Sept. 19, 2008 - Lt. Gen. Ron Helmly Retirement Ceremony
December 4, 2008
General George William Casey, Jr.
LTG Ron Helmly Retirement
19 September 2008
General George W. Casey: -- We were talking to three chaplains. They were all claiming credit for the weather. [Laughter].
Good morning to you all. Thank you all for coming out here to help us honor an American Soldier and a great Army family.
Ron Helmly has proudly and honorably served this country for 42 years and your presence here is a fitting tribute to his lifetime of service. And I am particularly proud that this worked out that I could be here to do this to fulfill a promise I made to Ron and Maria some time ago. They were our neighbors at Fort Myers for a long time, so it's a great personal pleasure for me to be here to do this.
Lots of family here today. I'd like to recognize some of them.
Ron and Maria's two daughters, Lisa and Melanie and Lisa's husband Allen, with Jacob and MacKenzie. And Melanie's husband Don with Jackson, Kennedy, and new baby Asher.
Ron's younger brother and sister, Steve and Diane, and their families.
And Maria's brother and two sisters and their families.
And a host of cousins that I met over at the house. Welcome to everybody.
We're also joined by some distinguished guests.
We've got the civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army for Georgia here, Mr. Duke Doubleday. Duke, welcome. Thanks for all you do.
Dr. Robert Nash, the Army Reserve Ambassador for South Carolina. Thank you.
Mr. Andrew Billings from Senator Isaacson's office. Thanks for coming out. Thanks for what the Senator does for our Soldiers and families.
I'd also like to recognize Honda and Diane Campbell and Jack Stoltz, neighbors here at Fort McPherson. Thank you all for what you do for our Soldiers and families.
As we look out here on the field today, the Soldiers of the United States Army Reserve that stand out there, they do so representing the nearly 200,000 Army Reserve Soldiers who continue to serve courageously here at home and around the globe just as the Army Reserve has done for the last 100 years. Because of leaders like Ron Helmly, we are indeed one Army: a combat seasoned, professional force that's making a positive difference in the difficult world of the 21st Century.
Since September 11, 2001, seven years ago, nearly 170,000 Army Reserve Soldiers have mobilized and answered the nation's call. Today more than 26,000 Army Reserve Soldiers serve on active duty -- 19,000 overseas and 7,000 here at home supporting our country during this time of war.
From the Emergency Preparedness Officers that were just stood up to respond to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, to the Army Reserve Soldiers helping stand up Africa Command and conducting nation-building and humanitarian assistance missions in Djibouti, to those conducting medical readiness training exercises in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, to those Reserve Soldiers fulfilling vital missions in Iraq and Afghanistan where over 100 Reserve warriors have given their lives while defending freedom, and over 1200 have been wounded in action.
We could not do without these brave Soldiers and the families, employers, and communities that support them. Let there be no mistake about it our Army Reserve is serving this country with distinction at a time of war, so how about a big hand for these Soldiers and the great Army Reserve they represent.
Way back in 1966, the year I was graduating from high school, also during a time of war, an 18 year old raised his right hand and enlisted in the Army as an infantryman, just like his dad had done a little over 20 years earlier.
Ron spent his early years as a Soldier with the Rakkasans -- 3rd Battalion 187th Airborne Infantry in Vietnam. His experiences leading Soldiers in combat-- with that unit-- shaped Ron's attitude, his outlook and his devotion to Soldiers and America's Army for the next 42 years.
As a platoon leader with the Rakkasans, Ron realized how much he loved Soldiers and that in combat death does not discriminate. Your position and your rank don't matter. What matters is your preparedness, your training. So what as Ron's take-away from that initial experience' It was that leadership makes a difference and every Soldier deserves positive, engaged leaders. He shaped a career around these principles.
We need leaders who provide challenging, rigorous training opportunities to prepare Soldiers for war.
We need leaders who are problem solvers.
We need leaders who empower their subordinates.
And we need leaders who have the personal courage to buck the system, which is exactly what Ron did pretty well for 42 years.
We all know that Ron does have a bit of an independent streak and does have the proclivity to challenge the conventional wisdom. I think his career has helped shape that outlook.
What some of you may not know is that Ron and Maria met on a Friday night at Happy Hour at the Officer's Club at Fort Benning, Georgia, where I think a lot of Infantry marriages have begun. [Laughter]. She was dating one of his buddies, asked to be introduced to Ron, and as they say, the rest is history.
About a year later they got married and eleven days later Ron took off for his second tour in Vietnam. He spent that second tour as a senior military advisor dealing with the insurgency. This only reinforced his independent style.
When he followed that with Ranger School, which I guess was Ron's idea of taking it easy after two tours in Vietnam, he moved on to the Advanced Course. From there he and Maria headed to Panama where he commanded a company just as our Army was transitioning to the All Volunteer Force, and he proved that Soldiers really do value positive leadership and positive challenges.
Ron then transitioned to being an Army civilian and joined the Army Reserve.
Over the course of his career Ron commanded for a total of about 12 years -- infantry platoon and company, maintenance battalion, Area Support Group, Training Division, and ultimately the United States Army Reserve Command. He's led, trained and mentored Soldiers who fought in all of our country's wars over the last 40 years. And while each war was different, each required capable, competent Soldiers and caring families to sustain our all volunteer force.
Thirty-nine years after becoming a Reserve Soldier and eight months after the attack on our homeland, Ron became the Chief of U.S. Army Reserves and the Commander of the Reserve Command. Ron instinctively knew that the Army Reserve at that day was trained and organized for a past era. Over the course of his four year tenure as the Chief, he deployed nearly half of the Army Reserve to war. If this wasn't enough, he set about changing the Army Reserve. About changing its culture and about changing its organization. He guided its transformation from a strategic reserve, one constantly preparing just for the big one, to an operational reserve, ready to serve and serving our nation at this era of persistent conflict.
He discarded the out of date ideas of reservists and weekend warrior and dealt with mobilization as a continuum.
He streamlined the bureaucracy and overhead and increased the responsiveness of the Reserve.
He oversaw 25 major reforms of Reserve component policies.
And he established a Welcome Home Warrior Citizen Program to connect the American people with their returning warriors.
Ron's focus remained firmly on providing ready, capable, agile, well supported Soldiers and Families for the nation.
Ron will tell you he's just a simple guy who pays attention to the basics. I'll tell you that Ron has never accepted the status quo and that has made a huge difference across our Army.
After four tremendous years of leading the Army Reserve, Ron continued his service, and as you heard, spent the last two years in Pakistan for the United States Army Central Command where I have no doubt his efforts will pay dividends for years to come as our nation continues to cultivate partners in our fight against global extremism.
For Ron and Marina Helmly, Soldiering is all about people. An Army family includes husbands and wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, and employers that are geographically disbursed across this great nation of ours to care and support for their Soldiers.
For 38 years Maria has cared for Army families across the Army and the Army Reserve. She spent many weekends conducting workshops and Family Readiness Academies long before the Army formalized Family Readiness Groups. She spent countless hours behind the scenes making a positive difference in the lives of thousands of Soldiers and families.
More recently, Maria served as a senior advisor and volunteer for a host of family programs and has worked hard to keep Reserve spouses up to date about available support to Reserve families, and that's critical given we have over 25,000 Army Reserve Soldiers on active duty every day.
Maria recently initiated the Army Reserve Wounded Warrior Support effort, yet another example of her continued care for Soldiers and families even after they return home.
Maria, Sheila and I both thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the wonderful job and the difference you've made across the Army.
Maria also knows that not all return home. Over the last four years she personally supported and prayed with Caroline and Keith Maupin for their son Matt's return after he was captured in 2004. She was with them in April when they laid Matt to rest at home, finally, in Ohio.
I mention this because today is POW/MIA Remembrance Day. As we celebrate the career and service of Ron and Maria it's fitting to pause and pay tribute to those who have not yet come home. Just like Ron, it's an opportunity to renew our pledge to always place the mission first, to never accept defeat, to never quit, and to never leave a fallen comrade.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote, "It's the doer of deeds who actually counts in the battle of life, and not the person who looks on and says how the fight ought to be fought without himself sharing the stress and danger."
Ron and Maria Helmly are the doers of deeds. They have been involved in the battle for preserving our freedom and our way of life. They have shared the stress. They have shared the danger. And they have helped us in our efforts to win the battle.
For that, Maria and Ron, on behalf of a grateful nation Sheila and I thank you both. God bless you both. A great American Soldier and a great American family. God bless America. Thank you very much.