By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneAugust 25, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Greer knows how to live the slogan "Rangers Lead The Way!"
Throughout a 33-year career, including service as the command sergeant major for the Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning, Georgia; and during deployments and stints as the senior enlisted adviser at both the U.S. Military Academy Corps of Cadets at West Point and the U.S. Army Military District in Washington, D.C., Greer exhibited a level of commitment, readiness, courage, selfless service, planning excellence and dedication to the nation's defense that has been recognized with his induction into the Ranger Hall of Fame.
Greer was inducted along with nine others in July in the 22nd induction ceremony for the Ranger Hall of Fame since 1992. Greer, a defense contractor supporting THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) at the Missile Defense Agency at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., joins the ranks of the Rangers' best, including 2013 inductee Carl Vencill, a Vietnam veteran known in the Huntsville community for his years of service as the JROTC instructor at Grissom High School. Greer was nominated by fellow defense contractor and friend Bob Cassella.
"Service and commitment to the Ranger community are requirements of this honor," Greer said. "It's all about the contribution they've made to the Ranger community, and their commitment to selfless service and sacrifice, and to their discipline and determination to never quit regardless of the situation."
Those values, Greer said, are taught at the Ranger Training Brigade, where he led Soldiers during his assignment there in the mid-1990s.
"Yes, we were teaching techniques and tactics of patrolling and combat but it was more about developing leaders," he said.
As a responsibility of his position at the brigade, Greer served on the nominating committee for the Ranger Hall of Fame. And he participated in a documentary about the Ranger Training Brigade that has aired on the History Channel.
"Ranger school is tough. There's no two ways about it. It's the toughest school the Army has," he said.
Raised in San Diego, California, Greer joined the Army with a couple of friends right out of high school in 1974. After basic infantry training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, he went on to complete basic airborne training at Fort Benning, and then was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he served as a rifleman, team leader and squad leader, and the driver for the commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps.
"I didn't even know Rangers existed at that time. The first two Ranger battalions didn't form until 1974, although Rangers have been part of the Army experience since the very beginning," he said.
"I was at Fort Bragg until 1981, so I had a lot of friends who had been in the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalion in those early years. By 1980, quite a few guys had been in those battalions and they would talk to me about it. From them, I learned Ranger school and a Ranger battalion was the place for me to go."
Ranger School's combat leadership challenges can make the course seem formidable, even for willing Soldiers like Greer.
"It was physically demanding, mentally stressing," Greer recalled.
"But like most Army units, we melded together as a team within the class. We would get together as Ranger buddies, and remind each other that we could do this. We would say, 'Whatever they do, they can't kill you.' It was the toughest thing I had ever done up until that time, but we were there because we wanted to be. We knew we would make it to the end of the course and graduate if that's what we really, really wanted to do."
Not all Ranger students are so sure. The Ranger school has a 30 to 50 percent dropout rate.
"Some quit because they just don't want to go through it all. Some don't make it because they aren't team players. You have to be a good follower if you are to be a good leader. That's just as important in Ranger school as it is in life," Greer said.
The skills and leadership training that Greer learned in Ranger school were essential as his Army career went on to serving in leadership roles where he mentored and led young Soldiers.
Greer was assigned to the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington, as a platoon sergeant where he made a combat jump into Grenada in 1983, and then went on serve as the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Ranger Indoctrination Program and Orientation Program for the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning. He then returned to Washington, where he was the senior enlisted ROTC instructor at the University of Washington from 1986 to 2000, and then back to Fort Benning, where he served as the operations sergeant, first sergeant and command sergeant major for the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He also taught at the Sergeants Major Academy and at the 7th Ranger Training Battalion at Fort Bliss, Texas.
He then served as the command sergeant major of the Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning, followed by assignments with the Southern European Task Force, Infantry Brigade in Italy in 1996-99; the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; and then the U.S Army Military District of Washington and Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region Washington, D.C.
"The Army wants you to do different things throughout your career, and that's what I did," he said. "I've had the opportunity to deploy to many places including Germany, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Sudan. My wife Jenny and I had the wonderful experience to have lived in Italy for three years.
"I served for the commandant of cadets at West Point as his sergeant major during the 9/11 timeframe. And, as the command sergeant major for the Military District of Washington, I had the honor to participate in the state funerals of Presidents (Gerald) Ford and (Ronald) Reagan. Most importantly, I have had the privilege to serve the brave men and women that protect our nation. My whole career has just been an amazing experience."
In 2006, a visit to Huntsville with the U.S. Army Band gave Greer a glimpse of what would become his 11th home. His wife is from Birmingham, and the couple were considering a move to Alabama after Greer's retirement. After his visit, Greer asked his wife if she had ever been to Huntsville. Although she had not, the question began the search for a retirement home in Huntsville.
"I went on to Djibouti, Africa, to visit Old Guard Soldiers stationed in the Horn of Africa. It was an operational deployment for them that also took us to Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. When I came back from Africa, Jenny had found our new home," Greer said.
"Nine months later, my wife and I drove up into the driveway of our home in Huntsville. The moving van was right behind us and it was the first time I had seen our new home other than in a picture."
And, one year later, Greer was working as an MDA contractor on a trip to Tel Aviv, Israel in support of the THAAD program.
With over 33 years of service, Greer is glad that he opted to remain an enlisted Soldier with Ranger leadership skills.
"I did have an opportunity to go to Officers Candidate School and to go Green-to-Gold," he said. "But I didn't choose those options because, to me, officers just don't have the same flexibility as an NCO. I never had an assignment that I didn't specifically ask for, and I got to do everything I wanted to do."
Since he became a Ranger, Greer has seen how the training program has changed the Army, making its Soldiers better trained and more capable.
"When I went to Ranger school, there weren't many Ranger-qualified enlisted Soldiers," he said. "In the 82nd, there were maybe a dozen Ranger-qualified NCOs out of 15,000 Soldiers.
"In the mid-1980s, the Army started looking at sending more Soldiers through the Ranger course from Light Infantry units like the 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain Division. The Army wanted more Ranger-qualified Soldiers, and now most Infantry squad leader and above positions are Ranger coded."
And that's a positive change for both the Army and its Soldiers.
"Ranger school teaches you a lot about yourself and what your limits are," he said. "It reinforces those messages -- 'Don't quit. Don't give up. Pursue things with a purpose.'
"And now it's a larger community of Soldiers with a Hall of Fame and ties to guys out there all over the Army. There are a lot of Soldiers wearing the Ranger tab, and we all share a common experience. You know you are in a group of guys who have volunteered to do things in Ranger school that a lot of Soldiers won't ever do."
For Greer the Ranger, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony was very much like a visit home.
"I hadn't been back to Fort Benning since 1996. I had three assignments there. It was really something to be recognized alongside real heroes from Korea and Vietnam," Greer said.
"There are 347 inductees in the Ranger Hall of Fame, and we come from different places and different experiences. How we all get mixed into the sam