Ivory Whitaker, Jr., a senior logistics management specialist from Albany, Georgia, volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1965, the day after graduating from high school along with four high school friends. Since he didn’t have the resources to go to college, and he did not want to be a farmer, the Army seemed like a viable option.
“I had a sister that graduated high school along with me, and I knew my parents could not afford to send both of us to college. I decided to join the military and get my educational benefits,” said Whitaker. “So, several of my classmates and I did the same thing.”
Whitaker spent his first three years in the Army as an Infantryman, serving two combat tours in Vietnam for which he earned a Purple Heart and Army Commendation Medal for Valor. He re-enlisted and went on to serve in various positions to include avionics mechanic and avionics equipment maintenance supervisor.
Whitaker was one of twelve African American Soldiers selected to attend training in the nuclear weapons field as a Nuclear Weapons Electronics Specialist in 1974. In 1986, he was selected as the first first sergeant for the 529th Ordnance Company at Monteith Barracks, West Germany. In 1991, Whitaker deployed to operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm as the command sergeant major of the 70th Ordnance Battalion at Fort Bliss, Texas; this was the largest wartime ammunition battalion in Army history.
Whitaker retired as the commandant of the U.S. Army Ordnance Munitions and Electronics Maintenance School’s Noncommissioned Officer Academy in 1995. After 30 years in uniform, Whitaker transitioned from service member to Army contractor and subsequently joined the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command G-3 in 2010 as a logistics management specialist, with an initial focus on the AFRICOM Theater of operation.
“My background was aviation and missiles, so I could go in either direction,” he said. “That's how I ended up in AMCOM.”
In 2014, he was inducted into the U.S. Army Ordnance Hall of Fame for his contributions to the Ordnance Corps. He was very surprised and humbled to learn that his nomination originated from the young Soldiers of the USAOMMCS Noncommissioned Officer Academy Class attending the advanced course.
“The induction was something that I didn't expect,” Whitaker said. “But it is an honor to receive such an accolade from the ordnance corps and Soldiers.”
The retired CSM is equally proud of his participation in a recent trip to Vietnam. The United States Institute of Peace invited Whitaker and a group of veterans to help locate a mass grave of North Vietnam soldiers killed in a major battle. Initially reluctant, he found purpose in the journey.
“At first I didn’t want to go,” Whitaker said. “But I realized there are voids in people’s lives because they don’t know what happened to their loved ones that were lost while serving their country. Maybe I could help those families find some peaceful closure in their lives.”
Although Whitaker considers himself a life-long ‘field Soldier,’ it is his infectious smile and knowledgeable demeanor that allowed him to grow comfortable behind the desk and continue providing spot-on logistical advice and support. He feels blessed to have served in uniform and is humbled to continue his service as a civil servant.
On Oct. 13, 2022, Whitaker received the Order of Saint Maurice Medal awarded by the U. S. Army Infantry Association at Ft. Benning, Georgia, for his contributions and dedication to the Infantry Corps.
“Every day that I meet a Soldier that served with me, that Soldier always says to me, ‘Man, you were so hard on us, but we appreciate it because what you did was make us better people,’” he said. “When they share those kinds of sentiments with me, it makes me feel good to know that I have impacted a life in a positive manner.”