. After his retirement from the military, he went to work for Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs.
Maj. Gen. Lowenberg is survived by his wife, Mary Lowenberg, of University Place; his daughter Cathy Lowenberg, of Honolulu, Hawaii; and two sisters, Jan Casey and Judy Aitken, both of California.
Information about his services will be available from New Tacoma Cemeteries and Funeral Home.