The long and, at times, winding road taken by the former deputy garrison commander here comes to an end this July after more than 40-plus years as a Soldier, contractor and civil service civilian in support of our nation.
Embarking on a life in the Army in 1970, Wayne Taylor joined the service after graduating from high school and studying at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. There he attended school on a four-year ROTC scholarship, earning a regular Army commission on graduation in 1974.
Four-plus decades later, Taylor looks back on a career that’s taken him on quite the ride – one he’s proud to have been on.
He speaks highly of his time with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, while stationed in Fulda, Germany; as a senior logistics trainer with the Operations Group during his first tour here; his time at Fort Bragg and several other assignments.
On many occasions, he said, he was lucky enough to work with both officer and enlisted leaders alike who provided the type of insight and skills necessary to be successful in his own career.
He said certain lessons he’s kept with him throughout, such as past commanders and senior NCOs who highlighted the need to “treat people fairly, to uphold standards” and not rush to judgment where people are involved.
Taylor pointed to several mentors he benefited from during his career. Gen. William G. T. Tuttle, Maj. Gen. James Wright, Gen. Scott Wallace, Col. Phillip Saulnier, and 1st Sgt. Harrison D. Tompkins – his first first sergeant as a company commander – all provided critical insight at various times during their career that he’s used successfully over the years.
Tuttle and Saulnier taught Taylor that continuing to develop intellectual knowledge; learning more and developing intellectual skills was just as essential as the physical and tactical skills that he found so much more fun to do. “They helped me to see that exercising and developing all of your skills was important … if you were going to be as successful as you wanted to be and accomplish everything you wanted to accomplish. They also taught me that there was rarely just one way to view” something.
Wallace taught me how to bring diverse groups together for a singular focus to accomplish his vision. I think “he was an artist” at bringing people together.
Wright, he said, “was an amazing man on so many fronts. His ability to use his energy, personality, focus and intensity to help people perform at a higher level than they believed they could achieve — I learned a huge amount from him about the art side of leadership.”
And Tompkins “taught me more about what you needed to do to be a leader … than was imaginable. He was a Soldier of the old school who believed being a soldier was the core to what you are as a person. ”
On change at Irwin:
“The mission stays the same,” said Taylor. “The mission is to prepare Soldiers to survive in combat. How that gets done and what the installation is couldn’t be more different than 20 years ago. The housing here compared to what it was in the mid 90s, well, there’s no comparison. It’s incredible, both in quality and quantity. That is one of the most apparent changes the minute you drive through the gate and start down the hill into the post proper.
“Another big change is the commissary and Exchange are both much larger than they were,” he said. “They’ve both been increased in space, I’d say, by more than a third.
“There’s now a place where you can put your dogs in a kennel on post,” he continued. “When I was stationed here in the 90s, we had to drive to Apple Valley to find a kennel to look after our dogs.
“There’s a pizza hut on post and two starbucks now,” he said. “Main Street didn’t exist back then; there wasn’t a town center. Things like that make just an incredible difference in quality of life. It’s amazing the amount of investment to improve quality of life on the installation for our Soldiers and families.”
“What you start with when joining the Army, for the vast majority of us, and what you have left when you leave is family,” he said. “Family has always been the constant in my life. With that amount of investment into the profession of being a Soldier, my family became the bedrock that I went back to; it became what anchored me; what gave me a center; what gave me the confidence required to deal with the challenges that life brings to you, whether you chose life as a Soldier or some other profession.”
A country boy who grew up 12-miles outside Greenville, South Carolina, where he played high school football and baseball, his plans now include a return to his roots where the Taylor family ancestors settled back in 1903.
Now heading into his second retirement, Taylor sees himself being active in veteran’s affairs. It’s a passion he said he wants to devote more time to – of promoting that which is good for our nation’s vets.
He also said his wife, Susan, and he are going to take time to see the nation.
“We’re going on a four-corner’s ride,” he said, referring to a coast-to-coast, north-to-south adventure on his Harley Tri-glide to see all that America has to offer.
“I was actually surprised,” he said, when Susan suggested they move back to South Carolina. Then again, he offered, it has been as much a home-away-from-home for her as it has for him. In fact, the nearly 14 years they’ve spent at Irwin is the longest they have spent anywhere together, so it has become their second home.
“My wife and I always liked Fort Irwin – we enjoyed our tour here the first time,” he said. So when he was looking for a bit more of a challenge after retiring from the Army in 2002, he thought of two places – Fort Bragg and Fort Irwin; he had fond memories of both.
Like many assignments overseas, he suggested, there is a special bond shared by those stationed at Irwin. So when the opportunity presented itself shortly after retiring, he jumped on it and returned to the deserts of Southern California in 2003.
“I’m going to remember the people of Fort Irwin,” he said, looking back on his tenure here. “I’ve had the opportunity to work on amazing teams, with some truly amazing people to accomplish a unique mission.”