By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneJuly 9, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The Army's culture - its values and character -- was on full display at a change of command and retirement ceremony June 30 in Bob Jones Auditorium.
And the two men at the center of that display are among the Army's and the nation's most accomplished heroes.
Command Sgt. Maj. Ralph Borja, who has a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Legion of Merit among his many military awards, and Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Turner, whose awards include the Bronze Star and the Saudi Arabia and Kuwait liberation medals, were honored during a ceremony that emphasized tradition and a sense of community.
Borja retired from his post as the command sergeant major for the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command while Turner took over as the organization's new command sergeant major. The transfer of responsibility was embodied in a sword ceremony during which the first sergeant's sword, presented by 1st Sgt. William Murphy, symbolized the authority of the non-commissioned officer. The sword was passed by Murphy to Borja in deference of his authority and leadership. Borja then passed it to Campbell, signifying the relinquishing of his duties and gratitude for the opportunity to care for SMDC/ARSTRAT Soldiers. Campbell then passed it to Turner, signifying the delegation of authority and entrusting him with the responsibility and care of SMDC/ARSTRAT Soldiers. Turner then returned the sword to Murphy, symbolizing his dedication to the Soldiers of SMDC/ARSTRAT and the continuity of the NCO support channel.
The ceremony showcased the "important aspects of military culture," said Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell, commander of SMDC/ARSTRAT. "It's about our respect and gratitude" for two non-commissioned officers who have demonstrated loyalty, selfless service and a passion for their duties during careers that have encompassed more than 30 years for each.
"Command Sgt. Maj. Borja has 30 plus years of service. Command Sgt. Maj. Turner certainly looks like a Soldier and has been deployed almost as long as he's been a Soldier. There are 62 years of service between these two gentlemen," Campbell said.
"They represent the backbone of our country. They are leaders of men and women who are certainly at the tip of the spear ... They have a legacy of service and courage to his country, of leading Soldiers in every possible situation imaginable in our Army."
As a functional organization, it is important to SMDC/ARSTRAT to bring in Soldiers who have served and led Soldiers on the battlefield.
"They come in with a load of combat experience and experience in general, and our Soldiers really reap the benefit," Campbell said. "Command Sgt. Maj. Turner, we are truly blessed to have you. I know the troops are going to enjoy having you."
Turner recently returned from Afghanistan, where he served with Maj. Gen. Richard Formica, who was commander of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. Formica will soon assume command of SMDC/ARSTRAT from Campbell.
SMDC/ARSTRAT conducts space and missile defense operations and provides planning, integration, control and coordination of Army forces and capabilities in support of strategic command missions (strategic deterrence, integrated missile defense, space operations and cyberspace operations); serves as the Army specified proponent for space, high altitude and ground-based midcourse defense; serves as the Army operational integrator for global missile defense and conducts mission-related research and development in support of Army Title 10 responsibilities. Although SMDC/ARSTRAT is a worldwide organization, nearly half of the command's 1,800 military and civilian personnel are located at Redstone.
Borja, whose service before SMDC/ARSTRAT included various Airborne Ranger and light infantry assignments and deployments, admitted he knew nothing about SMDC/ARSTRAT when he joined the organization three years ago.
"All I knew was this was an Army service component that wanted war fighters," he said. "This is an acquisition installation. It's not TRADOC (Training and Doctrine Command). It's not FORSCOM (Forces Command) ... When I got here, I was coming from Special Operations. I was a fish out of water. For me it was 'come in my space and I'll take you out.' I was from the special operations community."
But there were those in Borja's long-established Soldier community, those who had educated, mentored and coached him throughout his career, who convinced him to join SMDC/ARSTRAT. And it was a good move for him as he worked for an "outstanding commanding general that gave me the full range to act out his guidance."
Campbell and his wife, Kathy, had a "tremendous impact" on Borja's life and the lives of his family, which includes his wife Nguyet, two daughters, a son and son-in-law who both serve in the Army, and three grandchildren.
"The command climate you've both set is unmatched and epitomizes what a family team looks like," Borja told his commander and his wife.
Campbell described Borja as the "epitome of a war fighter," a Soldier wounded in combat and who lives the warrior ethos. While with SMDC/ARSTRAT, Borja developed the organization's senior enlisted training conferences and "worked hard at routine duties as well as the extraordinary ... Our profession certainly needs Soldiers like you as examples," Campbell said.
Following the change of command, Turner told the audience of SMDC/ARSTAT employees as well as Arsenal and local community leaders that it is an honor to be assigned to SMDC/ARSTRAT and to have the opportunity to serve with Campbell and, later, Formica.
"The name alone of this organization implies the strategic significance that the command has toward defense," he said. "Its mission and global reach is truly amazing. Its employees work tirelessly to protect the nation ... I make a solemn vow to continue the standard, accomplish the mission and take care of Soldiers."
Both Borja and Turner thanked their families for supporting their years of service. "Being a Soldier is tough. Being a Soldier's family is tougher. I couldn't do this without you," Turner said.