Today, the leadership of Aviation Center Logistics Command at Fort Rucker, Alabama, bids a fond farewell to Sgt. Maj. Nick Burney in a relinquishment of responsibility ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence Aviation Museum.
Burney has been selected as the next battalion command sergeant major for the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Riley, Kansas.
ACLC Commander Col. Stephen Owen said Burney made a positive and lasting difference during his tenure as the ACLC sergeant major.
“Upon arrival, he immediately met with people throughout the formation and identified the resources they needed to accomplish the mission. After which, he worked tirelessly to ensure that our Soldiers, civilians and contractors had what they needed to get the job done.
“His greatest skill is his ability to connect with people from all walks of life. During a typical week he may mentor a young NCO, speak with a union president, coordinate with fellow sergeants major, meet with one of our contracting partners or provide feedback to a two-star general. He loves people and this really comes through in his interactions with others. That ability has been a huge asset in this environment where we often have to work across organizational boundaries to get things accomplished.”
Military service – specifically Army service – was a forgone conclusion for Burney who grew up in Osceola, Missouri, just a few hours away from Fort Riley. He enlisted in the Army right out of high school in September 1998. After completing Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he graduated from Fort Eustis, Virginia, and became a 67R, AH-64 Apache maintainer.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be G.I. Joe,” said Burney, pointing to a G.I. Joe action figure that adorns a bookshelf in his office. “I signed the [enlistment] papers when I was 17. I signed up under the delayed entry program and my mom had to sign for me to join. My entire senior year I was already in and just waiting to ship off when I turned 18.”
There also is a family tradition of military service – one of his grandfathers was a tank commander, another was in the Navy and his little brother also joined the Army.
Burney said one of the best pieces of advice he ever got was from his grandfather who was a Soldier, “Take a nap whenever you can.”
After serving on active duty for nearly 24 years, Burney won’t say if Fort Riley will be his final duty station before retirement, but he does reflect on how much things have changed since he took his first oath of enlistment.
“I came in a very naïve young man from the holler in Missouri in the Ozarks and got to see and experience things I never would have thought I’d ever get to experience,” said Burney. “I grew up in the kind of place where a handshake means the world, but in reality, that handshake didn’t mean as much outside that world. I had to learn to negotiate that, too … the military made me who I am and helped solidify what my parents created.”
That rural upbringing was the perfect preparation for the type of life Burney would experience as a Soldier, which in turn, had a tremendous impact on his personal life after he and his wife had children.
“There were a lot of things about my upbringing that helped me. It wasn’t hard for me to transition to the Army,” said Burney. “I had always worked hard and I still work hard. I’ve earned everything and I don’t take anything for granted.
“The Army also made me a better father, which is something I am really in awe about,” said Burney. “It gave me the patience and understanding to listen to them, and know that you have to give them the attention they deserve.”
Burney gives that same time and attention to his role as a scout master for the Boy Scouts, which he’s been involved with since his son was in kindergarten.
“I tell people to treat others like you wanted to be treated – follow the Golden Rule,” said Burney. “It’s something I’ve held on to since I was a young scout.”
Whether leading young Boy Scouts or mentoring young Soldiers, Burney reflects fondly on his career to date. He is thankful for the organizations and people with whom he has worked, particularly those at ACLC and Fort Rucker.
“These are some of the most amazing professionals I’ve worked with and we’re a family,” said Burney. “I tell them every three or four days how amazing they are … their ability to pick up the smallest details and make the biggest cake out of it. The commander and I have talked about the impressiveness of their ability to take the smallest bit of information and run with it. That’s a rarity.”