Where is Mike "stationed"?

Most military people -- or their family members -- will proudly explain that "wherever we happened to be, it is our home." That was my parents' attitude as they took -- not "dragged" nor "forced" -- their children to several communities including Germany before they "setttled" at Fort Knox, Kentucky. We remained there until my father retired from the United States Army after 24 years of service to our nation.

I took the same attitude with both wives -- the first, Mildred (Millie); and the second, Jessica (Jessi or Jess). I was married to each of them for about ten years each. I never moved my kids around except for the movement from Germany back to the States when they were really young. I moved from base to base and station to station (and sometimes back again) over the past 30 years. I have been stationed at several Army installations -- Forts Gordon, Hood, Bliss, Ben Harrison, Dix, Belvior, Meade, Leavenworth, Snelling and McCoy; Camps Shelby and Atterbury; Naval Air Stations New Orleans and Norfolk; several Army depots including working to help close down the Sacremento Army Depot; and several locations in the Washington DC area as part of Army or Defense Department organizations. One of my duty stations was the University of Oklahoma as I participated in the Defense Department's Communication Studies program.

As many of you are aware, my family and I lived within several locations in the Greater Stuttgart Military Community in Germany. As a single guy, I have been stationed in some 14 countries for longer than 30 days; several more for periods between 7 and 29 days.

My military moving days, I thought, were all over and done with. After all of the moves, my last "jump" as an Army officer was at Forts Snelling Minnesota and McCoy, Wisconsin. At Snelling, I have been stationed as both military officer off-and-on since 1998; and as a Department of the Army military technician (MT) since 1999. MTs are dual-status civilian employees who, as a condition of employment, must also serve as a member of the Army Reserve or National Guard. In 2008, due to a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) action, my civilian job moved and I accepted an offer to move with it to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. In that process, the military jobs at Fort Snelling were all "lined out". I was reassigned as overstrength with the 644th Regional Support Group, 103rd Sustainment Command. Their offices and center is also at Fort Snelling, next to the building which formerly housed my civilian position and the former headquarters of the 88th Regional Readiness Command. "Overstrength" means you're an extra body to assist within the organization -- kind of like having "spares".

In 2009, the Army Reserve selected me to serve on active duty as part of the United States European Command, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany to strenghten my strategic public affairs experience. As a part of their small but very impressive public affairs team, I learned strategic public affairs and plans formulation and staffing, something which is taught in broad overstrokes at the Defense Information School but not in the daily detailed manner in which I am being mentored and coached while working real-world missions there. Normally, those working at this level as a staff member get picked up for selection as a senior Army public affairs officer later somewhere in the States or in one of the war zones. Not me. I used the opportunity as my Army "swan song", informing my command that upon my return in 2011, I will sign the paperwork to mandatorily retire by regulation from the Army.

I could request an extention of my "mandatory removal date (MRD)" but after 29 years of service -- 35 if one includes the four years of Senior and three years of Junior ROTC -- it was time for younger officers to step up and my time to become a mentor, coach and advisor on the sidelines.

As I mentioned, as a DA civilian, I was stationed at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, with the 88th Regional Support Command, the current legacy of the former 88th Regional Readiness Command which no longer exists. I serve as one of two civilian public affairs specialists assigned to that office. With the retirement of Lieutenant Colonel Walton, Mr. Walton would have to find other civil service employment. As a condition of my military technician employment, I would also have to be a "drilling member" of the Army Reserve also. You can't do it as a retiree.

I COULD, however, work in the same line of work in a different branch of the Armed Services - and six weeks after I officially retired and received my "Mutley medal" and thanks from a grateful nation for my Army service, I was hired as the Deputy Director, Public Affairs at the Air Force's leading testing and evaluation center -- Arnold Engineering Development Center (now Complex) in south central Tennessee. The public affairs shop -- my boss and myself -- manages all aspects of public affairs support to AEDC and in return as the lead Air Force installation -- the ONLY Air Force installation in the State -- we also support "Big Air". I have been here since 2011 and enjoying the unique challenges of working on a military installation with very little military and a whole boat load of civilians and contractors!!

Wherever I happened to be -- in the hot desert; on board a ship; in the lush fields in Central America; or sitting in AC'ed comfort on a base someplace in the States -- that's where I'm "stationed" -- and I'm happy for it. I am one of those few people who really love what they do for a living. Yeah, I complain and moan about getting up early, doing the PT walk (I can't run any more -- bad knees and asthma along with old age caught up with me), going to the same places all of the same times...and all of the rest of "living the dream" as an Air Force civil servant (and Army retiree)... but I've also on the outside looking in and you know, there's no other part-time or fulltime job which matches military service and what one gets out of it.

I'm blessed. Being the grandson of a Soldier who saw service during Korea. Being the son of a Soldier who saw service during Vietnam. Being the father of a daughter who went and returned from Afghanistan and the dad of other sons and daughters who may never militarily walk in my shadow but know of their dad's service literally around the world twice. Having a mate or "Sweetie" to share a bit of that lifestyle with me over the majority of those years.

No matter where I place my head, it's where I'm stationed -- and where I call "home".