PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 19, 2022) — Mr. James Laughlin, U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey public affairs officer, is retiring after 40 years of federal service, and the garrison congratulated him during a quarterly awards ceremony Sept. 14.
Col. Sam Kline, garrison commander, presented Laughlin with a lifetime pass to the installation, and Hans Uslar, city manager for the City of Monterey, gave Laughlin an authentic Monterey street sign that reads “Jim Laughlin Way.” Additionally, Laughlin answered the question everyone in the room full of garrison employees wanted to know.
“People ask me at this point, as if I had some kind of magic formula, ‘How do you get to 40 years?’” Laughlin said. “The truth is you bear through the worst of times, and you maintain your character, your integrity, and you persevere.”
To that, everyone rose to their feet for a standing ovation.
Laughlin began his federal service in 1982 as an Army lieutenant assigned as a platoon leader to the 260th Military Police Company, Presidio of San Francisco, and subsequently became chief of investigations for Fort Lewis, Washington. After serving as an MP company commander for two years in Korea, the Army assigned him to the Presidio of Monterey, where he served two years as commander of Company A, the Asian language company, for the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.
After a year with the VA Police in Long Beach, Calif., Laughlin began his civilian career at PoM, working his way up to police chief and later receiving a promotion to director of the Directorate of Emergency Services. He began working as the director of public affairs in 2015.
When Laughlin first came to PoM in 1988, it was an open post; U.S. Army Installation Management Command, the organization under which garrisons operate, did not exist; the 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, the primary Army unit at the installation, was instead Troop Command; and computers, much less the internet, did not exist.
“We used to type memorandums, and then we would make pen and ink corrections,” Laughlin said. “Now we rely on automation to arrive at zero deficiency.”
Essentially, however, Laughlin said a lot has stayed the same. “The mission remains focused on training the highest quality linguists,” he said.
Also, service members have not changed either. “You can rely on the inherent decency of individuals motivated to pursue a career in the military,” Laughlin said.
Laughlin said he has worked with every garrison commander going back to Lt. Col. Jan Karcz in 1994 — 15 in all.
During the ceremony, Kline told the audience what Laughlin’s 40 years of service means to him.
“That’s 40 years of sacrifice,” Kline said. “That’s 40 years of doing government service. 40 years of doing those things when you have choices in life. You could have chosen to go anywhere. You’re a high-quality person. You chose to selflessly serve not only the garrison team here, but the service members that came through the Presidio of Monterey.”
Similarly, Uslar said Laughlin has been a great partner for the city throughout the years.
“He has been always a loyal employee of the Presidio of Monterey. There was never a question of who he was cheering for, but he has been always very helpful and supportive for us,” Uslar said. “I wanted to take the reason, or the moment of this ceremony, to personally thank Jim for all of his great work that he has done.”
Laughlin said he appreciates the strong relationships the installation has had with partners such as the City of Monterey, as well as other surrounding municipalities.
Laughlin plans to start his retirement by traveling, and then he will make his way back to the Monterey area.
“People would give anything to come here for a short vacation, and we have the privilege of living in this environment, but for me, and I think for most people, it’s more about the people you work with and the partnerships you establish,” Laughlin said.