FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Thompson officially relinquished responsibility of the 311th Signal Command (Theater) to Command Sgt. Maj. Travis L. Cherry, who became the senior enlisted leader at Fort Shafter's historic Palm Circle Jan. 25.
In keeping with Signal Corps tradition, the official ceremony was conducted silently via semaphore flag communications. The red and white flags are the historic original form of battlefield communications and can direct entire troop movements silently. More recently, the flags have been used in present day ceremonies as a formal honor to Signal heritage.
Following the official passing of the sword, a tradition signifying passing of responsibility, an official retirement ceremony honored and bade farewell to Thompson, who served the U.S. Army with 32 years of dedicated service.
"When a Soldier serves his country more than 30 years, he generally serves because of his passion and commitment to defend that idea that we call freedom," said keynote speaker 9th Signal Command Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald R. Williams. "While it takes a unit to get the job done, every unit needs a strong non-commissioned officer. One that enforces standards, instills values and discipline, one that ensures the command climate is conducive for leaders, Soldiers, civilian and team development. That NCO must also help shape goals and conditions of the commander's vision to become a reality, and since January 2010, [CSM] Thompson has been that non-commissioned officer."
Williams spoke of his confidence in Cherry's ability to carry the torch as the senior NCO of the command.
"As he takes the reigns of this organization, rest assured that he's the right Soldier at the right time for this enormous responsibility," said Williams. "I am confident that Command Sgt. Maj. Cherry will hit the ground running, you will his presence on day one."
Cherry's assignment with the 311th comes after a successful two-year tour as the CSM for the 516th Signal Brigade, which is a direct reporting unit of the 311th. Also headquartered at Fort Shafter, the 516th is the most geographically dispersed Signal Brigade in the U.S. Army. Now, as the 311th senior enlisted leader, his assignment grows to include and encompass all Signal units of the Pacific.
"I'm honored to be part of the 311th team today and I'm looking forward to the challenge," said Cherry. "Theater Voice, thank you."
After the change of responsibility ceremony, the departing Thompson was honored with an official retirement and flag folding ceremony . Thompson, joined by his mother and daughter at the front of the parade field and was recognized with a certificate of retirement signed by the Chief of Staff of the Army, a certificate of appreciation signed by the President of the United States as Commander in Chief, a retirement pin and U.S. flag.
Immediately upon being presented the flag, Thompson turned to his mother and presented it to her.
"As I reflect on my career, I take with me many treasured memories," said Thompson. "The faces of supervisors, Soldiers and friends who taught me that listening and caring were the keys to success...I hope in some small way that I have set the example and made a difference in a Soldier's life that has had a positive impact on others. (To the NCOs and leaders) I ask that you continue to be a teacher and mentor to our warriors. Remember, that knowledge you gain is not solely yours to keep but yours to pass on. "-30-