FORT KNOX, Ky. — Famous English author Samuel Johnson once wrote, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”For many personnel at Fort Knox, that saying goes a long way in describing Emmet Holley.Holley leaves behind 19 years of dedicated federal civilian service to the area as the deputy for U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Knox at his Dec. 11 retirement ceremony. Those who know him best say he leaves behind a lot more than that.“Emmet is the best! When it came to exemplifying leadership, his actions actually spoke louder than words,” said Pat Walsh, former director of Fort Knox Directorate of Public Works. “He always led by example. He would never ask his staff to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”Descriptors like gentleman, encourager, supporter, calming influence, problem solver, selfless service, and deeply spiritual are just a few of the words people have used when discussing the Tennessee native whose service to the United States spans nearly 45 years.Kay Halchishick said she met Holley face-to-face for the first time in 2011 when she worked as the secretary at the Fort Knox Directorate of Emergency Services. She needed to deliver some paperwork to Garrison headquarters, which at the time was housed in Building 1109.Prior to that encounter, she had only talked to Holley on the phone a few times. He called her into his office to introduce himself.In 2012, after Garrison headquarters had moved to its current location, Halchishick said she was again dropping off some paperwork when Holley again called her into his office.“I went into his office and he asked me, ‘So, what are you looking at doing toward your future?’ and I was like, ‘Well, I haven’t really thought about it,’” she recalled. “He wanted to know how I felt about coming over and applying for this secretary position.”The secretary at the time was about to retire. Halchishick applied; Holley hired her.“It’s been very easy to work for him. At times, I have felt like it was too easy,” said Halchishick. “You know how you think it’s easy to work for your boss, and then the hammer falls? There was never a hammer with Mr. Holley. He’s always been easy going. He doesn’t let much bother him.“And if something is bothering him, it has to be something that’s extremely upsetting.”Fort Knox over the past several years has established a pattern of excellence that is arguably the envy of the U.S. Army, according to many here. The Directorate of Public Works, under Walsh’s leadership, has won virtually every award from key federal energy organizations and many more from civilian organizations.Walsh attributes that success to Holley’s determination to keep a worthwhile cause alive and thriving beyond just one garrison commander’s two-year tenure.“After providing general guidance, Emmet allows his staff great latitude to execute the mission,” said Walsh. “He didn’t delegate and disappear; he delegated and supported. You really couldn’t ask for more out of a boss than that.“Emmet was always there to lend a hand when needed —”… often quietly at work behind the scenes to ensure success, according to Walsh.“When things went well, Emmet was always quick to give credit to DPW,” said Walsh. “It was never about Emmet. It was always about the team.”Others agree.“He’s a quiet person who gets things done,” said Barbara Proffitt, a Fort Knox Gold Neighbor, who is affectionately known as the “Pie Lady” for providing returning Soldiers and the Family members with pecan pies. “He’s willing to help, he’s just a great community person, and such a man of faith. His God is really number one with him.“To me, this would be such a difficult job because every two years he gets a new commander.”“Fort Knox is a gold standard around [U.S. Army Installation Management Command] — people know it, and I credit Emmet Holley for it,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Edwards Jr., director of Officer Personnel Management Directorate, U.S. Army Human Resources Command. “Fort Knox punches above its weight class because of folks like him.”Edwards served as the garrison commander from 2013 to 2015. During his time in the position, he and others went through the inactivation of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in a somber ceremony at Brooks Parade Field May 21, 2014.“The community was not happy with it, nor were we. We went from 70 or 80 security guard authorizations down to about half of that,” said Edwards. “Wilson was a 24/7 gate, and we had to reduce the hours. That was an emotional community event, as well, but the leaders here responded and made the best out of a tough situation.”The U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s Recruiting and Retention School moved to Fort Knox shortly afterward from Fort Jackson, South Carolina.“That turned out to be a big victory that took steady leadership to make happen,” said Edwards, “and that says something about Mr. Holley. He is a very calm, disciplined professional who obviously has his military background to rely on.”Holley said he might not have had that background except for an encounter with an Army officer at the beginning of his military career.Holley didn’t have any intentions of pursuing a full-time career in the Army. In fact, he said his plan as a new recruit going through boot camp at Fort Knox was simply to join the Reserve and be in and out of the post within 90 days.Holley’s company commander pulled him into his office one day for a chat.“He said, ‘Emmet, I really think you should consider at least doing two years of active duty time.’ He said, ‘I see something in you, and I think you would make a fine officer,’” said Holley. “That one word of encouragement got me to thinking … I did 25 years as a result of that young captain taking the time to sit me down.”Now at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, Col. Pat Kaune recalled his time as the installation’s previous garrison commander.“Emmet was a great mentor and an even better friend to me during my brief time at Fort Knox,” said Kaune. “Command Sgt. Maj. [Garrick] Griffin and I appreciated his character, commitment and competence in looking after the Fort Knox and surrounding community.”Kaune said Holley’s commitment to the post community contributed greatly to the overall mission success of the post, to include the thousands of cadets who have passed through the gates over the years — service that came from a special place.“Emmet did so because he loves the Army, and he loves the surrounding community, always working behind the scenes to ensure that Fort Knox remains the community of excellence for all to enjoy,” said Kaune. “He epitomized the gold standard to me in the way he treated everyone with dignity and respect. I consider myself fortunate to have served alongside him.”Kaune said Holley’s love of Soldiers and their Families drives him to go the extra mile in demanding outstanding support to them.“He has a unique ability to balance the mission requirements against the well-being of all the units and workforce at Fort Knox,” said Kaune. “Probably most important to Emmet is that he is a man of faith whose patience and love for those he worked with also inspired them — a Tennessee legend who will be sorely missed by the team.”Brad Richardson, president and CEO of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce, said his first encounter with Holley has left a lasting effect on him.In early 2006, leaders of the great Fort Knox community formed a coalition called One Knox.“It was designed to help the Army, and help Fort Knox recruit the civilians that were going to be moving with [U.S. Army Human Resources Command], Cadet Command, etc., etc.,” said Richardson. “I became the executive director.”Richardson said he met with the previous executive director to find out how best to proceed. The former director suggested that Richardson get to know Holley.“That truly was the best advice I could have gotten at that time because Emmet was on the One Knox executive committee and when we traveled to the five other installations, what Fort Knox called the Roadshow, Emmet provided us with guidance and direction that was invaluable,” said Richardson.Richardson said Holley was also part of the team that received much needed federal and state monies to the tune of $250 million to build up the area infrastructure in time to receive HRC and other major organizations as they moved in.“It was one of the most successful initiatives that we’ve had,” said Richardson. “In fact, that’s the largest investment by the state of Kentucky in an economic development initiative since UPS went into Louisville back in the ‘80s.”Halchishick said Holley, as an armor officer, was no stranger to the post. In fact, he had been stationed at Fort Knox five times prior to retiring in 2001.Holley said he was approached at that time by an officer who would once again shape his future; this time outside of the Army. Holley worked as the installation inspector general at the Staff Judge Advocate office.Then Brig. Gen. Terry Tucker, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Armor Center and Fort Knox at the time, suggested Holley consider applying for the Garrison deputy job. That suggestion left an impression on him. Holley applied; the Garrison commander hired him.Halchishick said Holley’s selection is not that surprising to anyone who knows him.“Mr. Holley is a gentleman, and he cares about the projects and work that goes on at Fort Knox,” said Halchishick. “If there’s something that he has helped make happen, he will do everything he can to make sure it’s a success. He has a plethora of knowledge we’re going to lose when he leaves.“Without him, Garrison wouldn’t be what Garrison is now.”Holley doesn’t agree with that assessment —“I owe everything, including the day’s breath, to Christ.”