First SMA Wooldridge: 'Take care of each man as though he were your own brother. He is.'

By U.S. Army Public AffairsMarch 9, 2012

Sgt. Major of the Army William O. Wooldridge
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 7, 2012) -- Today, the U.S. Army pays homage to the life of Sgt. Maj. William O. Wooldridge, the First Sergeant Major of the Army, who died at age 89, Mar. 5, 2012 in El Paso, Texas.

Wooldridge was sworn in as the SMA July 11, 1966, and served until his term ended in August 1968.

"Sergeant Major of the Army Wooldridge was a one-of-a-kind noncommissioned officer selected to be the first Sergeant Major of the Army because of his initiative, intelligence, experience and drive to excel," said current Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler. "His legacy lives on in the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy, the centralized NCO promotion system and our professional NCO Corps."

"He was an innovator, a true inspiration to Soldiers and the epitome of a professional warrior. Our hearts and prayers go out to Patty [his wife] and the rest of the Wooldridge family during this difficult time, Chandler added."

Wooldridge entered the Army Nov. 11, 1940, at Fort Worth, Texas. His early assignments include the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division and detached service with British forces in Iceland in 1941 and 1942. In 1942, he was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division in Europe as he participated in the North Africa and Sicily Campaigns and the D-Day landings June 6, 1944. In October 1944, he was wounded during the battle for the fortress city of Aachen and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action. He received his second Silver Star in the Battle of the Bulge Campaign in December 1944. Upon his return to the United States in May 1945, Wooldridge was assigned to numerous posts.

Upon completion of his term as sergeant major of the Army in 1968, Wooldridge returned once again to Vietnam as sergeant major of the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam. Upon his return stateside, he was assigned to the White Sands Missile Range in the fall of 1969 and retired Feb.1, 1972 at Fort MacArthur, Calif., after 30 years and ten months of service.

"SMA Wooldridge traveled wherever Soldiers were stationed to listen to their concerns and dedicated himself to strengthening and preserving the rich history of the NCO Corps; 'the backbone of the Army,'" said Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, commandant of United States Army Sergeant's Major Academy. "He was responsible for implementing the Major Commands Command Sergeants Major Conference in 1966, which from that year forward resulted in a multitude of proposals to enhance and improve the training, morale and readiness of noncommissioned officers Army-wide."

Wooldridge is survived by his wife Patty, who is also a friend and beloved member of the Army family.

Visit to read more of Wooldridge's Army career.

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Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III

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U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy