NATICK, Mass. - In August 1988, gas prices averaged $1.01 per gallon, Ronald Reagan was the president, Steve Winwood had the number one song in America with “Roll With It,” and Alfred and Diane Poff said goodbye to their son John as he went off to basic combat training.

Fast forward 23 years, to a stage in Natick, Mass., where Sergeant Major John Poff said his goodbyes to his Soldiers June 1 as he retired from active-duty military service.

A native of Muncy, Pa., Poff has deployed to Operation Desert Storm, Macedonia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

“Reflecting back to my days as a young private, wearing inferior cold-weather gear, and not being able to wear anything else but Army issue because everyone had to be ‘uniform,’ said Poff, “I kept telling myself, if I ever meet the guy that is responsible for designing these gloves, or this field jacket, I am going to punch him square in the nose! Twenty some years later, in fact, it was about two days into this job, I was laying in bed, staring at the ceiling, about ten minutes before my alarm was to go off, thinking about my list of tasks for the day. It occurred to me, ‘Hey, I’m that guy.’ Over the past two years, I truly hope that I helped in making a difference in the quality of life, safety, and protection for our warfighters.”

Brig. Gen. Harold Greene presided over the retirement ceremony having most recently
served as the Commanding General of the Natick Soldier Systems Center prior to his
assignment as Program Executive Officer, Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors.

“You just need to look at some of his assignments to see what kind of a Soldier Sergeant Major Poff is,” said Greene. “There are assignments and then there are assignments. Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Macedonia, Kosovo, Operation Enduring Freedom, platoon sergeant, first sergeant, drill sergeant, drill sergeant instructor, first sergeant in a company training officers " those aren’t jobs that are just given to anyone.

“He was the master gunner for U.S. Army Europe,” said Greene, continuing to talk about Poff’s distinguished list of assignments. “That position recognized Poff as the best mechanized infantryman in Europe and it was selected on the four-star general level to serve as that commander’s senior infantryman.

Poff also served as the senior enlisted adviser in training the Afghan army and graduated the Sergeants Major Academy with honors before his assignment at Natick.

The sergeant major thanked his family for all the support that he received in his 23 years serving in the Army.

“My parents only had to sign two things for me when I was under 18,” said Poff. “The first thing was the co-signing of a bank loan to buy a car, and I paid that loan off, on time and never missed a payment. The second and only other thing I asked them to sign were my enlistment papers. Mom and Dad, I want you to have these back. I paid this off, too, on time, with honor, pride and dignity.”

As he continued to thank his family for their support, Poff offered an apology.

“I owe sincere apologies to my family and friends for all of the weddings, funerals, hospitalizations and significant events which occurred over the past 23 years that I had not been able to attend,” said the sergeant major. “Please keep in mind that I was defending the freedoms of everyone so that these events could transpire.”

After 23 years as a Soldier, a recipient of the Purple Heart and Legion of Merit, John Poff rides off into the sunset leaving the Army better than it was when he joined.

Page last updated Thu June 2nd, 2011 at 00:00