By SGT Erica VinyardFebruary 15, 2011
The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) welcomed back a familiar face as the new regimental sergeant major.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffery T. Stitzel assumed responsibility from Command Sgt. Maj. David Martel, outgoing regimental sergeant major, during a Change of Responsibility ceremony in Conmy Hall in December.
Stitzel entered the U.S. Army in 1987 and shortly after was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Regiment where he served as an assistant gunner, sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns, team leader, squad leader and platoon sergeant.
''I never thought during my first duty assignment, 23 years ago, that I would come back as RSM. I am where I am today because of the noncommissioned officers and mentors here," said Stitzel.
It's been seven years since he left The Old Guard and he said he is humbled by his new position and to be back in the place that holds such a deep attachment for him.
''I love the Northern Virginia area and Arlington National Cemetery. I respect the Tomb more than ever and it hits home for me now that I have both friends and fellow Soldiers buried there. I think it's a great tribute to the military Soldier, having three people that represent all Soldiers that have never been identified. I can't even fathom what it would be like to not have that son, daughter, wife, husband, etc. return home from combat," said Stitzel.
Stitzel served as a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery from Oct. 1988 to Aug. 1990.
''My first mission was a wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns and I knew then, it was something I wanted to do. The Tomb, The U.S. Army Drill Team and The Continental Color Guard were larger than life to me," said Stitzel.
In 2002, Stitzel earned the title, noncommissioned officer of the year, in the first ever Army-wide competition. Known as the ''backbone of the Army," NCOs are the standard keepers for the military in training, leading and mentoring Soldiers. Stitzel credits The Old Guard and his leaders for helping in his selection as the first Army NCO of the Year.
''The discipline and attention to detail was a big part of it; I was extremely honored as an Infantryman," said Stitzel. ''Many people were responsible for helping me get there but I feel that NCOs since 9AcA "11 are better than what I am because they joined the Army knowing we are going to war whether they're here or with another organization."
From a new private to Sentinel to junior and senior NCO, he said he feels he can easily relate to Soldiers and noncommissioned Officers because he was once in their shoes.
''I left The Old Guard with the same fears that a lot of young Soldiers experience here, for example, how I would stack up to other units. What I found out was not only was I as capable as them, but I was better prepared because of what The Old Guard instilled in me. I can relate to what Old Guard Soldiers are experiencing and know that they're wondering if what they're doing is important. They are contributing more than they know," said Stitzel.
The RSM said he's confident that The Old Guard will continue to strive to be better and evolve with the rest of the Army.
''The Old Guard is the model for the Army, whose number one mission is to deter war, and we have to adhere to these strict physical characteristics so we can present the best impression of the strength of our Army to the world."