LANDSTUHL, Germany - After more than 30 years in the U.S. Army, Sgt. Maj. Brett Long, former sergeant major at Public Health Command Europe officially retired October 1.
Long never had one town that he called home because his father moved around a lot. Growing up, he spent most of his time in small towns in West Texas.
“One day an Army recruiter visited my High School in Ore City, Texas,” said Long. “I was 17 at the time, and just starting my senior year of high school, so I had to have my parents’ permission prior to sign on the dotted line.”
That was when Long decided to enlist in the U.S. Army and follow his grandfather’s footsteps. Long’s grandfather, who served for 27 years, was a Navy Corpsman in World War II, and Korea, and then became an X-ray technician in the Air Force.
“I turned 17 on October 27 and officially joined on November 4, 1991, into the delayed entry program,” added Long. “I graduated high school in May 1992, and then I shipped off to basic training on September 22, 1992.”
Long initially joined the Army as combat engineer and only planned on staying in for three years and then going to college.
“I was sticking with the plan,” said Long. “I was accepted into Texas Tech University in Lubbock and I had applied for an early release from the Army to attend the fall semester.”
But, things played out differently when Long met with an Army retention noncommissioned officer at Fort Hood who offered him an opportunity too good to pass up.
“He knew that I loved animals, especially horses, so he took me to the cavalry stables there at Fort Hood, and then asked me if would a like to take care of animals for a living, and become a veterinary technician,” added Long. “I couldn’t pass that opportunity up, so I reclassified as an animal care specialist and reenlisted for another three years.”
At the end of his first few enlistments Long always planned to get out. And then, something would always change at the last minute and he would reenlist.
“I finally decided to stay in the Army for 20 years and not one day more,” Long said. “Well, right at my 20 year mark, I deployed to Afghanistan. I contemplated dropping my retirement paperwork, but the Army wanted to send me to Germany for three years and who could pass that opportunity up” said Long.
Long was able to move to Germany with his family where they lived for six years. At the end of his tour, he was planning on retiring but was selected for attendance at the Sergeants Major Academy and for promotion to the rank of Sergeant Major.
“I couldn’t pass up that opportunity, and that led me to the end of my 30-year career,” said Long.
As a senior animal care specialist, Long was invited to speak in front of the 68T, 11-week Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, a few days shy of his official retirement date.
“I was asked if I had any words of wisdom for my younger self,” said Long.
“So, the first thing is, start saving money for retirement early in your career, which was something that I never did. Secondly, get a free education, and do it while you are young and don’t have a lot of commitments like family or being in a leadership position. Lastly, even though you have plans to get out of the military after a few years, you still have to try to get promoted, go to schools, etc. This was also something that I never did.”
Since Long initially served as a combat arms soldier, he did not need a lot of promotion points to get promoted.
“So, I never really tried,” added Long. “When I reclassified into the medical field, I was so far behind in promotion points because I had not completed any correspondence courses, military or civilian education, so it took me seven and a half years to make the rank of Sergeant, and I was so far behind my peers.”
Looking back at his career, the time spent as 1st Sgt. and Sgt. Maj. stood out particularly.
“Some of the highlights in my career were my induction into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, my deployments, and my time as a 1st. Sgt. and Sgt. Maj., as I loved leadership and being around Soldiers,” said Long. “I also liked seeing the achievement of my Soldiers, seeing many that have accomplished so much, and achieved the highest ranks, became officers, and went to school.”
Reflecting on the last 30 years of his career, Long indicated that he had truly learned from every job and duty station which helped him become successful.
“My time deployed to Afghanistan and Poland was very meaningful,” added Long. “The best assignment I ever head would be my three years stationed with the Navy in Cairo, Egypt. The opportunity to live in such a special place, the travel opportunities, and driving by the pyramids every day is something I will never forget.”
As Long prepares to move on to the next chapter in his life, he wants to continue working with people.
“I am looking to start a career in either human resources, or as a chief operations officer for a non-profit organization in San Antonio,” said Long. “In the military, I loved the opportunity to lead and train soldiers and it’s something I would like to continue doing.”