If you’re cruisin’ around Elizabethtown and see a restored, forest green, 1968 Ford Mustang with white trim, you may want to wave. It could be one of your 1st Theater Sustainment Command teammates.
Howard T. Johnson, deputy inspector general, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, served 29 years in the U.S. Army, eventually retiring as a sergeant major and having served as a command sergeant major. The former cavalry scout was raised in Stephenson, West Virginia, and knew from a very young age that he wanted to serve in the Army.
“When I was very young my mother told me that I was going to do one of two things – join the Army or go to college and leave West Virginia,” Johnson recalled.
“My mother and father were both coal miners,” he said. Johnson thinks that his mother saw that there wasn’t much of a future for her son working in the coal mines.
Johnson earned good grades in school, and took challenging math courses, including trigonometry and calculus. “I never missed a day of school during my 13 years,” Johnson shared.
He transferred that commitment to the Army instead of the university when he graduated from high school.
“I earned an academic scholarship; but instead I joined the Army and went to Desert Storm. I knew from a very young age that this is what I wanted to do,” he said.
Serving in the military during wartime is also a legacy for his family. “My grandpa served in the Navy during World War II, and my dad served as a reconnaissance scout in the Vietnam War,” he shared.
In addition to serving in Desert Storm, Johnson also deployed to Bosnia during Operation Joint Endeavor and Joint Guard from Dec. 1996 to Nov. 1997; Operation Intrinsic Action in Kuwait in 1998; Afghanistan from 2008-2009; and in Korea during the training exercise Invincible Shield from 2015-2016.
He started his career here at Fort Knox for basic training, and his favorite duty station was in Fulda, Germany. He also enjoyed his four tours in Korea, and liked his time at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Johnson met his wife, Eun, when he was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and they’ve been married 19 years. The two enjoy bowling and golfing together. They have two sons - Brandon is 12 years old and Justin is 9. The couple bowled regularly when they first met, and now they like to bowl with their sons.
Eun Johnson is Korean-American and likes to cook Korean-style food. “I like her spicy pork, bulgogi, and kimchi,” he said.
Howard wanted his sons to participate in a sport that is more traditionally Korean. Now both boys are close to earning their black belts in Tae Kwon Do.
“They passed me up a long time ago. I used to practice Tae Kwon Do, but now they are more advanced than I was,” he laughed.
The retired sergeant major also enjoys spending time outside. He shared his passion for outdoor activities with his sons when he took both boys white water rafting in West Virginia. It wasn’t just their first time riding the rapids, it was his too.,
He also enjoys hunting deer and turkey. “I grew up going to my grandparent’s farm. They had cows, pigs, horses, and chickens,” he said. Johnson remembers shuckin’ corn and snippin’ green beans for dinner. He hopes to one day have more land where he can farm, hunt, and teach his boys more about the outdoors.
Johnson has another hobby. He picked up woodworking and has made a few things for his wife.
“I like to work with wood that I can sand by hand, because I don’t have a whole lot of woodworking tools,” he said.
He’s already made his wife two matching end tables and a bread box by hand. He used the skills that he learned in his high school woodworking class, and the rest he learned through trial and error.
Johnson is also passionate about helping Soldiers. He likes managing budgets and training people as well. He believes that he can often understand a Soldier’s issue, because he has seen a lot serving for 29 years. Another one of his duties serving as the deputy IG at 1st TSC is to review documents prior to the IG reviewing.
“I am constantly learning here. It’s a lot different than the armor world,” Johnson shared. He likes to help people solve problems too.
“I knew that I wanted to work in an inspector general’s office when I retired from the Army,” he said. “I didn’t really care what position I started in, but I knew that this is where I wanted to work.”
Although he did pass up that academic scholarship to serve, he eventually did earn a Bachelor of Science degree in business management during his time in the Army.
Johnson loves being part of First Team and living here in Kentucky. He is close to home and family in West Virginia. Although retired and no longer wearing the uniform, he continues to serve as a Department of Defense civilian employee for First Team.