FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz., U.S. Army Soldiers retire almost every day; however Chief Warrant Officer 5's are seldom seen to retire for they are few in number and their methodical know-how is a much sought-after skill set. They are the Army's gate-keepers of institutional knowledge, subject-matter expertise and applied technological combat experience. Hence, when CW5's retire it is big event. Such is the case with Chief Warrant Officer 5 Alberto (Big Al) Morrison who recently retired while serving as the Senior Communications and Electronic Systems Maintenance Warrant Officer for the Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM).
Morrison was recognized for his distinguished service of over 29 years in the U.S. Army during his retirement ceremony at the NETCOM headquarters at Fort Huachuca late last month. During the ceremony NETCOM Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Maria B. Barrett presented Chief Morrison the Legion of Merit for his enduring and significant contributions to the United States Army.
Morrison's citation read; "for having executed a full spectrum of assignments from the White House Communication Agency to special operations missions, while deploying to numerous combat environments supporting both Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), he demonstrated a level of dedication, professionalism, and selfless service all aspire to match. The legacy of excellence Chief Warrant Officer 5 Morrison established, along with the innumerable and long lasting contributions he made to joint service-members, exemplify the finest traditions of military service. His actions reflect the utmost credit upon him, the NETCOM, United States Army Cyber Command, the United States Army and the Department of Defense."
Enlisting in 1990, Morrison initially served as Radio Repairer and served with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, while supporting Operation Positive Force in Kuwait. Nevertheless, in 2000 Morrison's career accelerated when he was appointed as an Electronic Systems Warrant Officer and later he earned his Chief Warrant Officer Commission in 2002.
Maj. Gen. Barrett commended Morrison on reaching the rank of CW5 as she addressed the audience.
"You don't become a warrant officer and then sit on your heels. You don't become a CW5 by sitting on your heels and resting on your laurels. You have to have an absolute thirst for knowledge and technical knowledge. And I don't know if that [motivation] came from kit-bashing radios or raiding Radio Shack with your dad, early on as a kid. Or whether it was some of the mentors you met through the years," said Barrett.
"But you did an awesome job!"
Among his many accolades and war stories, Maj. Gen Barrett recounted the most significant during Morrison's retirement ceremony.
"[Chief Morrison was placed], on one assignment with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan, [to help in] trying to counter Improvised Explosive Devices (IED's), to lower the casualty rates in Afghanistan not just of U.S. troops but of the coalition forces and the Afghan nationals in their country. This was a horrific problem set, when chief joined that team. They [the task force] were put on the task of trying to solve this problem," said Barrett.
"Clearly it was not an easy problem. And [this meant] you really had to bring out the MacGyver skills of everybody that was on the task force, to think differently about the problem set, to take a look at the data, to take a look at the technology to take a look at the supply chain. Everything, had to be on the table to break this. And that was a very successful task force."
"Not many people will get to say, or actually maybe I should ask how many people in this room have ever met the director of the FBI? He [Morrison] has and he was recognized for his work on that task force [by the FBI]," said Barrett
Not only did Morrison help save countless lives in Afghanistan but he also served in critical communications positions sensitive to our national defense.
"The other place chief [Morrison] and I have some commonality in service is the White House Communications Agency. Another place that really demands people to bring their technical skills to the game and their experience to think out of the box. He [Morrison] was charged with bringing in the president, the vice president the rest of the White House staff comms [communications] into the 21st century," said Barrett.
"It is a no fail mission because there are only certain things the President of the United States can authorize and he must be able to do that wherever he is in the world. Whether it's a mountain top in Africa or in front sitting at his desk in the Oval Office 24/7."
"His number two the vice president has to have the same assurances. And so to be successful at that location tells you a lot about chief [Morrison]," said Barrett.
Even with the numerous tributes and applause Morrison also took the time to thank his family, friends and most of all his lifelong partner and spouse of more than 20 years Shylo (Lt. Col. Shylo Morrison).
"Shylo your performance as a senior military officer is only eclipsed by the love you give as a wife and mother. [Shylo] know that I will [continue to] support your endeavors with the same vigor that you have supported mine," said Morrison.
"So thank you and I love you [Shylo] unconditionally"
Likewise, towards the end of the retirement ceremony and as a tribute and personal honor Lt. Col. Morrison presented her husband Chief Morrison with a folded American flag. In turn, Chief Morrison presented his retirement flag to his son Auston.
"In honor of Chief Warrant Officer 5 Morrison's military service and support to the Army and NETCOM team, his retirement flag was flown over the NETCOM Headquarters this morning," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Tammy Surratt as she narrated the flag presentation.
In closing Chief Morrison proudly recounted his motivation for service and the impact of his retirement.
"I spent more time alive in the military than now. So this is truly a transition because of the opportunities given me and my family and the people that I've met. After all, I've met 99 percent of people in this room from my assignments and that's including my wife. I love the army because it gave me skills, mad nunchaku [nunchuck] skills. It provided for my education and of course all the experience I've gained," said Morrison.
"When I joined the Army in September of 1990, the hit song was from a movie called Young Guns II. It was sung by Bon Jovi, 'A Blaze of Glory.' Although I didn't come into the military in a blaze of glory, I am definitely leaving in one!"