Active-duty Ranger, 63, honored for career spanning 45 years
July 30, 2009
- Odomes served 22 years on active duty and returned in 2006, 19 years after retiring
- Odomes commands B Company, Warrior Transition Battalion and, at 63, believes he is the oldest active-duty Ranger in the Army
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Capt. Freddie Odomes said he is 99 percent sure he's the oldest active-duty Ranger in the Army.
At 63 years old, Odomes, who commands B Company of the Warrior Transition Battalion on Fort Benning, has served the Army in a career spanning 45 years - longer than most active-duty Soldiers have been alive.
During that time, he has racked up a list of accomplishments that include two tours in Vietnam, a two- and a half-year stint as a Ranger instructor, positions as a platoon leader and executive officer, and awards including a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with V device. He earned a Ranger Tab in 1971, and also wears the Combat Infantry Badge, Senior Parachutist Badge and Pathfinder Badge.
Wednesday Odomes was honored for his service and achievements in a ceremony dedicating a stone on the Ranger Monument to him.
"It just amazed me that there are people here who thought highly enough of me to have that done in my honor," Odomes said.
The ceremony was the result of collaboration between retired Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Broady, a WTB transition counselor, and other Rangers and WTB staff who felt Odomes should recognized.
"We were talking about getting a stone for Captain Odomes and said, 'Why had there not been any recognition for him''" Broady said. "In the space of probably 45 minutes, we were able to raise the money from Soldiers and civilians at the WTB to put the stone (on the monument). We've waited 45 years to basically say, 'Hey Ranger, job well done.'"
Odomes' service has not been without interruptions. In 1987, he retired after 22 years on active duty and worked as a restaurant manager and insurance agent, but said he wasn't satisfied with his work and missed the strong dedication and work ethic of Soldiers. So in 2006, he came back to the Army 19 years after leaving active duty, and asked to command a WTB company.
"For me to come back and help these guys get over their problems was a blessing," he said. "As a Soldier wounded in Vietnam, there was basically no one to take care of me when I returned and find out what other problems I may have had besides just the (physical) wounds. I wanted to be sure our Soldiers were getting what they needed to assimilate back into society or to go back into the ranks of the military able to perform their duties."
Although Odomes was just one year away from the age cutoff of 60 for Army volunteers, he said he never considered his age an obstacle. At the ceremony, he credited his family, fellow Soldiers and co-workers with helping make his Army career a success.
"This was a tremendous undertaking, and I appreciate each and every one of you for it," Odomes said. "No person makes any accomplishments alone. It's been said many times that it takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a group to make you successful."
Broady said humility is one of Odomes' best qualities as a leader.
"He's seen it all at least a million times," Broady said. "Rather than tell Soldiers how to do things, he's there to counsel them in the right direction so they make the right decisions on their own. I've seen that not only with individual Soldiers but also with his staff. He sits back, sees what the situation is, makes a quick assessment and then comes up with a plan of action. He's invaluable, not only to B Company but to the WTB as a whole."
1st Sgt. Zachary Mitchell, who had four previous assignments as a first sergeant before coming to B Company, said his working relationship with Odomes is one of the best he has had.
At the ceremony, Odomes offered advice to young Soldiers.
"Do not look for the reward, look for the deed," he said. "The reward may be long in coming, but at some point, someone will recognize the deed, and the reward will be put in the proper place at the proper time."
After getting out of the Army, Odomes said he would like to work with youth and veterans' groups. Although his Army contract will expire in March, Odomes said he plans to try to extend it for at least another year.
"I feel great about being back," he said. "It's wonderful. They've got to get rid of me now."