FORT POLK, La. — On the morning of April 21, the Fort Polk Office of the Staff Judge Advocate named and dedicated the Fort Polk Courthouse after Sgt. Maj. Howard Metcalf.
Metcalf served as the 8th Regimental Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps from Feb. 17, 1998, until his retirement in 2002. He passed away in November 2019 at the age of 72. The Fort Polk Courthouse Naming and Dedication ceremony was held in conjunction with Fort Polk’s 80th Anniversary and in the spirit of recognizing excellence within the ranks of the U.S. Army.
A native of New Orleans, Metcalf enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1969. He completed Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training (Infantry) at Fort Polk, Louisiana when Fort Polk was an initial entry training installation.
He served as an infantryman in Vietnam from January 1970 to February 1971 with the 90th Replacement Battalion and the 321st Transportation Company. After returning from Vietnam, he entered the civilian workforce.
In 1977, Metcalf re-enlisted in the U.S. Army, this time as a legal specialist. His initial assignment after graduation from 71D AIT at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, was as a Battalion legal noncommissioned officer with 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery, Korea.
Metcalf went on to serve as a lawyer’s assistant, NCOIC of the Administrative Section and Pre-Trial Section, 21st Support Command, Germany; instructor developer with Company C, 1st Battalion, Troop Brigade, Fort Benjamin Harrison, senior legal NCO, Combined Field Army, Korea; 71 D branch manager, Falls Church, Virginia; first sergeant, Company A, 369th AG Battalion.
Prior to his assignment at the Pentagon, Metcalf served as the chief legal NCO, 8th US Army, Korea. Metcalf was a graduate of all professional military education courses along with the Battle Staff Course and Master Fitness Course. During his Army career, Metcalf served three tours in Korea, one in Vietnam, and one in Germany.
Metcalf’s awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the German Marksmanship Badge.
In November 1997, he was selected as the 8th Regimental Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army JAG Corps. On Feb. 17, 1998, he assumed that role, serving as the primary advisor to the Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army on all matters concerning legal specialists and NCOs in the U.S. Army.
Metcalf was an advocate of creating an independent NCO Academy for paralegals. He believed that NCO paralegals needed to train alongside judge advocates, legal administrators and court reporters, just as they would operate in a deployed environment.
Metcalf was a proponent of the “train as you fight” mentality. Today, the U.S. Army JAG Corps’ NCO Corps is direct reflection of Metcalf’s leadership and vision.
After retiring from the Army in 2002, Metcalf earned both a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Master’s Degree.
He continued his life of public service by joining the South Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs as acting director and later director of that office, responsible for more than 400,000 veterans and family members in the state.
He continued to work closely with minority veterans service organizations and with helping African American youth in his church, where he served as an elder for the remainder of his life.
Metcalf’s son, Desmond Metcalf, his fiance, Jasmine Roberts and their son, Khalil Metcalf, 3 months old, were in attendance for the occasion.
Metcalf said the dedication ceremony honoring his father was legendary.
“He was a man that truly deserved recognition and that’s what he got today. He told me that you didn’t have to be a leader of something to be dedicated to it, but it was that attitude that made him a great leader,” he said. “He was so humble, no matter how much he achieved. Though it’s hard to follow in his footsteps, I’m trying to do just that — in my own way — by living my life based on the lessons he taught me.”
Metcalf said if his father were here today, he would love this.
“He would be crying and smiling. His smile would light up this whole room,” he said.
Col. Ryan Roseberry, Fort Polk garrison commander, was the guest speaker.
Roseberry spoke about Metcalf’s transformational leadership and how he positively influenced thousands of paralegals and attorneys over the course of his 20-year career in the U.S. Army JAG Corps.
He also touched on how Metcalf’s life story embodied the Joint Readiness Training Center’s mantra of coaching, training and mentoring Soldiers.
Also, in attendance was Command Sgt. Maj. Osvaldo Martinez, 13th Regimental Command Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army JAG Corps. Martinez spoke of how Metcalf positively influenced him as a junior enlisted paralegal and how Metcalf planted the seed in then Pvt. Osvaldo Martinez’s mind that he too could someday serve as Regimental Sgt. Maj. of the U.S. Army JAG Corps. An idea that eventually became a reality for Martinez.
Lt. Col. Kenneth Godwin, Fort Polk Chaplain, held a brief memorial and spoke about how Metcalf followed in the footsteps of Jesus and was the epitome of servant leadership.
Lt. Col. Jess Roberts, deputy staff judge advocate, along with Maj. Norberto Daluz, chief of Military Justice, served as the masters of ceremony for the event on behalf of the Fort Polk Staff Judge Advocate, Col. Tiffany Chapman.
Soldiers and civilians from the OSJA, as well as friends and family members from across Fort Polk and the U.S. Army, were in attendance.
More than 150 people also watched the ceremony on a Facebook live stream. The dedication was a touching tribute to a Soldier, father and husband who spent the greater part of his life in service to the nation. Metcalf is buried at Fort Jackson National Cemetery in South Carolina and is survived by his wife, Joyce, and their two sons, Demetrius and Desmond.
Metcalf’s lifetime of service to the nation embodies the best that Fort Polk and the Soldiers and Families who live here represent.