WEST FORT HOOD, Texas -- Soldiers, friends, and family gathered to witness U.S. Army Operational Test Command Commander Col. John C. Ulrich be promoted to brigadier general here Friday.

Ulrich's son Ethan, 15, daughter Chelsea, 16, and wife Michele, all from Haymarket, Virginia, his mother Colleen, from Glendive, Montana, and mother-in-law Sheila Lamell from Essex Junction, Vermont, each took turns pinning stars on his shoulders, beret, and uniform jacket.

The general officer pistol belt was presented by Ulric's father-in-law Ron Lamell, also from Essex Junction, Vermont.

The promotion culminated with his father Clarence Ulrich, also from Glendive, Montana, presenting Ulrich with the standard Army-issue 9mm Beretta pistol.

Lt. Gen. (Retired) Michael E. Williamson, who completed more than 34 years of service culminating as the Military Deputy/Director, Army Acquisition Corps, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology), Washington, D.C., hosted the ceremony.

"This is a really big deal today, but it's hot," Williamson said of the 101 degree temperature.

"The unique thing about the Army is that we promote people based on potential," he said. "What you did in your past is interesting, but the reason you're being promoted -- and it doesn't matter if you are being promoted to specialist, to master sergeant, to captain, or general officer -- you are being promoted for the things that you are going to do for Soldiers, the Army, and the nation in the future.

"Having served with John a couple of times," he continued, "I'm very excited about what he's going to do for our Army. I plan on spending the next five or six years watching you continue to serve our Soldiers."

After OTC Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Schmidt uncased the Army's newest one-star general officer flag, Ulrich re-affirmed his oath as an officer and Soldier.

Next, 1st Lt. Caleb Varacalli, platoon leader of the salute battery from Alpha Battery, Field Artillery Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, presented Ulrich with the ceremonial "first round fired" from his first "ruffles and flourishes" canon salute as a general officer.

To loud cheers, Ulrich stepped to the podium, and thanked everyone for attending, especially those who traveled far to attend.

Pausing, Ulrich dedicated time to remember Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker, who was the third OTC commander from August 1971 thru January 1973.

Shoemaker planned to attend the promotion ceremony, but sadly passed at 11:55 p.m. two evenings earlier at Seton Medical Center, Harker Heights, Texas.

"He was a dynamic leader across our Army and Central Texas," Ulrich said. "His life was spent in selfless service to his nation and his community.

"Our prayers are with his family."

After recognizing the Salute Battery and the small element from the 1st Cavalry Division Band, Ulrich said he was honored and humbled to receive his promotion.

"I personally know countless peers who should be standing in my place today," he said. "Honestly, I wrestled long and hard, what to say.

"Running out of ideas, I fell back on what has always worked. I consulted my wife," he said to applause.

Speaking of his grandfather who served and was wounded in World War II as an Infantryman, Ulrich segued into various stories of his father and numerous uncles who all served for various periods. Each shared military stories along the way, and Ulrich did not think military service was in his future when he was young.

"Frankly, they made it sound pretty tough," he said. "I wasn't so sure I'd make the cut."

An opportunity for an ROTC scholarship is what changed Ulrich's future. He said he was going to serve four years, then leave the Army to pursue a career with his engineering degree.

"When I was a platoon leader, I was having too much fun serving with Soldiers and I have never considered since, getting out," he said.

"I continue to serve because of people. Throughout my career, I have been blessed and had the pleasure to serve with outstanding people.

"The Army has given me and my family numerous opportunities," he said of his sense of commitment and obligation. "The Army's belief and investment in us fuels our desire to serve as long as we can make a positive difference."

Lastly, Ulrich said he has continued to serve because of pride in the Army and nation, while giving great credit to military families, who shoulder tremendous responsibilities while Soldiers are deployed.

Ulrich has commanded USAOTC since July 12, 2016.

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USAOTC is subordinate to the Army Test and Evaluation Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and is the Army's only independent operational tester. Testing and assessing Army, Joint, and Multi-service war fighting systems in realistic operational environments, OTC uses typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer -- the American Soldier.