ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- After 46 years of civilian service to the U.S. Army, Karen L. Taylor, former chief of staff of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) Headquarters (HQ), bids farewell to the workforce during an official retirement ceremony April 3.

Maj. Gen. Joel K. Tyler, commander of ATEC, presided over the ceremony, where he credited Taylor for her lifelong career and accomplishments.

"Over a long professional life, you have built organizations over and over again," said Tyler. "You have a nose for talent, which explains why you have built a staff that is absolutely incredible; a mix of military and civilian that is all focused in the right direction."

Tyler expressed how grateful he was to have served with Taylor and the organization she has built that he gets to lead. "Everyone in this room has been moved by you; you have infused your DNA into this organization [ATEC] and that will never go away."

Taylor has served as the chief of staff of ATEC since January 2011. Born in Havre de Grace and raised in Aberdeen, Taylor graduated from Aberdeen High School in 1973.

A week before high school graduation, Taylor started working for the Federal Government at the local Army installation, the U.S. Army Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG). Her first position in civil service was a clerk typist at the U.S. Army Ordnance Center and School (USAOC&S). This position was a General Scale (GS) 1 Step 1, which was equivalent to an annual salary of $4,718.

Taylor spent the first seven years of her career at the USAOC&S and APG Garrison with the Directorate for Engineering & Housing and Comptroller Office.

"As I was working my way up the ladder, my colleagues expressed the importance of a college degree in the Federal Government and told me that I needed to go back to get my degree," said Taylor. "I knew this was the right time to start taking classes, which would benefit my future."

Taking the advice of her colleagues, she started attending night classes at the University of Maryland University College to major in Business Administration and minor in Human Relations. She completed her degree in 2001.

In 1980, Taylor transferred to the former Test and Evaluation Command, also known as TECOM, where she held positions such as a program analyst and budget analyst.

To broaden her baseline and fundamental experience at different levels in the budget and resource management realm, Taylor shifted to different positions at the U.S. Army Quartermaster Center at Fort Lee, Virginia, and the Pentagon. After each one of those positions, she returned to TECOM.

"There were many times throughout my career that I went back in grade [GS] so I could get a baseline, and then I could go forward," said Taylor. "I went back to become a program analyst… I went back to become a budget analyst, and then I had all that experience to move forward."

In 1999, she accepted a budget officer position with the U.S. Army Soldier, Biological and Chemical Command, formerly known as the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which was recently renamed the Combat Capabilities Development Command, under the U.S. Army Futures Command (AFC).

The next year, Taylor was welcomed back to the test and evaluation community to serve as the Director of Resources and Personnel, but this time, under a different organization name, the U.S. Army Developmental Test Command (DTC).

Due to the consolidation of Army developmental and operational testing, TECOM became a subordinate command of ATEC and was redesignated as DTC. Six years later, she was selected as the Chief of Staff, which was the first civilian chief of staff.

In January 2011, DTC merged with ATEC, located on APG. Maj. Gen. Genaro J. Dellarocco, former commander of ATEC, offered Taylor the chief of staff position. She was the first civilian and first female to serve as the chief of staff at ATEC HQ.

Her first duty was to lead the reorganization and close DTC. Even though she was not supportive of the idea, she successfully completed the job.

ATEC HQ provides direct support to AFC and relevant, timely information to senior Army leaders to make future force decisions enabling Multi-Domain Operations through rigorous developmental testing and independent operational tests and evaluations.

Taylor was directly responsible for planning, coordinating and directing all administrative, intelligence, operational and logistical functions for the ATEC Commanding General.

Taylor related her position similar to the mayor of a small town. "My first job is to make sure that our subordinate organizations have what they need in order to do the mission. My second job is to take care of the people. The third is making sure I keep the commander out of trouble."

But what tops off any job Taylor has ever had throughout her entire career, "being the ATEC Chief of Staff has been my biggest accomplishment." Taylor mentioned that when she walks in those doors of ATEC HQ, "it gives me the greatest satisfaction to know that everything we do is supporting the military."

"I couldn't be more proud of my career, but I'm most proud to have served all of you. I served you because what you do every day for our Soldiers and our Army is so critical."

As Taylor reflected on her career, she mentioned to always challenge yourself and never say 'that's not in my job description.' "If somebody gives you additional work, take it and run with it. When I first started with the government, anyone could say, 'she doesn't have a degree,' because I didn't. However, they could never take away the fact that when they gave me something to do, I did it, and did it well… and that's how I was pushed ahead."

Taylor mentioned that over the years, she has had a lot of folks who believed in her. But she credits her family, as they were the ones who "shaped me." "My mom was all about family and taking care of them. My dad had such a strong work ethic. My three brothers taught me that family comes first, to be tough on the outside but a marshmallow on the inside, and how to be a risk taker."

Taylor is married to Roger, husband of 45 years, and together they have one daughter, Tami. In addition to serving as a mother and wife, Taylor also goes by a very special name, 'Mimi', by her two granddaughters, Jordan and Abigail.

As Taylor looks forward to retirement, she plans on being the best "Mimi" to her granddaughters and spending time with her husband, sitting on the back porch listening to oldies music.

Tyler presented Taylor with the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, signed by the Secretary of the Army, Mark T. Esper; the Governors Citation, signed by the Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan; and the ATEC Medallion, also known as the 'big kahuna coin.'

ATEC Command Sgt. Maj. Jon E. Helring presented Taylor with the retirement flag, which was flown over DTC, ATEC HQ and the Pentagon, in honor of three locations where Taylor served.

"To all of you, continue to do what you do. I told you all over and over again that I never wore the uniform, but I signed on 46 years ago to support that Soldier in one. I hope I did it well. Thank you all for your supporting me. I love you all!"