Few individuals can say they gave 48 years of their life in service to their country and the Army. Rick Hearron who recently retired April 30 is in that category. He served in the Army for 30 years and retired at Fort Riley after his final tour as the command sergeant major for the 24th Infantry Division.
However, that was not the end of his career with the Army. He returned in 2003 to serve the Army as a civilian employee in a different area — safety. His first position was a safety intern in 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division. He deployed to Iraq and when he returned in 2005, he accepted a position in the garrison side of the safety office, which was then a combined office with the division. Two years later, he became the safety office director and from there he went on to strive for excellence in himself and his staff that would lead to multiple awards and achievements over the years.
Under Hearron’s leadership, some of the significant awards earned were:
• 10 individual recognition's including Association of the United States Army, 5th Region Civilian Employee of the Year, Stalwart Award Winner, Secretary of the Army / Chief of Staff of the Army, Exceptional Organization Safety- Civilian Employee)
• 5 Secretary of the Army / Chief of Staff of the Army, Exceptional Organization Safety Awards, Garrison Category
• 1 Secretary of the Army / Chief of Staff of the Army, Exceptional Organization Safety Award, in the Division category
• 1 U.S. Army Safety Excellence Streamer Award
• 1 Secretary of the Army / Chief of Staff Army, Excellence in Explosive Safety Award
• 27 Director of Army Safety Risk Management Awards
“My most significant award was being selected as the Installation Management Command Stalwart Award winner in 2018,” he said. “This was an award that recognized the GSO advancement in technology by automating the arms room licensing process from approximately 20 days to three days.”
He also says his proudest personal accomplishment was being recognized as the AUSA Civilian Employee of the Year and attending a ceremony in Washington, DC.
Dawn Douglas, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Huntsville District safety director and former safety specialist at Fort Riley, spoke via phone at the retirement ceremony. She said others may remember him for all the safety awards and all the successful programs and campaigns and all the accolades, but what she remembers is his mentorship and leadership.
“I went from being a safety specialist to a safety manager for the Corps of Engineers” she said. “I did that in about 10 years and I cannot imagine where my career would have been without your mentorship and leadership. You pushed me. You challenged me. You gave me opportunities to excel. You were tough on me. You gave me all types of responsibilities that were far beyond probably my grade level at the time, but you encouraged me and put me on your shoulders and lifted me up to make sure that I was successful. You covered me when I did things that were not so great and you inspired me by all of the ways in which you built the garrison safety program and I got to be a part of that.”
The safety office at a garrison has an integral role in supporting the mission. They work to maintain safe and healthful working conditions for Soldiers, family members and the civilian workforce.
“I think being the safety manager was a big responsibility in keeping the workforce safe,” Hearron said. “The role requires being an advisor to leadership as well as keeping the entire workforce safe, even if it doesn’t always make you popular. At times you are the most liked or hated individual on Fort Riley. But to the leadership, you are a constant professional.”
Hearron said he saw many changes with service that spanned his decades in the Army safety career field and his time at Fort Riley. One significant change was the way the safety professionals and leadership interacted and became a team endeavor.
“That was the ability not to just say no you can’t do that, but to assist the leaders to accomplish the mission in a safe manner,” he said.
Douglas said that working with Hearron was more than just leadership and safety knowledge, but also his great compassion and care.
“We would take walks around the building,” she said. “He would encourage us just to take care of our bodies and he was invested in us as total people, making sure that we ate right and exercised.”
Douglas said Hearron’s legacy will be remembered personally by her for his mentorship and also professionally in the Fort Riley safety office.
“And just know you will leave the garrison safety office prepared to be successful for years to come and your imprint will not soon be forgotten,” said Douglas.
Ron Classberry the incoming garrison safety director also spoke at the retirement ceremony and thanked Hearron for his mentorship, leadership and encouragement.
“Because of it, I am able to stand here today as the incoming garrison safety director,” said Classberry. “You have prepared me for this moment since 2009 and our team will continue to build on your legacy, always looking for ways to improve our garrison safety program in order to protect Team Riley. You sir are a great American. One of the reasons why Fort Riley is a great place to live, work, train, deploy from, return back home and retire.”
Hearron says his retirement plans include spending time with family and traveling, but he will miss the fellowship and working with the great garrison staff.