Army's longest serving female command sergeant major retires
November 17, 2009
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. -- Although she won't formally retire until March 2010, a retirement ceremony was held for Command Sgt. Maj. Cynthia A. Pritchett, the senior enlisted leader for the Army element of the U.S. Central Command, Nov. 13, at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall's Conmy Hall.
Pritchett, who joined the Women's Army Corps on July 2, 1973, before it was integrated into the regular Army, is the longest serving female command sergeant major in the service.
Accompanied by Old Guard Regimental Command Sgt. Maj. David Martel, Pritchett walked in crisp formation past the stationary companies of the 3rd U.S. Infantry for a final inspection. The units, which also included a contingent from the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," later paraded in formation past the official party in the grandstand of Conmy for a final pass and review, acknowledging Pritchett and Command Sgt. Maj. of the Army, Sgt. Maj. Kenneth O. Preston, who was the host of the retirement ceremony.
Preston took the lectern first and outlined Pritchett's career, touching on her accomplishments through the decades as a supply specialist, platoon sergeant, recruiter, a tour in Somalia and her appointment by Lt. Gen David Barno as his principal enlisted advisor for Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan in 2002, making her the Army's first and only female command sergeant major of a sub-unified command.
"[Pritchett] spent 35 of her 36.5 years in the Army as an NCO," Preston said. "She took on tough jobs that made her a leader, a trainer and a role model."
Preston said the recognition of noncommissioned officers with the Year of the NCO, didn't come about by accident. "The seeds for many of these initiatives were planted by Command Sgt. Maj. Pritchett," he said.
Preston credited Pritchett with helping extend the role of families in the Army and how her many contributions to the service led her to being named to the nonprofit U.S. Army Women's Foundation Hall of Fame this April. Pritchett is the first of two recipients to receive the award, along with retired Brig. Gen. Evelyn Foote, who Pritchett served with as installation command sergeant major when Foote was commander at Fort Belvoir. Pritchett named Foote, who was in the audience for the ceremony, one of her many mentors.
"We wish you the greatest success in the next chapter of your life," Preston concluded. "God bless you. Army strong!"
When she took the lectern, Pritchett confessed to not having a speech prepared. Instead she spoke from the heart, her voice occasionally quavering from emotion. She said she could write a sequel to the children's book, "Oh the Places You'll Go," by Dr. Seuss. The title would be "Oh the Places I've Been," or maybe "The People I've Met," she said, because, "What I've accomplished is because of who I've met [in the service]."
"My mentors have been my Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen," she said. "I'm proud to have been a part of such a great group of people."
"You only get the opportunity to be the first once. Hopefully I've done right by the servicewomen who come after me," she said, concluding with "Army Strong! Hooah!"
The program concluded with Pritchett jesting that, "I'm going to Disneyland when I get home," whereupon she presented flowers to her two sisters, who she credited with "unwavering support during her Army career."