Soldiers, Civilians and Family members gathered during the Installation Retirement Ceremony on Brown Parade Field July 31 to honor seven Soldiers starting new chapters in their lives.
According to Col. Gregory Lautner, guest speaker and deputy director for Capabilities, Development and Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, USAICoE, the schedule of events could not have fallen on a more perfect day as he welcomed participating units, distinguished guests and others in attendance to the mild 80-degree weather. Lautner also described the seven Army retirees as “extraordinary” while reflecting on their service.
He explained that each retiree was well-educated, with some holding master’s degrees. Combined, they served 166.8 years including many months in combat.
“All have successfully led Soldiers in various positions of increased responsibility both in combat and at home,” Lautner said. “I think all of us will agree that there is no greater responsibility than to lead our nation’s finest in any capacity to account for the well being and the matter of their Families, to lead them and to grow them.”
Each retired Soldier was awarded a Legion of Merit or a Meritorious Service Medal, a certificate of appreciation signed by the president, a certificate of retirement and a retirement flag. Spouses received certificates of appreciation beside their service member and stood to be recognized with a bouquet of flowers at the conclusion of the awards presentation.
For Sgt. 1st Class James “Doogie” Burkey, the Installation Retirement Ceremony helped him reflect on his growth and development, and his journey from a teenager who joined the Army 25 years ago to his last assignment, senior instructor for Company A, 304th Military Intelligence Battalion.
“I’ve been put in positions of responsibility and leadership and I’ve watched Soldiers grow just as I have, and now I’m at this culmination in my career and I really feel blessed that the Army was able to give me all these opportunities I wouldn’t have enjoyed outside of the military,” Burkey said.
Retiree Chief Warrant Officer Jeffrey Fichter explained how the ceremony helped him look back at his 20-year military career. His previous assignment was as an RC-12 standardization instructor pilot, instrument examiner and Special Electronic Mission Aircraft maintenance test pilot for Company B, 304th MI Bn.
Fichter added that his time in the Army wouldn’t be possible without the support of his Family. Fichter was joined by his wife Jeanette during the event. They plan to reside in Enterprise, Alabama, with their two children.
Other IRC honorees included Lt. Col. Russell Godsil, Jr. and Maj. Michael Watto. Godsil’s most recent assignment was deputy director for Doctrine, Concepts, Experimentation and Lessons Learned, Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate, USAICoE, while Watto’s last assignment was officer in charge of the Soldier Centered Clinic and flight surgeon for Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center. Both retirees and their Families plan to reside in Sierra Vista.
Sgt. 1st Class Dexter Marquez retired from his 26 years of service as secretary to the general staff noncommissioned officer in charge and visual information chief with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, USAICoE Command Group. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Neal was previously assigned as an instructor for the RQ-7B Shadow 200 Unmanned Aircraft System.
Lautner recalled a significant moment in Marquez’s career as he served as a combat camera Soldier and a turning point in Neal’s life as he transitioned from serving the Marine Corps to the Army.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Rifenberg retired with the most years of service, 31 years. The former noncommissioned officer, Company A, 304th MI Bn., brought smiles to the audience as it was announced his first retirement goal was a Family vacation.
The Installation Retirement Ceremony concluded with music from the Military Intelligence Corps Band and a ceremonial charge by B Troop, 4th Cavalry Regiment (Memorial).