FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - The Army's oldest living four-star general and senior retired officer visited U.S. Army South's headquarters in historic "Old BAMC" Feb. 11. "I was actually attending West Point when this was being built," said retired Gen. Ralph E. Haines, Jr., 96, as he made his way into the historic building that was completed in 1937.

Haines arrived with his son, retired Army Lt. Col. William L. Haines, at the invitation of Army South Commanding General Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, who briefed Haines on U.S. Army South's ongoing missions and current operations.

Haines graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1935 and went on to serve more than 37 years in various positions including Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1968, Commander of U.S. Army, Pacific from August 1968 to October 1970, and Commanding General of the U.S. Continental Army Command from 1970 to 1973.

Key members of the Army South staff took advantage of the opportunity to tap into the retired general's vast military knowledge.

"The perspective he offers is beyond compare," said Trombitas. "With his deep understanding of our Army and his broad leadership experience, the wealth of knowledge he brings is unparalleled."

Haines said the visit was special since through the years "I've always had all kinds of contacts within Army South and have maintained a very close relationship."

He was also a strong advocate of relocating U.S. Army South's headquarters in 2002 from Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico to its current location at Fort Sam Houston.

"I'll take some credit for locating the headquarters here," said Haines. "I wanted to get U.S. Army South here and I tried a lot of ways to do it. I said 'San Antonio's the best place to move it' and now that it's here I can't imagine any component of any army that has a better setup than this beautiful building."

Command Sgt. Maj. Luis Gonzalez, acting U.S. Army South command sergeant major, personally thanked Haines for his significant contributions to the U.S. Army's Noncommissioned Officer Corps.
"We have the best NCO Corps in the world thanks to you sir," Gonzalez said to Haines.

In the 1960s, Haines realized a lack of sufficient training for Army NCOs. He is sometimes referred to as the "father of the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy" in Fort Bliss, Texas for his role in advocating for NCO education.

"General Haines was the founder of the Army NCO Education System," said Gonzalez. "He saw the need to create a system to educate our NCOs and soon the NCOES was born."

As his visit came to a close Haines said he's "very proud that Army South is here and I'm very proud of my relationship with this command."

He stressed the importance of Army South's mission of providing and sustaining trained and ready Army forces for the full spectrum of military operations in the area of focus that includes the Caribbean and all of Central and South America.

"These are our neighbors and we have a lot in common with them," said Haines. "Army South is keeping the focus there although you don't often see much in the paper about Latin America."