"It's tough to take the uniform off... it's what I know," said Master Sgt. Lewis Mikulecky during his retirement ceremony on March 11 at the Natick Soldier Systems Center.

The ceremony was hosted by Col. Jeanne Hooper, the Chief of Staff at U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command.

"It's great to see Soldiers, which we see few and far between at TACOM headquarters," said Hooper. "It's a tough day for the Army as we lose a 30-year noncommissioned officer. That is a heck of a return on the Army's investment."

Mikulecky joined the Colorado National Guard on his 17th birthday in 1980 as a third-generation Soldier. After his service in the National Guard, he decided in 1985 to become a part of the Active Duty Army as a parachute rigger. He served in combat during Operation Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He also served at Fort Bragg; Fort Benning; Vicenza, Italy; and wrapped up his service as the senior enlisted airdrop equipment specialist and liaison to TACOM ILSC from Fort Bragg.

"If you would have asked me as a 17-year old would I be here today, the answer would have been no," said Mikulecky. "I was going to be a Soldier for a while and go make some big bucks. In the end, the money wasn't worth it and I stayed.

"I have been fortunate to work with some great leaders and more important, great Soldiers," said Mickulecky. "Those leaders and leaders got me here today. I always made sure I took care of Soldiers first. There were times where my family went on the back burner to take care of Soldiers and I am thankful for the support my family gave me."

Mickulecky is married with three children and will transition to become an Army civilian with TACOM-ILSC.

"I am looking forward to joining the Natick community as a civilian," said Mickulecky. "I love working with Soldiers and civilians and I am looking forward to staying a part of the Army team."