ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. Aca,!aEURc The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center Technical Director Richard "Rick" W. Decker II was honored for 24 years of outstanding service during his retirement ceremony April 23 at the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Conference Center here.
"As with all good things in life, there is always a time to stand down and, for me, that time is now," Decker told the center's workforce. "Twenty-four years ago, I began my career as a civil servant with the last two plus years as ECBC's Technical Director. Words cannot express what a privilege it is to have served in this capacity and witness the great work that is done on a daily basis. As the Center's leader, I am truly humbled."
The well-attended ceremony was emceed by ECBC Associate Technical Director Dr. James Baker, Ph.D. and included congratulatory remarks from the recently retired Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense and Chemical Demilitarization Jean Reed, the former Joint Program Executive Officer for Chemical and Biological Defense Maj. Gen. (Retired) Stephen Reeves, the 20th Support Command Commander Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Col. Michael Holl, Aberdeen Proving Ground Garrison Commander Col. Orlando Ortiz, Col. (Retired) Debra Thedford on behalf of the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School Commandant Brig. Gen. Leslie Smith and Regimental Command Sgt. Maj. Ted Lopez,the RDECOM Deputy to the Commanding General Gary Martin, representatives from the Local 178 Chapter of the National Federation of Federal Employees and the Center's three directors.
"You know it's the right time to retire when the titles of all people at your ceremony begin with 'formerly, or recently retired', "said Reeves to the crowd. "But on a serious note, I am very proud to be standing here today to celebrate Rick's retirement as a former boss and a friend. When people think of Rick, certain words come to mind. Words like loyalty, leadership and innovation. I want to extend my sincerest appreciation for all your contributions to the chemical biological defense community and your outstanding leadership."
The ceremony's presenters focused on Decker's kind heart, determination, collaborative attitude and leadership skills.
"As the former director of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center, an organization being BRAC'ed to APG, I knew of Rick Decker," Martin said. "He was one of the only leaders that came to me and asked what he and his organization could do to help me and my organization with our transition and mission critical programs. I was so touched by his generous spirit."
In addition to the Department of the Army's Certificate of Retirement, Decker received a Department of the Army Superior Civilian Service Award, Superior Executive Service Award, an Outstanding Civil Service Award, letters from prominent local and Maryland state officials and specialized honors from all of the organizations represented at the ceremony.
Each of the Center's directors also gave a personal speech and token to Decker. The ECBC Director of Research and Technology Dr. Joseph Corriveau, Ph.D. presented Decker with his own mustard yellow ECBC polo shirt, ECBC Director of Engineering Ajay Thornton wrote and read aloud a special poem for the outgoing Technical Director and ECBC Director of Program Integration Joe Wienand gave Decker a plaque with a speech delivered exactly 100 years ago today by President Theodore Roosevelt called "The Man in the Arena" inscribed on it, explaining the many similarities between Decker and the president as he read it aloud.
"On behalf of RDECOM, we would like to thank you for everything you've done for ECBC, the Command and the U.S. Army, "said RDECOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Nick Justice during Decker's Retirement Open House. "You are a great leader and a team player."
Appointed to his current post in March 2008, Decker has been responsible for more than 1,800 Department of the Army Civilians, Soldiers and on-site contractors located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.; Pine Bluff Arsenal, Ark.; and Rock Island, Ill. As Technical Director, Decker also represented ECBC as a member of the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Life Cycle Management Command Board of Directors, RDECOM Board of Directors and the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense Information Analysis Center Steering Committee.
A member of the Senior Executive Service, whose members serve in key positions just below top Presidential appointees and are the major link between the appointees and the federal work force, Decker will depart Government Service after serving in a variety of roles. He previously held the position of Director of Engineering at ECBC. In this role, he was responsible for leading an 800-person organization in supporting "cradle-to-grave" execution of acquisition programs in the commodity areas of chemical biological detection, protection, decontamination and smoke and obscurants, primarily in support of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical Biological Defense.
Between June 2002 and February 2005, Decker served as the Deputy Joint Program Executive Officer for Chemical Biological Defense at Fort Belvoir, Va. From September 2001 and June 2002, he served as the deputy director for engineering at ECBC. Earlier in his career, Decker served as systems manager for many type-classified items including the Joint Service General Purpose Mask, the M40/M42 Army protective mask. During this time, he was the recipient of numerous awards for his performance such as the Vice President Gore Hammer Award from the National Partnership for Re-inventing Government, Army Materiel Command Integrated Product Team of the year, Commander's Award for Civilian Service and the David Packard Acquisition Award.
"My decision to retire is based on the need to strike a new balance and, frankly, the simple desire to spend more time with my family and personal interests such as my work with the state of Maryland's Gunpowder State Park," Decker said. "I am so very proud to have been a part of ECBC-RDECOM and to have had the pleasure to work in such a tremendous organization."
Decker's final day as ECBC's Technical Director was Friday, April 30. Joe Wienand has been detailed to the position of ECBC Technical Director. Concurrently, George Collins will serve as Acting Director of the Directorate of Program Integration.