Maryland District 5 has been represented by the same person for over 37 years. It’s time for a change. Dennis Fritz could be that change.
Dennis Fritz is a retired United States Air Force Chief Master Sergeant. He served his nation in uniform for nearly 28 years. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Management from National-Louis University and a Master’s Degree in Public Management from the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy.
At the height of his military career, he held two of the highest enlisted leadership positions in the Air Force and the Department of Defense (DOD) as the Senior Enlisted Advisor, Pacific Air Forces and the Command Chief Master Sergeant of United States Space Command, which included leadership responsibility of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) personnel. In both positions, he was the principal advisor to four-star generals, with a primary emphasis on advocating on behalf of tens of thousands of military members and their families. In 1999, he was a top-three finalist for Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, the service’s top enlisted position.
His last position before retirement was as the Command Chief Master Sergeant, 89th Airlift Wing, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, home of Air Force One. His distinguished career culminated with the then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking military officer in the nation, officiating his retirement ceremony. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, six Meritorious Service Medals, and two Commendation Medals.
Dennis’s passion and calling are advocating and supporting people. In 2008, he accepted a congressionally-mandated position to oversee the care and support provided by federal government agencies to our combat-wounded service members and their families. For nearly a decade, he has been a strong and leading advocate for our wounded warriors, fighting to ensure they get the support and care they truly deserve, for the sacrifice they have made in fighting America’s wars.
As you can see, throughout Dennis’s military and civilian careers, he has been an advocate for and servant of the people. He spent the last 10 years of his military career advocating on behalf of over 100,000 service members and their families. He was responsible for two major DOD policy changes which improved their quality of life. He also led the way in reversing a DOD Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) recommendation that resulted in the Air Force taking responsibility for a guard base. This result improved the lives of a “total force” community that included active, guard, reserve, retiree, and their civilian constituents.
For the last 10 years of his civilian career, Dennis has been an advocating force on behalf of our most sacred citizens, our war wounded.
The Lyfe Magazine had an opportunity to speak with Dennis Fritz.
The Lyfe: Chief—I can’t help but call you Chief—how would you describe your childhood?
Dennis: Gerald, first thank you for the interview. And it’s ok to call me Dennis or Fritz. We are retired now. (smile) I grew up as a military-dependent in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a military town. My father retired from the Army at Fort Bragg. I guess you can say I grew up in a lower-middle-class family during that time. As a child, I did not get everything I wanted, but I did get everything I needed. More importantly, I had a happy childhood.
The Lyfe: Who was your greatest influence as a child?
Dennis: From elementary to high school, it was two—ready for this?—teachers, Mr. Eugene Hester and Mr. Carl Galbreath. They were not only teachers but athletic coaches and mentors. I set you up with “ready for this?” because teachers can play an important role in the growth of our children. That’s why I believe it is so important to have the best teachers we can get and compensate them appropriately for the responsibility they have, educating our children.
The Lyfe: How about as an adult?
Dennis: Two people. One you may have heard of from your past profession: Former Chief Master Sergeant of Air Force (CMSAF) Tom Barnes, the first Afro-American CMSAF. He became a mentor and friend of mine back in 1996 when I was the PACAF Senior Enlisted Advisor. Anytime I would invite him to an event I was hosting, he would attend, no matter where, including on bases in Japan. He was the person who told me to prepare myself because one day I would be considered for CMSAF. He told me I needed to be ready and he helped prepare me. Little did I know, two years later, I would be a top three finalist.
The second person was my father. Well, I guess you can ask the question: Why my Father as an adult versus when I was a child? Yes, as stated earlier, my father was an Army retiree. I thought he was too strict when I was growing up. You know, like being in before dark (smile), doing chores, and, for the longest time, I was not allowed to grow a large afro. But, thank goodness, my mother came to the rescue and I grew my little afro.
I joined the Air Force and left home right after graduation from high school. I left not knowing how brilliant of a man my father was. Are you ready for this? I did not realize until my own retirement dinner. He got up and gave the most articulate recognition speech a father could give his son. I never knew how smart he was until I became an older adult. He also became a role model for me on how to treat a wife even during trying times.
When my mother became ill, my father showed me what a real husband did when his wife needed to be taken care of. Though my mother worked when I was growing up, she still did all the cooking and cleaning at the house, minus the chores my brother and I did. But when she became sick, my father did all the cooking, cleaning, and washing clothes.
He was old-school, but he became new-school for his wife. More importantly, when it got to the point where we would have to put my mother in a nursing home, my dad did not want to do it. But he was getting older, and he could no longer lift my mother up if needed. What’s significant about this is that, while she was in the nursing home, we had a choice of them doing her laundry. However, my dad said he would wash her clothes and bring her new ones daily. We became the best of friends until his death in May of last year.
The Lyfe: Tell us about your military career.
Dennis: I had a blessed military career which was not part of my plans growing up. After growing up around the military, I had no to desire to join. Well, what happened? you might ask. A good friend of mind during our senior year in high school asked me to go down to the recruiting office with him. I said oh no. But he convinced me to go with him for support. So I did. We both took the qualification test. I passed; he failed. I think he set me up because he was a very smart person.
He went on to college and, due to a great recruiter, I joined the Air Force. My plan was to do only four years. But it seems every four years, I was getting promoted. Before I knew it, I was a Chief Master Sergeant select with 17 years of service. My career took me from a young Airman to 10-year Senior Enlisted Advisor/Command Chief, top-three finalist for CMAF, culminating with being the Senior Enlisted Leader for the men and women who were flight stewards, mechanics, security specialist, and communicators for Air Force One and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the most senior General Officer of the Armed Forces officiating my retirement. What a blessed military career that would not have happened if not for Calvin Kearney. Thank you, Calvin.
The Lyfe: So our readers get a clear understanding, what areas of Maryland are included in District 5?
Dennis: It is a very large district that consists of all of Saint Mary’s, Calvert, and Charles Counties, and parts of Prince George’s that include Clinton, Brandywine, Bowie, College Park, Greenbelt, and—believe it or not—a very small part of Ann Arundel County as well.
The Lyfe: How do you feel your military career prepared you for running for office?
Dennis: Leadership, leadership, leadership. Also, working with a diverse workforce and advocating for people. As you know, my job as a Command Chief was to advocate on behalf of the enlisted corps and their families as well as address their issues and help formulate policy to fix problems. Well, that’s what Congress is supposed to be about: addressing issues of the people by implementing public policy to solve those issues or problems.
The Lyfe: If elected, what is the greatest change you feel needs to be made in District 5?
Dennis: I would not say change, but fighting for more funding for our schools, especially in Prince George’s County. Though my voting and introduction of legislation will be at the federal level, I would work with local governments to better fund our schools.
The Lyfe: So would it be appropriate to say that you feel incumbent, Steny Hoyer, has not been effective in this area?
Dennis: I wouldn’t say, “has not been effective,” but maybe not as focused on the issue as I would be, because it is a state and local government issue. However, where I would be different is that I would put pressure on the local governments. For example, I’m going to stay on top of why the majority of the revenue from the lottery is not going towards the schools in Prince George’s County as the citizens were told would happen. Prince George’s should have some of the best schools, not only in the State but in the nation.
The Lyfe: We all know that Prince George’s County has some areas that are challenging to live in. Some have high crime rates, the kids are not safe in schools, etc. What would you do from a federal government perspective to help stop this problem?
Dennis: I would work closely with local governments to steer grant money from the Federal Government to help fund more School Safety Officers, Law Enforcement Officers, and Community Policing and training.
The Lyfe: Following up on the education angle, Prince George’s County is 23rd out of 24 school districts in Maryland (2017 SchoolDigger.com). How would you go about changing that? I realize that you’re approaching the problem from a federal government angle and the entire county is not in District 5, but how would you work with District 4 and from the federal level to help improve the counties education?
Dennis: Part of the agreement of bringing gambling to Prince George’s County was that a major part of the revenue was to go towards the schools. That is not happening. We must hold state and local governments accountable. I will be a voice of accountability. Again, Prince George’s should have some of the best schools, not only in the state but in the nation.
The Lyfe: How does your family feel about you running for office?
Dennis: My wife was lukewarm with the idea of me running because she enjoys her privacy. My son and daughter were excited about the idea because they know I love working on behalf of others.
The Lyfe: Outside of all of the politics and work, what does Dennis Fritz love to do?
Dennis: Playing basketball, dining at restaurants, and going to the beach.
The Lyfe: If you had the opportunity to tell the world the three most important things about Dennis Fritz, what would they be?
Dennis: I’m caring, a humanitarian, and an intro/extrovert (I can be alone, and not be lonely, but when I am with people, I am a social butterfly).
The Lyfe: Why should voters vote for you?
Dennis: I am a person who would absolutely work for the people and not for corporate special interests who fund campaigns to curry favor with members of Congress, at the expense of the people. The people of District 5 will be welcomed through the door of our Capitol Hill office, not the corporate lobbyists.