By Heather Graham-Ashley, III Corps and Fort Hood Public AffairsDecember 4, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas (Dec. 4, 2011) -- Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli led Fort Hood in honoring the careers and service of Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch and Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Ciotola during a Departure and Retreat Ceremony Dec. 1, on the 1st Cavalry Division's Cooper Field.
Both Lynch and Ciotola previously served with Chiarelli in the 1st Cav. Div.; Lynch as the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment commander, and Ciotola as the division's command sergeant major.
Lynch's last assignment was as the commanding general for Installation Management Command. Prior to that, he led III Corps and Fort Hood from July 2008 until September 2009. During Lynch's time at III Corps, Ciotola served alongside the general as the corps command sergeant major before the team assumed command at IMCOM.
After their service together as the command team for III Corps and IMCOM, the vice chief said their joint ceremony was most appropriate.
"They are leaders, partners, advisers, confidants and friends. They succeed or fail, win or lose together," Chiarelli said. "It is fitting that these two men finish their remarkable careers here alongside one another."
Throughout his 34-year military career, Lynch has commanded at every level from platoon to corps.
One of the general's favorite assignments was as commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, Chiarelli said.
The impact Lynch and his wife, Sarah, left at Fort Hood sustains through improved quality of life programs they spearheaded.
"He and Sarah made the Great Place even better," Chiarelli said.
The Vice Chief acknowledged Lynch as "an extremely effective, outside-the-box thinker and a team builder" who left a lasting impression in his career.
"He can be gruff, and he can be intimidating," Chiarelli said, "yet all who know him have tremendous respect for him."
At Fort Hood, Lynch started Sunday brunches, instituted Family Time and opened the clubs to all ranks, established the Army's first Resiliency Campus, worked to expand Survivor Outreach Services and Soldier and Family assistance centers.
"Rick genuinely cares about Soldiers," Chiarelli said.
Lynch's greatest contributions have been toward improving the quality-of-life for those under his command, Chiarelli said. Lynch's accomplishments at Fort Hood and IMCOM were the result of a team effort with Ciotola.
"Our chosen profession, the profession of arms, is a team sport," Chiarelli said. "We win or lose, succeed or fail, advance or retreat as a team. Command Sergeant Major is, without question, one of our Army's very, very best. He is complete Soldier, a Soldier's Soldier."
Ciotola led by example with a "follow me" attitude, the Vice Chief added.
"He is truly one of the most amazing noncommissioned officers and individuals I have ever met," the vice chief said. "He is as good in garrison as he is in combat."
In everything he did, Ciotola ensured his troops were cared for and recognized for their efforts, Chiarelli said.
The hallmark of the Lynch-Ciotola team has been improving the quality of life for Soldiers, their families and the civilians around them. The two men, and their spouses, worked toward improving lives each day and kept that mission at the forefront of their efforts.
"You left a lasting impact on the lives of everyone here and many, many more around the world," Chiarelli. "You all will forever remain an important part of our Army family."
For Lynch and Ciotola, the day was not about them. Both men wanted to talk about Soldiers and their families.
The lieutenant general did not use the word retirement. He preferred to say he is transitioning because he will continue to serve in a different capacity.
"You just a transition from one form of service to another," he said about his future plans, "and you're OK because you know there are great young Soldiers coming forward to pick up where you left off."
Wrapping up nearly 35 years in the Army, Lynch said his service transitioned from a job to a profession to a passion. There are three things he said that help that transition: relationships, service and family.
"First, it's about the relationships you form inside the U.S. Army," Lynch said."What you have is relationships that stand the test of time."
Secondly, Lynch said, it's about service and the jobs held in the Army. Some jobs are cherished while others fit the Army needs, he said. Lastly, Lynch said, it's all about family. Lynch is not worried about not being a general anymore because he has his family.
"My family, that's my identity," he said.
The command sergeant major said he found two families in the Army.
"I wear two family names: the Army over my heart and the given name that my mother and my father gave me," Ciotola said. "It has been my honor to wear both."
Family, he said, is what sustains him and Soldiers have been a key component to his family.
"You are what I have always aspired to be. You are that which have sustained me in my three decades of service," he told the formation on Cooper Field. "You look magnificent."
In his remarks, the command sergeant major shared the most important lesson he learned over his nearly 35-year career.
"It's not about me," Ciotola said. "It's about everybody else."
He told those at the ceremony they all have touched his heart and have motivated him to be what an American should be, and what a Soldier must be. Ciotola spoke of his belief in Soldiers, their families and the civilians who serve the Army and the nation.
"I choose to believe in you," he said. "I choose to believe in the future of this installation."