A Citrus County former Army commander received an award Nov. 16 that no one in the county has received before.
Col. Peter Tan of Hernando was inducted as a Civilian Aide to Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth. Tan joined eight others from across the continental United States and Guam who were appointed to the post.
The ceremony was on Zoom and 13 people watched the event from Tan’s house as the secretary discussed the mission of the program and talked about each inductee. Then she administered the oath of office to the aides.
“It definitely was a big honor to be selected and be recognized by the secretary and have the opportunity to serve the U.S. Army and the nation at the highest levels,” Tan said. “The responsibility we have is an important one for the success of the future of the Army.”
In his new role, Tan will serve “like the eyes and ears” of the secretary, said Curt Ebitz, adjutant with Citrus County’s Aaron A. Weaver Chapter 776 Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Among other things, the aide helps in recruitment, in promoting diversity and inclusion in the Army, and in supporting the idea that those who have served in the military are soldiers for life.
Tan retired as a colonel in the Dental Corps of the Army Reserve after 36 years with the Army. He is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
Among his many positions, he has served as the highest ranking Reserve Dental Corps officer in the Office of the Surgeon General and Pentagon. He was the second in command of the Pacific Regional Dental Command, as well as of the Europe Regional Dental Command. He commanded the 185th Dental Company and the 7301 Medical Training Support Battalion.
He previously had a private practice in oral and maxillofacial surgery in Maryland and taught for the Army and for the University of Maryland, among other places.
He was president of such groups as the Maryland Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the American Dental Society of Anesthesiology and its Anesthesiology Research Foundation, and of the American Dental Society of Anesthesiology’s Maryland Component, among his many contributions to professional groups.
The ultimate overachiever, Tan seemingly always has been this way. He was valedictorian of his grade school graduating class. He was a Notre Dame Scholar, an honor extended to only about 13% of the students. Tan was enrolled in ROTC in college and graduated commissioned in field artillery.
However, he immediately was accepted into dental school and was transferred to the Medical Service Corps and the Dental Corps.
Upon graduation, Tan took his dental boards and married Grace Armonio. Then, the Army caught up with the Tans. Peter was sent to Fort Sam Houston for training. Then, he was stationed at Fort Leavenworth, where the Tans had their first child, Kristin.
After that, it was three years as a general practice dentist with the Army, followed by medical school at what is now Rutgers University to study oral and maxillofacial surgery. More study followed in craniofacial/maxillofacial surgery and oro-facial pain at St. Louis University School of Medicine/St. Mary’s Health Center. Tan also earned dual master of science in health services degrees in public health and emergency/disaster preparedness from Touro University California, in Cypress, Calif.
Today, Tan is somewhat retired. He is president and CEO of TANARM, a consulting firm involved with leadership development, health care management, emergency and disaster management, public health consulting, and military/defense work.
He is a partner in Academic Innovation Partners Inc., a consulting group that encourages the application of academic research to real-world problems.
Tan and his wife, Grace, were named Family of the Month in January by the St. Scholastica Knights of Columbus Council 14485.
He is president-elect of the Military Officer Association of Citrus County and vice president of the Association of U.S. Army Suncoast Chapter.
His local achievements are all the more impressive because Tan and his wife have lived in Citrus County only since 2019. They moved here from Frederick, Md.
“My concept about retirement is not to go from 100 to zero,” Tan said.
He said he wants to continue being an advisor for those who could use his help. But retirement also means that “I’m able to play golf more. I’m able to enjoy the weather more. And I’m able to have more family time.”
On Nov. 12, his daughter, Kristin, gave birth to the Tans’ fifth grandchild and first granddaughter.
“For me, I consider this a robust retirement,” Tan said.
For his job as civilian aide to the secretary of the Army, Tan is expected to work only about 120 days a year.
The positions in which Tan remains involved are top-level posts, where people look to him for advice and decisions.
He said his philosophy of being the one to whom others look — the boss — is “to have understanding, to have compassion and empathy. It’s not about me, it’s about them.”
He and his wife chose to retire to Citrus County after vacationing in Florida for years. They decided to settle in Citrus County after looking in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, as well as in Naples and Jacksonville. They spotted an ad for Citrus Hills, “and after we saw it, it was a done deal,” Tan said.
“We like the climate. There are a good three seasons and a not bad fourth,” he said.
He said he also likes that “We’re surrounded by so much volunteering. In the Northeast, it’s all about jobs. Here, it’s volunteering.”
Willingly giving of his time and skills is something that appeals to the veteran Army officer. Remaining active in and loyal to the military also is something that is important.
Tan said he made some of the best friends in the Army, and they live all around the world.
“We believe in selfless service. … Paying it forward is what I do most,” he said.
Both Tan and Grace come from military families. Tan’s father served in World War II and his mother was a military nurse who received a Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously for her service as a nurse and as a guerrilla in the Philippines during World War II.
The Tans’ son, Maj. Peter Tan Jr., also is with the Army Dental Corps and their son, Ryan, just graduated from West Virginia University and is a military intelligence officer and second lieutenant.
Grace’s family members were in the Navy and Marines, and some survived the Bataan Death March and were POWs.
Tan has earned many medals and awards for his military service, including the Legion of Merit Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (two oak leaf clusters), Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal (one silver oak leaf cluster and two bronze oak leaf clusters), National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal (two awards), and the Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon.
He also received an Army Service ribbon, an Army Staff Identification Badge, the “A” Proficiency Designator by the Surgeon General, and the D7A Skill Identifier by USA NORTHCOM. He is a member of the Order of Military Medical Merit.
Tan said he learned many of his “life lessons” from military comrades.
As he teaches life lessons to others in his role as civilian aide to the secretary of the Army, Tan also will serve as an example of what it means to be a soldier for life.