By Gerald Henderson, Fort Jackson Deputy Chief of StaffMay 9, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Soon, we will say goodbye to Fort Jackson's Chief of Staff, Ken Royalty, a man whom I've served with in some capacity since around 2006.
You never get to know a man quite like you do as when you serve as his deputy, when you are expected to fill in for him in his absence, anticipate and direct as he would or find that right place where your strengths complement and blend together. In saying farewell to a man who has served his country well and faithfully for 33 years, we'll say goodbye to a man who did it up until his very last day on the job, focused on finishing what he had started and committed to an installation and community that has and will continue to serve as his family's home.
To understand Ken, first and foremost, one has to recognize that he is and will always be a Soldier's Soldier. It is evident in how he carries himself, how he goes about looking for solutions to problems and how he deals with people. The willingness to put others first, his self- deprecating sense of humor and his ability to solve problems with simple but very effective solutions and no fanfare are a testament to the years he spent being a Soldier and leading Soldiers as a very capable and competent noncommissioned officer.
The most lasting impression, and maybe the one that is most overlooked, is his compassion for people. He makes people feel important. Not the people who through rank or position already carry it, but the ordinary man or woman, the people just doing their jobs and doing so with little to no fanfare. He never got through a day in the past two years holding to the schedule that his administrative assistant, Mrs. "Z," planned for him. It never happened because someone showed up unexpectedly, or the phone rang, or someone who was seeing him that day needed more time than was allocated.
He never turned a person away from his door. He may have forgotten a name, but he never forgot a relationship or an experience. He felt beholden to people and could never turn his back on people. Whether it was his time, his money or an act, he put others first and executed his duties with an extraordinarily large heart.
Most people are not aware of the letters, phone calls or visitors that come to Post Headquarters. Many come with a request or to report an incident of wrongdoing -- written by people who feel like they were wronged, many involving an incident that occurred many years ago. Many would ignore or question the legitimacy of those requests, but I would watch Ken deal with each person, as if he or she were a friend. I'm sure each was shocked to get a response, much less one that endeared them with the chief of staff. One measure of a man is the number of people who seek you out after having served with you -- in most cases just to check on you, reconnect or say thanks. In that regard Ken's phone rang regularly and his office was rarely empty.
I asked him what his most memorable moment was as Fort Jackson's chief of staff. Understandably, it was what we have done to improve Hilton Field. Many probably don't realize that during his time as battalion commander of the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, Ken was one of our most innovative leaders and developed our Family Day as most execute it today. People will soon forget what the field used to look like -- what it looks like today is now the standard. But it is that way because Ken cares about the Soldiers who stand on that field and the families sitting in the stands. Summing up his contribution, he said, "I felt like that field should, more so than any other place on post, serve as the focal point of this command and the Army. It should make people feel special, provide them with a sense of awe and be a first and lasting impression on all who are associated with the moment."
That effort came with obstacles; it came with doubters and naysayers; it came with a hands-on approach, but it was done right, done on time and probably serves as a model for teamwork for those involved. Hilton Field, along with several other initiatives, reflects several attributes that will define Ken's time as the chief. Opportunism, strength of will, accepting and balancing risk, and holding people accountable for their efforts and product, shone through all stages of Ken's evolution as our chief. Ask Ken what his defining moments during a 33-year Army career are and he'll give you one expected of a Soldier.
"My two tours in combat, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. The opportunity to serve my country during a time of war overshadows everything else that I have been a part of," he said. "While many assignments were great and ones I'll always remember, nothing compares to being a part of those efforts."
Now that his Army career ends, Ken looks ahead to a full plate of activities. All include the things he loves, none more so than his family. His wife Missy , an assistant principal at Killian Elementary School will now manage Ken's schedule. That schedule includes two sons, Chris and Ben, both veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division. Chris is now an Active Guard Reserve lieutenant; and Ben is a police officer in Greenville; two daughters, Kasey, a recent graduate of Columbia College who now teaches at Kelly Mill Middle School, and Mackenzie, a sophomore graphics design major at the University of South Carolina; two grandchildren with one on the way, granddaughters Livvy and Libby and soon- to-arrive grandson Ben Jr.
Notice the children, the occupations and the focus on service. It's pretty obvious that Ken led at home with the same values and commitment that he led with here while serving as our chief of staff. That leadership will be missed and remembered and is appreciated.
Best of luck and Godspeed to Ken and his family.