Retired NCO reflects on lessons learned in uniform
September 17, 2009
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Robert W. Elzy is the chief of Plans and Operations for U.S. Army Alaska G-1. When he permanently hung up his combat boots nine years ago, Elzy traded his Kevlar helmet for the more-stylish Fedora that he sports now as a Department of the Army civilian.
However, he never lost the qualities that made him proud to wear the stripes of a noncommissioned officer.
"I bring knowledge, understanding and compassion for Soldiers and civilians," said Elzy, a former 75 Zulu, administration specialist. "I really enjoy my job."
Though he can now say that he's more accustomed to being called "mister" rather than "sergeant," Elzy said the transition from active-duty Soldier to retiree has been both rewarding and challenging.
He said the valuable experiences he learned while in uniform have guided him through it all.
"It's the values and discipline I was taught when I was on active duty - taking care of people, following through on different tasks," he said. "I learned a lot about myself and matured a lot, too [while in uniform]."
He joined the Army in 1981 in Louisville, Ky., following in the steps of two older brothers already serving in the Army and Marine Corps. For both him and his wife, it was an opportunity to see the world.
"After the stories they told us, I was interested in going to some of the places like Japan that my brother in the Marines talked about all of the time," he said. "[The military] seemed like the right environment. I was impressed. I just wanted something different."
Elzy retired from active duty in 2002 at Fort Richardson, and his connection to the Army remains strong. It heartens Elzy to see the way NCOs are meeting the challenges of ongoing military conflicts around the world. He believes the NCO Corps has become even stronger than it was just a decade before.
"With the multiple deployments some of the Soldiers are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq, I think they have a lot more on their plates," he said. "I think anything they get in return is not enough. They're putting their lives on the line every day."
Elzy's advice to today's NCOs is to stick to the basics of leadership and taking care of Soldiers.
"I would tell them to make sure they follow the NCO Creed the best that they can," he said. "That is something that can guide them."