Keith Parry said he always knew he wanted to join the United States Marine Corps. Military service runs through Parry’s family history, and by honoring this innate calling, Parry has stepped forward as a leader throughout his infantry, intelligence, and special operations missions. His combat deployments span decades, and Parry’s personal decorations include the Legion of Merit and three bronze stars (with combat gallantry appliances), but his 30-year service career is distinguished by an ability unique in training, understanding and organizing Marines at all levels. order.
After his first operational tour, Parry served as an instructor at the Basic School and Infantry Officers Course in Quantico, Va., where early career officers learn leadership, ground infantry operations and general combat preparations; he trained over 1,000 new officers during his time at Marine Corps Combat Development Command. Then, from 2002 to 2012, Parry led six combat deployments across Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, and led his teams through reconnaissance missions, raids, civil-military operations and other combat missions.
“I had important mentors, both as a young enlisted sailor and as an officer, who taught me that it wasn’t about me, it was about the people I had lucky to be able to lead,” said Parry, who was promoted to colonel. in 2016. “I never took that for granted, and it guided me to focus on my teams to help them survive the rigors of combat.”
The common philosophy or refrain within the Marine Corps is “Mission First, Marines Always”, but Parry’s unconventional philosophy confused his superiors. His leadership style overturned doctrine through accountability and leadership in service to his units. Parry believed that if they were well trained for the mission, disciplined to respond to a variety of situations, and confident that he was defending them throughout the chain of command, then his teams would be able to perform in any what an environment.
“Marines first, mission always,” has become Parry’s personal code because those “bonds of trust are the greatest combat multipliers,” he said.
Parry had experience training and leading multiple units and teams, both general ground forces and special operators, in preparation for and during numerous deployments. For six to nine months prior to deployment, they train techniques, strategies, and tactics so that once on the battlefield, they are prepared for anything they might encounter against enemy action. In addition to tactical skills, teams also train communication behaviors and relationship skills so they can move and adapt as a cohesive group.
“No plan ever survives first contact,” Parry said. Because his teams trusted “commander’s intent”, he in turn trusted them to react to the situation and communicate necessary changes. Parry said the ability to adapt and improvise is the most important differentiating factor among special operations forces.
“Their experience and maturity helps them better assess and mitigate risk. They have the skills and training to change on the fly, and be bold but not reckless,” Parry said.
In 2012, Parry relinquished command of the battalion and reported to the National War College at National Defense University in Washington, DC for an intensive one-year master’s program in national security strategy. After graduation, he was assigned to the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) at the Pentagon; Parry served as Special Operations Liaison Officer to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as well as Director General to the Vice Commander of USSOCOM.
Promoted to colonel in October 2016, Parry was selected as branch chief of the Special Warfare, Plans, Policy and Operations Directorate at Marine Corps Headquarters. By the time he retired in 2019, Parry was already planning and continuing his post-military journey. His work at the Pentagon exposed Parry to budgeting and the business side of warfare, and during his last six months of active duty, Parry shuttled between Washington D.C. and Austin while studying in the Executive MBA program at the University of Texas and developing a plan. for his family to transition and put down roots in central Texas.
Currently, Parry serves as Vice President of Risk Management, Business Continuity, Critical Infrastructure Protection and Public Safety for the Lower Colorado River Authority. He and his wife, Nancy, have twins Ashlee and Zachary, and they reside in Austin. Parry is also a Central Texas Ambassador for The Honor Foundation, an executive transition program focused on special operations.
“Even today, I continue to be inspired by my teams and those relationships,” Parry said.
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