Ray was raised in a small farming community near Jonesboro, Arkansas. He worked on farms and played sports during his high school years. While working for a crop duster during college, Ray decided that he was going to seek a flying career. He received his BS in mathematics from Arkansas State University and upon his graduation he went to Officers Training School for the US Air Force. After being commissioned as a second lieutenant, he went to USAF pilot training, received his wings and was selected to fly fighters. Over the past 24 years he has amassed nearly 5,000 USAF flight hours and has been an instructor pilot in the F-16, A-10 and T-37.
Ray has been to the desert wars flying fighters 5 times in the past 20 years with the last being the Commander of the 184th Fighter Squadron. He has accumulated hundreds of hours in combat while flying in and out of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan over the skies of Iraq and Afghanistan. He has successfully lead many ocean crossing missions to and from the countries above and twice to Israel. His career culminated as the Squadron Operations Officer during an aircraft transition from F-16s to A-10s and as the Squadron Commander during combat in Afghanistan. He was on active duty in the Air Force for nearly 9 years and in the Arkansas Air National Guard for 15 years.
During his career Ray was selected to be an instructor pilot and evaluator pilot in every primary aircraft that he was assigned to fly. He was selected as one of 5 command spin instructor pilots in the USAF, to be an initial cadre instructor pilot when transitioning from F-16As to F-16Cs and to plan and lead the first precision guided munitions missions in the Arkansas Air National Guard.
As the Air Operations Officer both as the Squadron Commander and Squadron Operations Officer for nearly 4 years; he oversaw 16,000 hours of accident free flying. During this time he executed a $32 million flying hour budget and managed over $620 million worth of equipment without incident.
During his career Ray has been recognized for his common sense approach to accomplishing complex and time critical tasks and operations. He has incorporated the safety objectives while following the time tested process of setting objectives, planning the task, briefing the task, executing the task and then debriefing the task. He has taken the lessons learned from his and others’+ performance and distilled them into usable information and processes for the future. This has led to many of his successes.
During the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in New Orleans, Ray led the initial team of AR ANG members during the relief efforts. He directed the convoy of numerous vehicles, set up living areas in the austere environment, arranged for food, water and supplies. He directed the relief effort, security oversight, medical aid, debris removal and the care and feeding of his troops and the civilian population.
Ray has commanded many peacetime, combat and humanitarian operations during his service to the country. During his career he has been awarded many service and humanitarian medals to include 2 US Air Force Meritorious Service Medals, several Air and Aerial Achievement Medals, Flying Safety Awards and the Humanitarian Medal.
Ray has graduated from USAF Squadron Officers School, USAF Air Command and Staff College, the ANG Commanders Development Course (for senior officers) and the Dale Carnegie Emersion Training.