HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - It's before dawn and most of the Soldiers on Hunter Army Airfield are either still asleep or just getting out of bed. But, behind a mahogany desk sits a man enclosed by four walls that bear a visual recording of his journey in the Army. His office is adorned with coins, plaques, photographs and other memorabilia dating back to deployments to Grenada, Panama and Iraq, to name a few. These plaques describe a life committed to the service of his country and to the Soldiers he loves. He arrives everyday at 5 a.m. so he can get a jump on the day prior to his 6:30 a.m. physical training.

Command Sergeant Major Richard Stidley, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, is skimming though his e-mails to form his to-do list and finds yet more congratulatory e-mails from Soldiers, friends, community leaders and some people he says he vaguely remembers - but they obviously remember him.

Although his new position was just officially announced this past week by the Department of the Army, word spread like wildfire. Command Sergeant Major Stidley has been selected as the new U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center command sergeant major.

"Look at this one," he says as he begins to read the e-mail out loud. "That email was from a Soldier who served with me when I was the battalion command sergeant major over at 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation, 3rd CAB. This is the kind of stuff you remember ... all the people you touched. I'm truly going to miss being with the Soldiers."

For nearly 32 years, Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Stidley has committed his heart and soul to the U.S. Army and 11 of those years have been right here at the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade at Hunter Army Airfield. Having served on more than seven combat tours, five of those with the 3rd Infantry Division's aviation brigade, Command Sgt. Maj. Stidley can attest to the fact that combat and safety are nothing new to him as he looks forward to his next assignment.

"Our most recent deployment speaks for itself," boasts Command Sgt. Maj. Stidley. "We deployed to the hardest place in Afghanistan with more than 5,000 servicemembers and we returned with no fatalities. That says something loud and clear ... safety. Safety is serious business but very basic stuff. Leaders must enforce the standards and Soldiers must take the responsibility for their own actions."

From garrison-paved airfields to war-torn countries, Command Sgt. Maj. Stidley proved he's a Soldier's Soldier - his reputation flourished from his arrival to the brigade in 1998 as a newly-promoted master sergeant to his eventual rise to the most senior enlisted noncommissioned officer in the brigade today. While some may also consider him the epitome of cool, he said it's the 3rd CAB Soldiers' passion to lead and their intensity to learn that has gotten him this far.

"The hardest part is yet to come - saying goodbye to my Soldiers, the Family Members and the community of Savannah. How do you sum up 11 years in a six-minute farewell speech' My family and I have such great memories here. My fondest ones are simply being with the Joes. We are truly going to miss everyone."