FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker welcomed its new garrison command sergeant major to the home of Army Aviation during a change of responsibility ceremony Nov. 30 in the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.
Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond P. Quitugua assumed responsibility from Command Sgt. Maj. Jasper C. Johnson as the garrison colors changed hands from Johnson to Col. Whitney B. Gardner, Fort Rucker garrison commander, to Quitugua.
Gardner, presiding over the ceremony, told the limited in-person audience and those attending virtually that even though he is not permitted to pick the garrison command sergeant major, he could not have personally made a better selection.
“Based on his spectacular reputation, his resume and what we’ve seen so far, Command Sergeant Major Quitugua is the right leader for this position,” he said. “Welcome to the team – you’ll have your work cut out for you. Some say it is a steep learning curve, I will say it is a fantastic leadership challenge. Our garrison mission is so broad and so diverse you will never know what is coming at you, but you will also never have an opportunity like this to celebrate such incredible individual talent and experience.
“You and I could never do this by ourselves, and thankfully we don’t have to,” the colonel added. “You are joining a team of determined, dedicated, talented and experienced professionals.
Quitugua family, you are going to love the people, the mission, the Wiregrass community and everything this area offers.”
Quitugua thanked Gardner for welcoming him to Fort Rucker, and expressed his and his family’s excitement about his new assignment and their new home.
“Only arriving a few days ago, my family and I can already see what a hidden gem this installation is,” the new command sergeant major said. “Our reception and integration have been first class, and we are extremely happy to be joining this amazing team.
“Colonel Gardner, Mrs. Gardner and the garrison team, I look forward to working with you in our always No. 1 priority – taking care of people,” Quitugua added. “I know that together we will continue to increase the collective success of both Fort Rucker as well as the initiatives of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence.
“Finally, I have to absolutely and unequivocally thank my family for their unwavering support,” he said. “The only way to be successful in these highly demanding positions is with the unconditional support of your loved ones, and my family has always been behind me 100%. Thank you for enabling in our household the conditions for me to always be successful, knowing that I am doing what I love.”
He added that he is at Fort Rucker to serve “the exemplary Soldiers, leaders and family members of this amazing community. I may be new to the community, but I am not new to taking care of people.
“To the parents of a young Soldier newly stationed here, thank you for entrusting your son or daughter to us because, as a parent myself, I understand what keeps you up at night. I always strive to lead with the mindset that in my endeavor to produce better Soldiers, they will in turn also become better husbands, wives, brothers and sisters. Just know that I come to work every day striving to treat your loved ones the way I want others to treat mine.”
The ceremony also served as a retirement ceremony for Johnson, who is finishing up 30-plus years in the Army.
Gardner said he was honored to serve alongside him.
“(Johnson) has been the ideal garrison command sergeant major, especially through so many periods of crisis,” the colonel said. “If you know him, you know that he is a steady hand – a great scout, a wonderful listener and an inspiring sounding board and confidant. Above all, he is one who builds people up – he builds trust between people and he builds trust between organizations.
“You’ve been a phenomenal battle buddy, adviser and friend,” Gardner added. “On behalf of the entire garrison staff to whom you’ve committed your best, your best in time and talent, I offer heartfelt appreciation, admiration and gratitude. We wish you the best in life and hope you enjoy your well-deserved retirement.”
Johnson intends to do just that, although he was noncommittal on how exactly he was going to do it.
The retired command sergeant major said 30 years ago he was asked what he was going to do when he grew up.
“I did not have an answer – I did not know, so I joined the Army and I decided that I would stay until I figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up. I’m still here,” he said. “Albert Einstein said that the monotony of solitude and a quiet life stimulates the creative mind, and Steven Spielberg prefers to spend time getting lost in movies. So, the way I see it, I have two options. I can wait until my creative mind kicks in, or I can watch more (movies on streaming services).”
But he was certain that his time in the Army was something to be treasured.
“It was definitely a gift to have served with all of you – you will be missed, but you will not be forgotten,” he said. “To Team USAACE, thank you for your service to our nation, thanks for all of your contributions for seeing to flights to and from objectives, for MedEvac services and support, and, of course, for close air support.
“To the Installation Management Command team, I thank the command and thank garrison Fort Rucker, and thank all tenant units and organizations, for your service to people, to Soldiers, to families and to the civilians of the post community – it has been an honor to have served with all of you.”