Koeberl retires after 42 years of military service

Lt. Col. Ed Gargas and Command Sgt. Maj. Tim Lowe, both of the 1140th Engineer Battalion, present Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dennis Koeberl the Legion of Merit award and an Officers Sword for the impact and contributions he made to the battalion, the Missouri National Guard and the U.S. Army during his 42-year service.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- After 42 years of service with the Missouri National Guard, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dennis Koeberl retired during a ceremony to honor his service and dedication.

Koeberl, of Jackson, began his military career in the National Guard when he was 18 years old in March, 1970.

"Over 42 years there's been a lot of changes," said Koeberl. "When I started we didn't have buses to transport us, we slept in pup-tents, phones didn't have routers and we would struggle with wires every annual training or mission between companies to set up communications."

After basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Koeberl served with Company A, 1140th Engineer Battalion in Jackson where he was a driver for the unit's commander. He also started his maintenance career by working at the National Guard maintenance shop in Cape Girardeau.

In 1973 he married his wife of 39 years, Doris, whom he had been dating right after high school and was his support throughout his career.

They never had to talk about his military service, said Doris - she knew it was their life.

"His first annual training was after only two months of dating," added Doris.

She never complained, said Koeberl, his family was always there for him, even as his career took him across Missouri and across the world.

He spent 12 years in Jackson and three years in Cape Girardeau as a noncommissed officer.

"When I enlisted I had my eyes set as being a 1st sergeant," said Koeberl. "That changed when I was recommended and decided to be a Warrant Officer."

Because of his knowledge and expertise he was recommended to the Warrant Officer school and became Chief Warrant Officer 2 in 1984. 41 years of his military career would be dedicated to the maintenance field with the 1140th Engineer Battalion.

"He's one of those guys who has been a difference maker," said Lt. Col. Ed Gargas, commander of the 1140th. "He doesn't worry about how hard it is; he always focused on the mission and got it done."

In 2004 -- 2005 he deployed with Headquarters Company, 1140th Engineer Battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His work ethic and dedication resulted in the battalion have a 95 percent operational readiness rate for the duration of the deployment.

"He worked tirelessly to ensure that every mission essential piece of equipment was operationally ready at all times to ensure Soldier safety and mission success," said Gargas. "

The battalion earned the Meritorious Unit Citation, and this couldn't have been achieved without Koeberl's maintenance efforts, said Gargas.

Through the years he deployed in support of humanitarian missions in Panama, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

The missions in Central America really affected him and opened his eyes to a whole other life, said Koeberl.

"You see places and people on TV how they live but it's not until you go and see them actually living on dirt floors, oxen pulling carts that it kind of hits home," said Koeberl.

He also deployed in support of joint military exercises in Japan, Germany and Korea, where he had some of his most memorable experiences.

"He had to stop in Hawaii coming back to Japan because his military flight was cancelled for the invasion of Granada," said Doris. "He told me how he visited the international market place to buy souvenirs and was walking on the beach in blue jeans and cowboy boots. I could see the grin on his face over the phone."

On every trip he always brought something home for Doris and their two daughters.

As a Guardsman, he deployed during state emergency duties, including five floods, two snow storms, two tornados, and Operation Hurricane Katrina relief. He received numerous awards and commendations for his surpassed contribution during each ceremony and earned the Missouri Commendation Medal for his contributions to Operation Show-Me-Heat in July 2006.

The Guard support has always been present and important to Koeberl and his Family, especially when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2011 and in March 2012 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer the flood of support came from all across the battalion and state, which helped pull him and his Family through.

"It was like a lead balloon," said Koeberl. "I felt like here I'm retiring and things are falling apart."

On the road to recovery, Koeberl finished his 42-year military career where he started at Fort Leonard Wood for his final two-week annual training, which seemed fitting said Koeberl and Doris.

"I can look where I was during advanced individual training and those buildings are still there," said Koeberl.

After so many years dedicated to the Guard, the people and that life never leaves you, said Koeberl.

"It's amazing where you go and so many places you see someone you know from the Guard," said Koeberl. "You always see someone."

"There are so many times we'll be out and someone comes up and says 'Hi Chief'," said Doris.

His impact on the 1140th is a legacy.

"He will be forever remembered and always respected," said Gargas.

Friends, Family, Soldiers and Veterans came out to honor Koeberl at a ceremony.

During his military career Koeberl earned an Army Achievement Medal and two Army Commendation Medals. At the ceremony, the 1140th present him the Legion of Merit award for the impact and contributions he made to the battalion, the Missouri National Guard and the U.S. Army.

The battalion also presented him with an Officers Sword, to honor his dedication to implement numerous operator and maintenance practices and initiatives in the battalion which resulted in increased efficiencies and heightened states of readiness.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Patrick Schlosser, who worked with Koeberl for six years, said he earned the awards because of his extensive knowledge and experience.

"His technical expertise in the area of engineer maintenance is invaluable to the battalion and the state," said Schlosser. "There are very few people truly as committed to his unit than Koeberl. He didn't do it just for a paycheck, but because he truly loves his job and the Guard."

If it wasn't for the Soldiers and Veterans, he wouldn't have gotten as far as he did, said Koeberl.

"You can't do a job by yourself, it takes teamwork," Koeberl told the Soldiers. "You guys have to get in there and make it work. If something doesn't go right today, it'll be better tomorrow."

"Because without you we wouldn't have someone to protect the little ones here today," said Koeberl as he looked over at his grandchildren.

He's proud to see the younger guys still getting in and the older guys staying in, he said. The Guard has to continue and grow, and still pass on the knowledge and experience and protect the new Soldiers today.

Koeberl plans to stay in touch with all the currently serving and retired Soldiers of the 1140th.

"This is all I've known since I got out of high school," said Koeberl, who already is involved with Family Readiness Group events. "I want to see where their careers go."

He and Doris hope to get other retirees involved as well, especially during drill when they make breakfasts and the annual Christmas parties.

"It's all about being a mentor, giving advice, just seeing how things have changed and sharing stories," said Koeberl.

For pictures of Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Koeberl's retirement ceremony visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/missouriguard/sets/72157631786132386/

For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please visit www.moguard.com and our social media sites: www.facebook.com/Missouri.National.Guard; www.twitter.com/Missouri_NG; www.youtube.com/MoNationalGuard; www.myspace.com/missouri_ng; www.flickr.com/photos/missouriguard; www.moguard.com/blog; www.pinterest.com/monationalguard/

For more information about this advisory, please contact Michelle Queiser at 573.339.6264 or e-mail Michelle Queiser at michelle.queiser@us.army.mil.