Guardsman retires after nearly 30 years of service

Thursday, December 20, 2012
Soldiers, Family and Veterans honor Maj. Willie Smith for his nearly 30 years of military service during a ceremony at the Cape Girardeau armory.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- With nearly 30 years of military service, Maj. Willie Smith, recently retired at a ceremony honoring his service and dedication.

Smith, of Jefferson City, enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves 1982 and joined the Missouri Army National Guard in 1990.

"The military to me is Family," said Smith. "This is the only job I've ever had. I wouldn't trade anything I've done."

During the ceremony, Smith was presented the National Guard Bureau certificate of service, the U.S. flag and a certificate of appreciation signed by President Barack Obama, and the Army Engineer Association's Bronze Order of the de Fleury Medal.

The medal recognizes Smith's dedication throughout his service to the Engineer Regiment, assuring mobility, enhancing protection, enabling expeditionary logistics, and building capacity in order to provide freedom of action required for full spectrum operation in an era of persistent conflict.

His wife, also recently retired Master Sgt. Jeanne Smith, was recognized for her support during her spouse's career.

Throughout his career Smith held leadership positions with units across the state. He deployed in 2005 -- 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as the resident engineer for the Gulf Region South District at Camp Adder, Iraq. In 2008 -- 2009, Smith deployed in support of KFOR-10 to Kosovo, where he served as the Deputy Joint Visitor Bureau Chief and Operation Officer for the Multinational Task Force East.

Smith has also served on several humanitarian missions with the Missouri National Guard to Panama and Honduras.

In his most recent assignment, Smith has served as the Executive Officer for the 1140th Engineer Battalion in Cape Girardeau.

One of the many perks of being in the military for him has been all the people he got to meet, said Smith.

"It's amazing how many friends you make across the state," said Smith.

Another perk was the many places in the state and around the world he got to go to, including one of his most memorable trips to Italy during a two-week tour to support an Active Duty component's operating procedures, said Smith.

"Being able to go to Venice was just neat for an old country boy like me," said Smith.

His service in the Guard and with the 1140th is a great example for Soldiers to emulate and follow, said Lt. Col. Ed Gargas, commander of the 1140th.

"I'd never have enough time to say good things about him," said Gargas, who has worked with Smith over the last 12 years. "His level of professionalism and dedication are a significant part of the success of the 1140th Engineer Battalion in the Missouri National Guard. We owe a lot of our history and reputation to Guardsmen like Willie Smith."

While he has no regrets and cherishes his time in the Missouri National Guard, he's ready to dedicate himself to his Family, his wife Jeanne, daughter Michelle and son Tanner, said Smith.

"I love coaching as much as I love the military," said Smith, who helps coach his son Tanner's football, basketball and baseball teams.

"I've almost already got another career set with coaching," joked Smith. "I'm ready to give it 30 years too."

Smith won't depart very far away from the Missouri National Guard. He will continue his civilian career as director of Missouri's Funeral Honors Program in Jefferson City, and his job will bring him to the Jackson and Cape Girardeau areas and he looks forward to still visiting with his fellow Soldiers.

He also looks forward to continuing to support his daughter Michelle's military career, who is serving as a second lieutenant with the Detachment 1, 735th Quartermaster Field Service Company in Rolla.

Over his career, Smith has earned multiple awards including the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, and the Missouri Funeral Honors Ribbon.

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