COLUMBUS, Ohio –
Defense Logistics Agency Installation Management – Columbus Site Director Dan Bell retired Dec. 30 after 20 years at the Defense Supply Center Columbus. Leaving the leadership post he’s held since 2015, Bell said the time was right to start the next chapter. His wife Robin, a longtime DLA Land and Maritime contracting officer, retired in September.
Bell was honored for his service during a virtual ceremony Dec. 10 alongside his family and members of the DLA Installation Management Columbus team he led for six years.
Bell’s responsibilities as site director included management and oversight of the 550-acre DSCC facility and managing a staff of hundreds tasked with covering all facets of installation operations including engineering, security, emergency services, mail distribution, equipment operation, business operations, environmental stewardship, family programs and recreation. Under his tenure, DSCC accomplished multi-million-dollar security upgrades to improve security and navigated the installation response to the COVID-19 health emergency.
“I never dreamed I’d have this job,” Bell said. “One of the things I’ll miss most is the people.”
Bell credited past installation leaders with providing guidance and mentorship that gave him confidence to pursue challenging leadership roles. Former site director and DLA Land and Maritime Hall of Famer Bob Genton encouraged Bell on his path to installation leadership.
“Bob Genton asked me one time ‘What are your goals?’ And I said I’m actually content with where I’m at. I’d been an officer in the Marines and so I was capable of supervising at a different level but I wasn’t looking for a promotion. I was just content. Then Bob got ready to retire and he said, ‘Are you going to put in for the installation deputy job?’ I said I don’t think so – I’m still content and need to do a few things here in the business office. But then I thought about it and said well I could get a boss who’s a real jerk or I could throw my hat in the ring and give it a shot as deputy. And that became a defining moment for me.”
Bell said that in the many years since that moment what he’s enjoyed the most about his job is watching new supervisors grow. “It’s really refreshing because you see yourself a little bit. I didn’t think I was ready back then but I did it and I’m proud of what I did. You watch them going through the same thing.”
He also credited retired DLA Land and Maritime deputy commander Jim McClaugherty for the example he set on how to treat people. But the biggest influences and heroes in Bell’s life are among his closest kin – his late parents and his wife Robin.
Born in Pennsylvania and raised in Newark, Ohio, as one of eight children, Bell said his parents John and Kathleen grounded their children with a moral compass and a firm foundation to pursue their dreams. John Bell was a World War II fire tender who served in both the Pacific and European theater, settling into life as a mold maker in Newark afterward, while Kathleen had a civil service career as a technical publication editor at Newark Air Force Base until the base closed and she retired. In high school, Bell met future wife Robin, and they married several years later.
“Undoubtedly she is my rock and enabled me to have a successful military career,” he said. “Throughout several deployments, military separations and challenges she was able to be mom, dad, doctor, chauffer, teacher and more while I was away. And throughout all of this she was able to maintain a successful government career before retiring as a contracting officer. Without a doubt, she was the linchpin behind the success that I was able to enjoy.”
Bell served for 22 years in the U.S. Marine Corps – first as an enlisted member and later as an officer – before retiring in 1999. Being hired on at DSCC in August of 2001 was an opportunity for the Bells to return to their Central Ohio roots.
“I grew up in Newark and I didn’t even know [the supply center] existed,” he said. “It wasn’t a long-term goal to work for the government – it was just “how do I get back home?”
Bell held various roles at the installation beginning in IT. In 2007 he was promoted to supervisor of the installation’s Business and Multimedia Support Division and was subsequently selected as the deputy site director in 2013 before being promoted to site director.
Reflecting on his 42-year federal career, Bell said the biggest difference he’s noticed is the evolution of force protection within the Department of Defense. “The way we’ve changed how we protect people – taking the lessons learned and saying, ‘How do we do something to prevent that?’”
As for the future, the Bell’s immediate plans were to travel to Alaska to see the Northern Lights while celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. After that, they look forward to spending more time with their three children and eleven grandchildren.
Streaming link to Bell’s retirement ceremony (CAC-enabled)