John W. Tilford (D-IN)

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John W. Tilford


Campaign links: John W. Tilford (D-IN-9)


Colonel John W. Tilford

John W. Tilford Congressional Candidate Indiana District 9


Biography of John W. Tilford from the Campaign to Elect Tilford for Congress

Colonel John W. Tilford enlisted as a Private, E-1 in the United States Marine Corps at the start of the Vietnam War. He was selected for the first computer fundamentals course in Marine Corps history. Corporal Tilford spent 18 months (including a voluntary six month extension) in Vietnam with Marine Air Control Squadron 4 near Danang.


Returning to civilian life, Tilford used the “G.I. Bill” to finish Bachelor of Science in Education degree at Indiana University while working part-time jobs. Obtaining the maximum score on the Federal Service Entrance Examination, he worked series of increasingly responsible positions with the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of the Navy. Tilford was a member of national level task forces for both the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of the Navy. Following civil service retirement, Tilford returned to assisting veterans as Veterans Service Officer for Monroe County, for American Legion Post 18 and for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 604.

Returning to military service with the Army Reserve in 1979, Specialist Tilford qualified as Drill Sergeant, advanced to Staff Sergeant, and accepted a direct commission to First Lieutenant in the Infantry. Captain Tilford commanded basic training companies at forts Knox, Benning, and Jackson. He graduated from Airborne School at Ft. Benning at age 41. Transferring from Infantry to Military Intelligence branch, Major Tilford was first called to Washington, DC to work on South Asia intelligence in 1996 and spent a total of 4½ years in support of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Ground Intelligence Center. Mobilized twice after 9/11, Lieutenant Colonel Tilford was placed in charge of a DIA team providing weekly intelligence products to the secretaries of Defense and State. Replacing an active duty Air Force officer relieved at the start of Operation ANACONDA (attempt to capture Osama bin Laden near Tora Bora), LTC Tilford became the only reserve officer to head the Afghanistan Cell supporting the J-2 for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. LTC Tilford’s reorganization of the nationwide reserve assets of the National Ground Intelligence Center was considered a prototype for other United States military intelligence agencies. Colonel Tilford retired from the position of Deputy Commander, National Ground Intelligence Center in 2006.

Tilford founded Hoosier Honor Flight, Inc. in 2008 to fly WWII veterans from Monroe and surrounding counties to Washington, DC to see their WWII Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, and other attractions in the national capitol at no cost to the veterans. Hoosier Honor Flight suspended operations in April 2010 after all applications were exhausted.

Early Life and Education

Tilford attended a two room rural grade school. He graduated from Bloomfield (Indiana) H.S. with the highest SAT score in school history and four school records in track. He was a walk-on for the Indiana University track team until leaving school to enlist in the Marine Corps. Tilford graduated from Indiana University with a B.S. in Education. After competitive selection for the Post Graduate Intelligence Program with the National Defense Intelligence College, he graduated with a Master of Science of Strategic Intelligence in 2003.


John and Polly (née Bruce) Tilford have been married for 41 years. They are the parents of two children: Aaron James and the late Sarah Beth. With only the exceptions of active duty tours, John and Polly have lived in rural Monroe County, Indiana since 1978.


In December 2011 Tilford announced his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives, Indiana 9th District. Tilford will compete in the May 2012 Democratic primary in order to face the incumbent, freshman Republican congressman Todd Young.