By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public AffairsMay 31, 2019
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (May 31, 2019) -- Soldiers often find themselves reflecting on the years spent in uniform just before they hang it up for good. Lt. Col. Richard Rouleau admitted to doing so before his retirement ceremony May 31 at the Commons.
"I've enjoyed all my time in the Army," he said. "It's given me so many opportunities, both me and my family. Travelling the world, seeing things I couldn't imagine if I had done anything else. As an armor officer, I had several different assignments within my career that I really enjoyed doing."
But what Rouleau said he was most grateful for was the opportunity for his family to call the 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum home. His 33-year active-duty career might have taken him around the world a few times -- to multiple duty stations and on several deployments -- but he found himself back in the North Country for a good portion of his career.
Rouleau's last assignment with the 10th Mountain Division was chief of Future Operations and Plans Branch before deploying to the United Arab Emirates, but he had previously served as the division's exchange officer to the 1st Canadian Division in Kingston, Ontario, and as A Troop commander in 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment. He also was stationed here while serving as commander of the Syracuse Army Recruiting Battalion. He first arrived at Fort Drum in 1988 as a staff sergeant, and he was one of the first division Soldiers to earn a Green to Gold scholarship.
"I think Fort Drum is a great place to be and a great place to raise a family," Rouleau said. "It was during this whole transitioning process when I started to realize that 30 years ago I was a staff sergeant here … and now I'm getting to retire here as a lieutenant colonel."
Rouleau said that his retirement doesn't imply his connection to the service is severed completely.
"You know, once Army, always Army," he said. "The Soldier for Life concept is something I truly believe. What I see, as I transition to the civilian sector, is that you tend to gravitate toward people who are also veterans and retirees -- people who I can communicate easily with. And I know I can always reach back to the Army for assistance, through the retirement service programs that they offer."
Rouleau said that what he will miss most is being among Soldiers. But in actuality, he will continue to spend time with two in particular -- his sons Christopher and Michael Rouleau. Both spent their formative years at Fort Drum, and Rouleau said that had an impact on their decision to join the Army.
"Whether directly or indirectly, I think that military children tend to learn leadership skills early and are stronger in those skills than other children," he said. "They want to take charge of situations, because they are around people all the time who do that for a living."
His eldest, 1st Lt. Christopher Rouleau, serves as a platoon leader with C Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and he is currently deployed to Afghanistan. He graduated from Carthage Central High School in 2012 with an Army ROTC scholarship, and from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2017.
Rouleau said that as soon as Christopher turned 17, he went into the Army Reserves in Syracuse for a year with a civil affairs unit.
"I wanted him to get an appreciation like I did for what it is like to be in the Army before he decided to go full-time," he said. "He enjoyed the mission of the civil affairs unit, and he was constantly being challenged. That was a pretty good experience for a 17-year-old."
Rouleau said that his son accepted an invitation to visit the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, but he was already convinced his career path would be in the Army.
"When I was here as a troop commander, the division was very much family-focused, and every once in a while I would bring Chris down to the motor pool," he said. "He could climb on the vehicles and see all the equipment. He got a lot of hands-on experience and access to things that probably had more of an influence on him than I did. On any given day living on post, there were helicopters flying overhead and Soldiers all around him."
Michael Rouleau will graduate from Carthage High School in June, and he will attend the University of Michigan on an academic scholarship and a four-year ROTC scholarship. Both brothers were active in Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, the Fort Drum Child and Youth Services' Youth Sports program and the Fort Drum Civil Air Patrol.
"Discipline, physical fitness, leadership, aeronautical skills -- Civil Air Patrol gives you a lot to think about and see while going through a whole spectrum of activities," Rouleau said.
Like his brother, Michael participated in the search and rescue team, but he advanced further in rank than Christopher as the detachment commander. Michael is also the S-3 officer for his JROTC battalion.
Rouleau said that his son pushed hard to earn those leadership positions. Michael said that wanting to lead came naturally from growing up in a military environment.
"I've been living and breathing Army all my life, so I suppose it just felt natural to me," he said. "As for making it an actual career, I would say it was my brother going into the Reserves that really inspired me to take it seriously."
Rouleau said that while he presented his sons with the educational benefits that military service offers, he also impressed upon them the value of selfless service.
"My father was always a big fan of President Kennedy and the idea that 'It's not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,'" Rouleau said. "I was kind of raised with that in mind, and that was what we tried to impart on our kids. You owe the country something, some kind of public service, and you need to figure out what that is going to be."
Rouleau said that it is never just one, two or three members of an Army family who serves, but the whole family. He credited his wife Clara for being the foundation of their Army household.
"If it weren't for all her behind-the-scenes dedication, initiative, selfless service, none of us would be as successful as we have been," he said. "I would not have been an officer if it were not for her sacrifices while I was attending college, pushing me through the late nights of studying, raising our sons while I was on numerous deployments and volunteering at every Army post we went to. We wouldn't be the Army family that we are now without her."
Michael said that after he leaves Fort Drum, he will remember the relationships he made within the community. He said that he was never bothered by the winters, and he began appreciating them more the longer he stayed here.
"Honestly, I made a lot of friends while I've been here, so that was always the most important thing in my opinion," he said. "It also helps that my dad took a series of assignments that allowed my family to stay here for nine years, which gave me a sense of stability that most military kids -- including my brother -- don't have."
Rouleau said that they made the most of their time at Fort Drum, exploring the North Country and participating in various Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs.
"Well, that's the cool thing about being here is that they have all the resources on post for you -- kayaking, canoeing, fishing, snowmobiling," he said. "We took advantage of the kayaking and hiking trips that were offered, the campers available through Outdoor Recreation, and we did a lot of traveling here in the region."
Following the retirement ceremony and Michael's high school graduation, they will leave Fort Drum for Manassas, Virginia.
"My wife and I are very proud of our sons and thankful for what Fort Drum, the division, and community have done for my family," he said. "What I'm going to miss the most is being around Soldiers, and getting to serve Soldiers. "Because it's not about you, it's about making sure that you take care of your Soldiers so they can perform well, and that you bring everybody back."