YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea (Feb. 13, 2014) -- The top U.S. Army aviator in South Korea completed his 33-year career here, today.
Eighth Army Deputy Commanding General for Operations Maj. Gen. Walter M. Golden Jr. and his wife, Joann Golden, were recognized for their service at a retirement ceremony here, which was hosted by the U.S. Army's top operational command in South Korea.
American and South Korean military leaders, including Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea; Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux; and 7th Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas, attended the ceremony.
A West Point graduate, Cavalry officer and one of the first members of the U.S. Army Aviation Branch, Golden has served in Eighth Army since August 2012.
It was his second assignment in South Korea, following a tour as the deputy division commander for maneuver for the 2nd Infantry Division.
Golden accumulated around 2,000 flight hours in a variety of helicopters, including the OH-58A/C Kiowa, UH-1 "Huey" Iroquois, UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-1 Cobra. He also flew U-21 and C-12 fixed wing aircraft.
According to Golden, his parents inspired him to join the Army. Both of his parents served in the Army and met at Patton Barracks in Germany.
Golden became the first general to come from the small Colorado town of Salida, about 150 miles south of Denver. He was also the first person from his family to graduate from college. All four of Golden's children have since followed his example and graduated from college.
According to Golden, one of the highlights of his career was his 36-month tour as the brigade commander for the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), in Germany.
"I spent nine months in Kosovo, came back to Germany for six months and deployed my brigade to Iraq for a year," said Golden.
"One of my proudest accomplishments is the fact that we spent 12 months in Iraq with an aviation brigade, well over a 1,000 people," said Golden," and brought everybody back home again."
Another highlight, according to Golden, came when he commanded the Schofield Barracks, Hawaii-based 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division (Light), where he spent six of his 24 months in command at Fort Hood, Texas, fielding the Kiowa Warrior.
As a general officer, in addition to his two assignments in South Korea, Golden served as the personnel chief for the Joint Staff and the deputy commander for police at the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan.
During his time in Afghanistan, he helped to implement literacy standards and training for the Afghan police force and Ministry of Interior. Golden said he was surprised to be picked for the assignment.
"It occurred at a significant time in our Afghan campaign," said Golden.
He added that the Afghans had made progress in "establishing the foundation that would at least set the conditions for the Afghans to be both successful and to be able to take the lead for their own nation's security."
Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux said Golden "improved lives and empowered leaders" on three continents.
"General Golden, one of the Army's most senior, experienced, respected and distinguished aviators, cut his teeth in the cockpit of an AH-1 Cobra in a Cavalry Regiment and has flown in demanding, diverse and harsh environments," said Champoux.
"This master Army aviator has literally served around the world in a collection of challenging, eclectic and sometimes thankless assignments, and in the most demanding environments. Even more remarkable is that he stepped forward, time and again, to volunteer for most of them," said Champoux. "His legacy is secured in the people he mentored and in the formations he led."
On Feb. 7, Golden took his last U.S. Army flight in an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior with the deployed 4th Battalion, 6th Cavalry Regiment at Camp Humphreys.
Golden said his last Army flight gave him the chance to come "full circle" since his first flight was in an OH-58A Kiowa.
"It allowed me to put a Stetson on again," said Golden.