VICKSBURG, Miss. - Not many people think they will work somewhere for 36 years. U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Gen. William M. Buckler Jr. is no different.
"Did I have any idea I would stay actively involved in the Army for 36 plus years? No. No way. I was set to just become a lieutenant colonel and command a battalion. That was my intention originally."
Buckler retired from the Army during a change of command and retirement ceremony June 29 here at the Vicksburg Convention Center.
While Buckler spent 36 years in the Army, he has spent much longer around the Army.
"My father was a career Soldier, active Army. He retired as an E7, sergeant first class, so I've been around the military all my life," said Buckler. "I did well in school and it wasn't my original intent, but the more I thought about what I could do in my life, the education I could get and how I could maybe give back a little was what really made me decide to join the Army."
Buckler began his career on active duty after he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He served as a platoon leader, executive officer and an instructor at the U.S. Army Engineer School while on active duty. During his tenure in the Army Reserve, he worked in various roles and commanded at all levels, to include commander of 493d Engineer Group, Combined Joint Task Force Morazan, and Joint Force Engineer Command and director of Engineering, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.
Throughout all of his roles, he found one of the most rewarding experiences is the help the U.S. provides to others.
"As a captain, as a major and as a colonel I supported exercises in Latin America," said Buckler. "It helped people. That was a great feeling to be able to help others and spread goodwill through the United States to other countries."
Helping other countries was a rewarding experience for Bucker. Another experience he sees as a great accomplishment occurred while he was the operation officer of the 75th Training Division in 2003.
"We took 500 Soldiers and got them trained and ready to deploy to Iraq at the time," said Buckler. "That was a big deal because it was a change of mission from a peacetime Reserve to a mobilized reserve and taking Reserve Soldiers and getting them ready to go to war."
Preparing and guiding those Soldiers had an impact on Buckler, even though he never really saw the outcome.
"I think the opportunity to train and help mentor and mold young leaders is one that you can't necessarily see the results for a long time, but you feel good because you know you've had a positive influence in people's careers and lives."
While Soldiers and other countries have had a significant effect on Buckler, he also believes the TEC made some significant leaps during his tenure.
Buckler has been with the 412th since 2007, beginning as the deputy commanding general, then serving as the commanding general. He deployed to Afghanistan with the Deployable Command Post in 2009 as the commander of Joint Force Engineer Command and Director of Engineering, United States Forces. This was a big step for the 412th as the unit had recently restructured from an engineer command to a theater engineer command and this deployment tested their abilities in the new organization.
"The work we did with taking the Deployable Command Post and the Joint Force Engineer Command helped validate our restructure," said Buckler. "We always tried to be deployable, but this was a new way to look at how a theater engineer command supports the force. So, this was our test. We took the deployable command post to Afghanistan and made it function according to the doctrine. That was pretty significant because a lot of times you don't really get the opportunity to test what you say you're doing."
While he is proud of how the 412th performed in their new mission structure, another goal during his tenure was to bring the two Theater Engineer Commands, 412th and 416th, together to support the Army Service Component Commands.
"With the support to the ASCCs, that's really is critical to our future. With the two TECs coming together, working and representing one large engineer regiment to the Army and how we support the ASCCs is critical to the future of the engineers in the United States Army Reserve. That's helping to make us part of the operational Army."
Buckler's direction has brought the 412th into their new structure and creating a partnership with other organizations in the engineer community. While all of that is significant to him, he says the fellowship of the Army cannot be replaced.
"I will miss the people I've had the opportunity to work with and the camaraderie you get serving with others," he said. "Soldiers are bonded together in a way many individuals don't realize. So, when you meet another Soldier you have an instant bond, you have something to talk about. You start off positive and I'll miss that."
While he will miss the people, he is adamant he will not dwell on it.
"I'll miss the working with Soldiers and civilians that work for and support the Army and the Army Reserve. I'm not going to be bored, I'm not going to go sit on the porch and pine away," said Buckler. "But there will be plenty of times I will reflect and think back on the good people I've had the opportunity to serve with and enjoy the company of."
After 36 years of leadership, Buckler has a few words to pass on to those coming up into those positions.
"I would tell them times are changing, but people remain the same and leading people is what it's about," he said. "You have to technically proficient, but you have to be proficient in managing and working with people. You need to always remember, they are individuals with their own desire to do well and their own issues and problems they need help with to let them do well."
Buckler believes he flourished in his career not because he's good.
"I've had it because I've been surrounded by people who are good," he said. "I did my best always to help them be successful because if they were successful, then I was successful."
While his career has been long and fulfilling, Buckler is looking forward to relaxing some in his retirement. He is still working a civilian job and has a family to take care of, but wants to spend some more time golfing and reading in the spare time this retirement creates. But for him, his most important use of his free time will be to spend it with his loved ones especially his wife, children and grandchildren.
"I think about the thing I want the world to remember: I have a wife [Carol] who has supported me and allowed me to be successful and I have children and grandchildren who have missed me at times. Those are things I'd like to focus on a lot more," said Buckler.
He believes his wife's support and his faith helped make him successful throughout his career.
"I would like to thank my wife and I thank the Lord for the blessings I have," he said. "I've had a number of great people who have supported me along the way, but it wasn't for my wife and the Lord I would not have been where I've been and done what I've done."
Buckler moves forward in his retirement with his wife by his side, looking to the Lord for guidance and strength.