LATHAM, N.Y. - New York Army National Guard Sgt. Maj. Joseph Marino, a federal technician specializing in helicopter maintenance for 33 years, expected the usual retirement lunch and jokes when he showed up for work at the Latham flight facility on Wednesday, May 28.

It was his last official day in his full-time job as a maintenance supervisor and he expected a cake and was ready to act surprised.

Instead, he really was surprised when he was told to suit up in flying gear for a "final flight."

Traditionally, pilots make final flights as they wrap up their military flying careers. Helicopter crew chiefs normally do not.

Because Marino has been such an important part of aviation operations at Army Aviation Support Facility 3 for so many years, his colleagues and supervisors decided he deserved a final flight too, explained Capt. Forest Thrush, the flight facility operations officer.

So when he came into work for the last time, Marino was bundled into a UH-72 light utility helicopter with Chief Warrant Officer 5 Mark Shumway and 1st Sgt. Charles Garretto, for a last ride as a member of the support facility team.

When the hour-long flight ended, Marino was greeted by a line of well-wishers who have worked with him over the years.

"It's been an honor working with Sergeant Major Marino all these years; he's an old-school Marine: he is direct, honest and set in his ways, but always willing to help Soldier's out first," said Staff Sgt. Stephanie Kyle, state aviation operations office coordinator.

"It was nice to see everybody here to wish me well, and it was great," Marino said. "It's hard to see it come to an end."

While he'll no longer be coming to work at the flight facility each day, Marino will spend another year as a traditional Guardsman, drilling with the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade headquarters.

He plans to retire in 2020 which will mean he will have spent 40 years in uniform, first as a Marine and then as a member of the New York Army National Guard.

"I am not ready to hang up the uniform yet," he said.

Marino joined the Marine Corps in 1980 before transferring to the New York Army National Guard in 1984. As a Marine, he deployed to Lebanon following the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983.

After joining the New York National Guard, he deployed to Bosnia in 2002-03 and then to Iraq in 2008-09.

Marino has served as the first sergeant for Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation, first sergeant for the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade Headquarters Company and the command sergeant major of the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation.

He served as the command sergeant major of the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade and finally as the operations sergeant major in the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade.

His National Guard service included response missions for Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Wilma, and Superstorm Sandy.

"I am proud of him," said Marino's wife Brenda. "We have been together 26 years, multiple deployments and now he's retiring. He's had a great career, great friends, and now we are ready to travel and catch up on house chores."

"I've had a great career," Marino said. "I wouldn't change it for anything in the world, I spent years fixing aircraft, watching them fly successfully and had the opportunity to lead Soldiers, I couldn't ask for anything more."