By Mrs. Melissa Buckley (Leonard Wood)May 13, 2015
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (May 15, 2015) -- You may not know him, but chances are you've heard his voice -- Jesse Rutledge -- the voice of Fort Leonard Wood.
Since Rutledge began narrating events in 2000, he has served as the master of ceremonies for nearly 100 scripted military functions.
The proof is in his office as a half-foot thick stack of programs he has saved over the years.
"The emceeing began after my return to Fort Leonard Wood from the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy. Prior to that I had sung the national anthem and Lee Greenwood's 'God Bless the USA' at several different events on post, to include my advanced course graduation as early as September 1989," Rutledge said.
He began and ended his active-duty combat engineer career on Fort Leonard Wood when he attended One Station Unit Training with Company E, 1st Battalion, 2nd Training Brigade, in 1979, and retired in 2001 as the Directorate of Common Leader Training sergeant major. He was also a drill sergeant on post from 1985 to 1988.
"Most of my early emceeing was for engineer school-related events, which began with an Engineer Regimental Ball," Rutledge said.
He said after serving as master of ceremonies for engineer events, such as regimental reviews and changes of command, he was asked to narrate a change of command for the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general.
That is when, according to Rutledge, the floodgate opened.
According to him, he has narrated events that include brigade changes of command, Engineer and Chemical Regimental reviews, combatives tournaments, instructor of the year recognition ceremonies, a Best Sapper Competition awards ceremony, 399th Army Band holiday concerts, retirement ceremonies, changes of responsibility and changes of command.
Rutledge said his time as a Soldier comes in very handy when narrating the precisely-timed ceremonies.
"As a retired sergeant major and former drill sergeant, drill and ceremonies, and the execution of commands and movements comes natural," Rutledge said. "The best part about narrating ceremonies is my continued connection with the customs and traditions of our great Army and the pride I take in the smooth execution of each ceremony."
Rutledge currently works as the chief of the Individual Training Division for the U.S. Army Engineer School's Directorate of Training and Leader Development.
The division is responsible for the development of institutional training products that support the engineer school.
Rutledge, an Oaklyn, New Jersey native, said the toughest part of being the voice of the fort is making time for the extra duties and making sure it is done correctly.
"It is challenging to balance my actual job with the rehearsal and ceremony schedules. That, and trying to get all of the pronunciations correct," he said.
He said he has quite a few memorable experiences over the years.
"The most exciting thing I remember was the reaction of the Soldiers during a combatives tournament. I really tried to play up the role of the announcer and get the Soldiers and other service members who were in attendance motivated. I tried to give it my best Michael Buffer and Bruce Buffer twist to make it fun," Rutledge said.
"One time, a rehearsal for one of the events on Gammon Field ran a tad bit long. It started getting so dark on the field I could hardly see the units. Of course, I had to make light of the situation and interject comments into the script about folks in the stands putting on the night-vision goggles to view the rest of the ceremony," he added.
He most recently narrated the joint change of command and change of responsibility April 7. He said he has a few tricks up his sleeve to make sure everything sounds smooth.
"Water is almost always a must. For the more lengthy ceremonies, I use cough drops. Honey lemon are what I usually bring," Rutledge said.
He said he enjoys being the voice of the fort and looks forward to being the master of ceremonies for future post functions.
"There are at least five more ceremonies this year. I don't know how much longer I will do this, but as long as I do, I'll try to have fun with it and make the ceremonies as professional as I can," Rutledge said.