By Miles BrownOctober 9, 2019
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - He was a well-traveled Army brat, excelling in both music and sports, especially football during his high school years, who never thought he would join the Army. The Army and the life he found after high school laid out a different course for Col. Shawn Prickett, the retiring U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command's Chief of Staff.
Prickett received football scholarship offers to several colleges and universities, but he selected the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and later graduated in 1991.
"I chose West Point for a lot of reasons. I knew academics would be a challenge, but I also knew they had a first-class football program," said Prickett. "My dad used to tell me that I needed to put more effort into academics, rather than playing football. After I got to West Point, I realized quickly that he was right! Back then, I was convinced I would do my time and move on from the military."
As they say in the Army - no plan survives after first contact. After graduating from the United States Military Academy, the Army selected Prickett for the aviation branch, and he went on to the officer basic course, and then flight school, where he initially flew the UH-1 Huey, and later the AH-1 Cobra. That was just the start of a long, distinguished career.
During his 28-year career, Prickett served in assignments from Fort Polk, Louisiana, to Korea. Along the way, he earned two master's degrees and many awards and decorations, including the Legion of Merit. But, it was the deployments that had the biggest impact on his career, according to Prickett.
"The most impactful experience [of my Army career] was deploying with 10th Mountain Division [right after September 11, 2001] and being part of the initial operations in Afghanistan," recalled Prickett. At that time, Prickett was assigned as the J-3 Air for Combined Joint Task Force Mountain in Bagram, Afghanistan, (10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum, N.Y).
"It was a rather austere environment, and there was a lot of teamwork that was required to make sure all the different organizations could reach the goal - to eliminate the terrorist threat that had attacked our country. That was personally very significant."
That deployment was the first of two combat deployments. He deployed again to Afghanistan as the Deputy Brigade Commander with the 10th Combat Air Brigade out of Fort Drum in 2010.
That teamwork and those he served with, both overseas and stateside, continued to motivate and inspire Prickett through the years. A key figure was his mentor - Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Gratton O. Sealock III.
"General Sealock and his wife were very down to earth," said Prickett. "He was approachable, had great common sense and was a wonderful mentor to me throughout my career."
Another impactful superior officer and leader who helped shape his military career was Maj. Gen. Doug Gabram, Director of Test for the Missile Defense Agency and the former AMCOM Commander. The two men served together three times, including during a combat deployment to Afghanistan in 2010. Gabram saw Prickett as a talented and trusted Army officer.
"I picked Shawn to be the Chief of Staff for AMCOM because he is a trusted, loyal and dedicated officer who thrives on solving complex, strategic problems," said Gabram. "Furthermore, he always took the harder right over the easier wrong. I trusted him implicitly, and he consistently did what was best for the team and the Army."
As important as his senior leaders were in shaping Prickett's military career, the friendships he formed with his fellow Soldiers were equally important.
"I look back fondly at my time at the Academy, mostly, because of the friendships forged during that time," Prickett reminisces. "Many of those friendships are still alive and well today."
And as he looks forward to the next chapter of his life - retirement from active duty - he will miss some things. At the same time he is looking forward to new prospects.
"I will miss being part of an organization with the same values, working together toward the same goal," said Prickett. "At the same time, I am looking forward to spending more time with my family and opportunities to continue serving out of uniform."
Of the Army's seven core values, it is honor that is at the forefront of Prickett's daily actions.
"I think we all strive to achieve honor," said Prickett. "I hope people will characterize or remember me and my time in the Army as someone who strived to achieve honor every day."
Prickett's honorable service to his country made a meaningful impact on those he served with throughout his career, according to Maj. Gen. Todd Royar, AMCOM Commander and fellow United States Military Academy graduate.
"If the measure of success in a person's career is how many Soldiers and Families one has positively impacted, then there are few who have achieved the same level of success as Col. Shawn Prickett," said Royar. "All who know him and thousands of those who have never even met him are better today based on his personal actions."
According to Prickett, an Army career comes down to relationships.
"I made a lot of friends along the way," Prickett said. "The greatest thing about being in the Army is the friends you make and keep. You make bonds that are based on shared values and a commitment to a common goal. I've had a great Army career, and I have a lot of friends that will be lifelong friends. What more can a man ask from his time in the Army?"