Gary North was commissioned through the Air Force ROTC Program at East Carolina University on September 4, 1976, and then attended Undergraduate Navigator Training at Mather AFB, California, from September 1976 to May 1977. After completing Electronic Warfare Officer School and F-4E Phantom II Combat Crew Training, he served as a Weapons Systems Officer with the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Kunsan AB, South Korea, from July 1978 to July 1979. Lt North next served as an F-4G Wild Weasel Electronic Warfare Officer with the 561st and 563rd Tactical Fighter Squadrons at George AFB, California, from August 1979 to September 1980, followed by Undergraduate Pilot Training at Reese AFB, Texas, from September 1980 to September 1981. After completing Fighter Lead-In Training and F-16 Fighting Falcon transition training, Capt North served with the 19th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, from September 1982 to April 1985. He attended the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nevada, from April to August 1985, and then served with the 363rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB from August 1985 to June 1986. His next assignment was with the 526th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ramstein AB, West Germany, from June 1986 to June 1987, followed by service on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief U.S. Air Forces in Europe, also at Ramstein AB, from June 1987 to June 1989. Maj North attended the Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia, from July 1989 to January 1990, and then served as assistant operations officer for the 19th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Shaw AFB from March to July 1990. Col North served on the staff of the 363rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Shaw from July 1990 to July 1992, and during this time he deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He became commander of the 33rd Fighter Squadron in July 1992, and was credited with destroying a MIG-25 Foxbat while patrolling the no-fly zone during Operation Southern Watch on December 27, 1992. This was the first U.S. Air Force F-16 MIG kill, and the first combat use of the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile. Col North attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., from August 1993 to June 1994, and then served as the commander of the 35th Operations Group at Misawa AB, Japan, from July 1994 to August 1996. He served with Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from August 1996 to August 1997, followed by service as executive assistant to the Director of the Joint Staff from August 1997 to May 1999. His next assignment was as commander of the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan AB, South Korea, from May 1999 to May 2000, and then as commander of the 18th Wing at Kadena AB, Okinawa, from August 2000 to April 2002. Gen North served as Deputy Director of Politico-Military Affairs for Asia-Pacific on the Joint Staff from April 2002 to June 2004, followed by service as Director for Operations of U.S. Pacific Command at Camp Smith, Hawaii, from July 2004 to January 2006. He then served as commander of 9th Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Central at Shaw AFB from February 2006 to August 2009. Gen North's final assignment was as Commander of Pacific Air Forces at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, from August 2009 until his retirement from the Air Force on October 1, 2012.
His 2nd Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
Lieutenant Colonel Gary L. North distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as an aircraft commander in southern Iraq on 27 December 1992. On that date, flying as Benji 41, he led four F-16C's on a combat air patrol mission in southern Iraq in support of the United Nations' cease-fire and no-fly resolutions and the coalition objectives of Operations SOUTHERN WATCH and DESERT STORM. Skillfully orchestrating his fighter element south of the 32nd parallel during five separate engagements against Iraqi enemy aircraft, he forced the Iraqi's to remain north of the 32nd parallel on two occasions and to withdraw north of the border after penetrating south on the third engagement. On the fourth engagement, Colonel North led his element against a formation of Iraqi fighter aircraft and shot down the MIG-25 flight leader. This historic engagement was the first United States Air Force F-16 MIG kill and the first combat launching of the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile. His professional airmanship and discipline in ensuring all Operations SOUTHERN WATCH rules of engagement requirements were satisfied prior to destroying the enemy fighter, and his total situational awareness in aerial combat vividly displayed the coalition's resolve to uphold the United Nations' Resolution 688, prohibiting Iraq forces from flying south of the 32nd parallel. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Colonel North reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.