Lisa Hunter
AMCOM Public Affairs

The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command's senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael O'Donnell, is retiring after 30 years of service to the Nation.

A native of Woodbridge, Va., O'Donnell joined the Army in 1988, shortly after graduating from high school.

"Like a lot of individuals coming out of high school, I didn't really know what I wanted to do," O'Donnell said. "My father and two of my uncles had served in the military, so it seemed fitting for me to serve in the military. I knew it would help my maturity to serve the nation a little."

O'Donnell enlisted as a Cobra helicopter Armament, Electrical and Avionic Systems repairer. He later transitioned to work on Apache helicopters. He served in a variety of assignments, stateside and overseas, including three combat deployments to Iraq in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. He has served as AMCOM's command sergeant major for just over a year, bringing his nearly three decades of aviation experience to the position.

"AMCOM is unlike anything I've ever done before," O'Donnell said. "Airworthiness is a key mission for AMCOM." O'Donnell said. "Here at AMCOM, we identify problems to our aviation platforms. We work with the manufacturer to fix the problem so there are no more accidents. That's a success story. There are high stakes involved here, Soldiers' lives, so that success is very rewarding. AMCOM employees are doing great things for the Army. They are supporting a very important effort for the Soldiers in the field."

O'Donnell admits that he had not planned to make the Army a career when he first enlisted. He attributes the longevity of his career to his leadership. In fact, Soldiers - those from whom he learned and those he trained - are a constant theme throughout his career.

"I've stayed because I've had good leaders. I've been very fortunate. I've had commanders who were well rounded, very balanced, great individuals and terrific Soldiers," O'Donnell said. "I have been able to take a lot from them as role models. They've actually honed who I am as an individual, in some respects. I've been doing this for 30 years. I am who I am because of the Army."

Looking back at his career, O'Donnell said that his most memorable experiences were when he served as a battalion command sergeant major.

"I loved being a first sergeant, but when I became a command sergeant major, my aperture opened much, much wider. When you're in charge of a battalion, you can put something into action and see results quickly and you get to spend time with Soldiers.

"I think my legacy is the impact I had on some Soldiers. My philosophy has always been win the fight and take care of your people," he said. "You have to grow your Soldiers. You have to mentor them and teach them to be proficient at what they do, because lives are at stake. I think I had a very positive impact on them and, in some cases, changed their lives for the better. Watching them grow and mature because of the impact I had on them, there's nothing more rewarding than that. It's just something to behold."

"Command Sgt. Maj. O'Donnell's retirement will be a great loss to the Army. He has always been the NCO who put the mission and taking care of Soldiers before himself," said AMCOM Commander, Maj. Gen. Doug Gabram. "He may leave the Army, but he had a positive influence, on all of the Soldiers that he trained and mentored. They're the next generation of Army leaders."

Over the course of his career, O'Donnell completed several levels of NCO Education, including the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Course, Class 59. He also holds a bachelor's degree in Management Studies from Western Illinois University and a master's degree in Management from Webster University. His awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal with two Oak Leaf clusters and the Master Aviation Badge. He plans to stay in the Huntsville area and take up new hobbies that he never had time for while on active duty, including becoming a certified SCUBA diver.

"When I look back over my career, I have no regrets," O'Donnell said. "In my opinion, the Army is the best organization in the world. I have had some very fascinating moments, moments I will never forget. Overall, it's the people that I will truly remember for the rest of my life."