Retired USAREUR deputy commander shares words of wisdom

Maj. Gen. Richard C. Longo, the former deputy commander of U.S. Army Europe, speaks to U.S. and Estonian Soldiers during a ceremony marking the start of land forces exercises at the Amari Air Field in Estonia April 28. The general retired July 22 after serving the Army for 34 years. Photo by Sgt. Daniel Cole.

Commentary by Maj. Gen. Richard C. Longo
U.S. Army Europe deputy commander

I have proudly served the U.S. Army and the American people as an Army officer for 34 years. Within those years I have raised a wonderful family, met courageous and inspiring people, and gained personal and professional fulfillment from this profession.

It is fitting for Dianne and me to end our time in the Army here in Wiesbaden. We walked the same cobblestoned streets 32 years ago when I was a young lieutenant. We were married right downtown. We have been blessed to have spent so many years in Germany. My children call it home. I remain friends with my first Wiesbaden landlord from 1983. I have a signed basketball from the German National Championship Team in Bamberg in 2005. And I celebrated a Germany World Cup victory in the streets of Heidelberg in 2006. Germany has been a gracious host to us through the years.

Not every day was enjoyable or comfortable, but we Soldiers would not have it any other way. As I depart, I have a few words to share which might be pertinent.

For young leaders, enforce standards professionally. Seek and embrace responsibility and challenge. The concept of Mission Command empowers and compels you to continually adapt and grow. Know your commander’s intent and get after it. Take care of your Soldiers.

For noncommissioned officers, having these two very cool stars on my chest was kind of awesome, but it would never have happened if not for the gentle and sometimes not so gentle coaching by the very excellent NCOs I have been honored to be associated with. I am completely indebted to you.

For field grade officers, especially those who are doing well, beware of your ambition. I’ve never rated a major or lieutenant colonel higher because he or she worked 20-hour days. On the contrary, senior leaders are most impressed by those who demonstrate the highest moral and ethical standards, balance their professional and personal lives, and execute intent with minimal guidance (i.e. “Message to Garcia”), and those who are team players who make everyone else around them better.

For our senior colonels, know that your character influences scores of younger leaders. In this time of turbulence and uncertainty for our more junior officers, they will be looking at you and asking themselves, “Is this worth it?” Your demeanor will answer the question for them. Know this and conduct yourself in a manner that you want your entire team to emulate.

For general officers, I recommend you continue to learn every day. Maintain a humble servant leadership style that serves the units and Soldiers under your command, not one which lives to serve you. I have been fortunate in USAREUR to experience this level of leadership. And I am thankful for the genuine friendships.

To our Army civilian employees, you provide the continuity we absolutely require during these times of dynamic change. You have weathered the sequestration and living quarters allowance debacles with honor and grace, and I thank you for continuing to perform for the benefit of our Army and our Soldiers.

To our Army’s spouses, continue to support, understand and challenge your partners as they pursue this career we all have grown to love. It is a career which, by definition, is one of sacrifice. And this necessarily creates hardships on the families we love. Thank you for sustaining our families in some of the most uncertain and difficult times in our Army’s history.

And to our Soldiers, know that there are people of all ranks, from all branches and all backgrounds, who struggle each day to make the best decisions for our Army. We don’t get it right every time, but we are constantly trying to. You are “the Army.” You represent us so well and, without question, you are the reason I stayed in for these 34 years. I simply chose to spend the last three decades with people whose default is loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and courage. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It is you I will miss the most.

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