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The University Magazine

RIT launched new Air Force general’s stellar career

Bill Destler
Brigadier General Larry Grundhauser ’78

When Larry Grundhauser graduated from RIT in 1978 (photo management), a military career was nowhere on his radar.

Yet this past June, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Bush’s appointment of Grundhauser as Air Force brigadier general, one of fewer than 300 generals among the Air Force’s 336,000 personnel.

“RIT gave me skills that have opened doors that I never would have imagined,” says the new one-star general, who now serves at the Pentagon as vice director for intelligence on the Joint Staff. His responsibilities include providing intelligence to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense.

A native of McMinnville, Ore., Grundhauser chose RIT because of its reputation in photographic arts and sciences. He excelled at RIT, earning Outstanding Undergraduate Scholar honors, Phi Kappa Phi induction and graduating summa kum laude. Prior to graduation, he turned down a job offer from the CIA and went to work for a Seattle photo processing firm. His interest in intelligence was redirected to the Air Force at the suggestion of an Air Force intelligence veteran who worked for him.

“I thought my photo science background might be useful to the Air Force and its reconnaissance programs, but I waited two years to hear back after approaching a recruiter,” says Grundhauser. He had almost forgotten about the Air Force when he learned that he qualified and could enter active duty as an intelligence officer in early 1982. After Officer Training School in San Antonio, Texas, Grundhauser attended the Armed Forces Air Intelligence Training Center at Lowry Air Force Base, Colo.

From that point, his career took off. He attained the highest academic average in the history of the Air Force’s imagery intelligence school and got his wish to work with the SR-71 and U-2 high altitude reconnaissance programs at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Within a year he was named Strategic Air Command (SAC) Intelligence Officer of the Year, the most junior officer in SAC history to do so. He volunteered for the SAC ICBM crew force, serving as a missile launch officer and senior instructor in Montana for nearly five years.

After ICBM duty, he returned to the intelligence career field where he supported cruise missile targeting against Saddam Hussein’s forces during Desert Storm, which earned him distinction as the Air Force’s Outstanding Intelligence Officer of the Year. He was subsequently selected to serve as an arms control policy adviser at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and to the U.S. Ambassador to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty implementation bodies in Geneva, Switzerland.

Grundhauser’s impressive official bio notes that he has served as a commander three times. He commanded a U-2 high altitude reconnaissance and Predator unmanned aircraft ground station during the 1999 air war over Kosovo, and also commanded the Air Force’s largest Information Operations Group. Grundhauser helped perfect distributed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance strategy and tactics for Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom combat operations.

Grundhauser was director of intelligence for Joint Task Force-Southwest Asia during 2000-2001, when coalition forces faced Saddam Hussein as he defied the United Nations. He is credited with revamping U-2 employment concepts and devised unconventional use of Predators against Iraqi forces that paved the way for tactics now used routinely by coalition forces.

Prior to his current assignment at the Pentagon, Grundhauser served at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., as deputy chief of staff, Headquarters North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command.

“I’ve had an eclectic career,” says Grundhauser modestly. “I’ve done a lot of different things.” He’s enjoyed traveling all over the world and “meeting people in and out of uniform who are dedicated to the defense of the nation.”

He and his wife, Marie, a native of Niagara Falls, N.Y., enjoy spending time with their two grown children, Stephanie and Alex, their three grandchildren, as well as Bernina, the couple’s Bernese Mountain Dog.

“Times are so different today than when I began my career 25 years ago,” he says. “Then, the Soviet Union was the overriding threat to our national security and the intelligence challenges were much different. Looking back, we were busy assessing Soviet capabilities and attempting to discern intentions. That was by no means easy, but we were dealing with a potential adversary that was a nation state and peer competitor – more like ourselves than not.

“Now,” says Grundhauser, “We are fighting the scourge of global terrorism fueled by extremist ideologies and motivations that vary by region, ethnicity, tribe, and even individual personality. Thus, the threat is inherently less predictable. We are called upon to identify, track and potentially target terrorists who seek to live and operate among innocents, which makes our job about as hard as it gets. At the end of the day, we strive to gather and share the information necessary to predictably detect, deter, deny and defeat our enemies around the globe.

“As a general officer, I now have an opportunity to serve our nation at a level I never expected at one of the most consequential times in our history. I am humbled by that fact. I am also very proud of my connection to RIT, and grateful to all the faculty, staff and students whose inspiration and guidance have helped me throughout the years.”