Twenty-eight years is a long time – just ask the New Orleans Saints’ highest scoring player, Morten Andersen, who managed a professional football career of 25 years, the second longest ever.
While not a football team, the U.S. Army team of professionals recently bid farewell to one of its own all-stars as Sgt. Maj. Ronald D. Houston, U.S. Army Financial Management Command Operations and Intelligence senior enlisted advisor, retired after more than 28 years of military service during a ceremony at the Maj. Gen. Emmett J. Bean Federal Center in Indianapolis July 17.
“He is a ‘Soldiers’ Soldier’ and a caring, engaged leader,” said Lt. Col. Emanuel Dudley, USAFMCOM Operations and Intelligence director, who presided over the ceremony and served with Houston on three separate occasions. “John Quincy Adams described it best when he stated, ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’
“Sergeant Major Houston, you are definitely a leader,” Dudley continued. “Your ability to influence and lead officers, NCOs, and enlisted Soldiers is unmatched.”
During the mostly-virtual ceremony, Brig. Gen. Mark S. Bennett, USAFMCOM commanding general, presented Houston with an award and medallion signifying his recognition as a distinguished member for the Army Finance Corps.
“To the Finance Corps, thank you for all that you taught me to make me a complete finance Soldier and leader,” Houston said. “I will forever remember the Corps.”
Placing the medallion around his neck was his wife Shani, who was joined in person and virtually by the sergeant major’s six children and his aunt, Florence Franklin.
“Shani, I love you and thank you for everything,” Houston said during his remarks. “You have been my rock, and even when times got hard, you stood by my side.”
He went on to individually recognize Janai, Treshain, Jenea, Kari, Kiya and Dondre, his children who he referred to as “superstars.”
Houston, a New Orleans native and diehard Saints fan, first joined the Army as a financial management specialist in May 1992 and headed off to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for basic training. He then went on to Fort Benjamin Harrison for his Advanced Individual Training, a location where he would end his career nearly three decades later.
From there, his assignments included serving with the 267th Finance Battalion, Fort Wainwright, Alaska; 105th FB, Fort Bliss, Texas; 106th Financial Management Support Unit, Wurzburg, Germany; A 1/11th Infantry Regiment, Fort Benning, Georgia; 177th FMSU, Camp Casey, Korea; U.S. Army Finance School, Fort Jackson; U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, Korea; 336th FMSU, Lake Charles, Louisiana; 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 90th Human Resources Company and 24th FMSU, Fort Stewart, Georgia; and 1st Armored Division and 4th FMSU, Fort Bliss, Texas.
In addition, Houston served two combat tours in support Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
During his last assignment at USAFMCOM, the sergeant major oversaw all operational taskings, day-to-day functions and training of the command. He also served as the senior enlisted advisor to the USAFMCOM command sergeant major and Operations and Intelligence (G3) director on matters concerning current operations, future operations and all things training.
“To the G3 section, what can I say? You guys have been the light of my time in USAFMCOM,” Houston said. “When I arrived to USAFMCOM, it was a very small sho, working us down to the bone, but we kept chugging.
“To all the Soldiers and civilians in USAFMCOM, thank you for always be the nicest and most professional people I have ever met,” he continued. “I would love to work beside any one of you any day.”
While his service took him across the globe, Houston said he almost didn’t make the Army a career.
“I came in the Army four days after high school, and I did not know anything about the Army,” he recalled. “My contract was for two years and 19 weeks, and I knew I was going to be out of there right after that, and possibly before.
“I even tried to get out on ‘Failure to Adapt’ after six months.”
According to Houston, his Army leadership saw something in him he didn’t yet see in himself.
“Sergeant First Class Lisbon, Sergeant Bethea, Staff Sergeant Hutchinson and Staff Sergeant Cherry believed in me,” he said. “I think they were just filling my head up with a lot false motivation, but I definitely believed it and it worked.”
Houston said he took that belief and several lessons his early leaders imparted to him and made them his own. Four of those major lessons, in his own words, include:
- “There have been millions of Soldiers before me that did not fail, so why would I fail?”
- “I took positive qualities of the people around me and left the negatives. This made into me a complete Solider.”
- “Show compassion in everything you do. The people around you will respect you for it.”
- “Do not get offended if Soldiers ask questions. After you earn their trust, the questions will stop and they will follow you anywhere.”
Houston also gave thanks to the now retired command sergeants major, who he said inspired him including Courtney Ross, Christopher Cosby, Mark Sullivan and J.T. Sablan.
“Over these years I could name many other people out there that made me a complete Soldier and leader,” he said.” To all Soldiers and civilians I have come in contact with, thank you.”
Looking ahead, Houston said his 28 years of service was a long journey, but it felt much shorter because for him the Army was more than a job – it was a way of life.
“As I move on to the next phase in my life, I will cherish every moment of my Army memories,” he concluded. “I came in the Army as a 17-year-old child, but the help of family, friends, leaders, Soldiers and civilians, I am leaving as a man.
“Sergeant Major Houston, out!”
USAFMCOM conducts enterprise-level financial operations and provides technical coordination for financial management units and commands across the Army in order to ensure the effective implementation of policies and programs to support optimally resourcing the Army.
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