PENTAGON -- After a 36-year career that featured many firsts, Command Sgt. Maj. Debra L. Strickland retired at a ceremony here Dec. 3.

She served as the command sergeant major of the Installation Management Agency in 2002, and the first command sergeant major of Installation Management Command when it was formed in 2006.

She became garrison command sergeant major of Fort Belvoir in October 1997, a position which she held until July 2002. It was while she was stationed at Fort Belvoir that her husband, Sgt. Maj. Larry L. Strickland, was killed in the Pentagon on 9AcA "11.

Retired Lt. Gen. Robert Wilson, who served as her commander at IMCOM, spoke to 50 some attendees who came to bid Strickland farewell. "She was all about taking care of Soldiers, civilians and Families," he said. "She was also key in planning for IMCOM's future, ensuring that we had the right vision and the right strategy to support a changing Army, an Army at war."

''She was my chief advocate and strongest supporter for quality of life issues," he added, while also praising Strickland's efforts in the development of programs such as the First Sergeant's Barracks Initiative.

After he finished his remarks, Wilson presented Strickland with the Distinguished Service Medal, and read letters of congratulations from President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli and Director of the Defense Commissary Agency Philip E. Sakowitz Jr.

She was also given a folded American flag that had flown over Fort Belvoir, the Florida state capitol and the Pentagon.

When Strickland took the stage, most of her words were words of appreciation. She thanked her various commanders and inspirations throughout the years, including those who helped her get through the death of her husband.

''My Family was incredibly impressed by the care that Fort Belvoir provided," she said. ''We are a Family inside the military, and ... all the civilians, all the contractors and certainly all the military that were on Fort Belvoir became especially important to me."

Strickland expressed great pride in her career as a Soldier, and said she looked forward to the future, even though it may be uncertain. ''It's been a great ride in this Army," Strickland said. ''I'm not certain what the future holds, but I'm going to count on the fact that there has to be somebody out there that can show me the ropes of becoming a civilian, and maybe finding some joy in the next stage of my life."

Strickland's legacy was summed up appropriately by Wilson in his concluding remarks.

''She delivered the right leadership at the right time and the right place. She is totally selfless and devoted to the Army and to her Soldiers," Wilson said. ''The Army is losing a great command sergeant major with your retirement, one who is loved and one that is respected. On behalf of the United States Army, a grateful nation and the many Soldiers, civilians and Families around the world thank you."