Richmond, Virginia –
June 22, at high noon on Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, was a special time for two Army officers as they marked the end of their collective 52-years of service in the Army during a combined retirement ceremony in the Frank B. Lotts Conference Center.
Army Col. Mark Hirschinger and Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kevin Ryan both finished their careers working in the Customer Operations Directorate of Defense Logistics Agency Aviation. Hirschinger’s last assignment was as chief of the Army Customer Facing Division and Ryan’s was as the directorate’s Aviation Logistics Operations Center’s plans and mobility officer.
“Mark and Kevin, it is a great day,” said DLA Aviation Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Allan Day as he welcomed family members, invited guests and employees to celebrate the retirees’ dedicated service. “It is really special to have family available as they are an important part of this journey.”
Day began by recognizing Hirschinger’s career assignments, stateside and overseas, and sharing a few additional tidbits from his military appraisals over the years.
Day said in 1988 , Hirschinger’s first appraisal said,” his physical fitness is unequal, exceeding standards and that he was the most physically fit male… and his physical fitness was highlighted through many years.” In other appraisals, Day said commanding officers said Hirschinger was a tremendous role model, smart, articulate, caring, and had unlimited potential.
“Every record seemed to have amazing written all over it. I don’t think there is any doubt, Mark has served well,” said Day. “He has been dedicated and selfless and he has been doing it for 30 years. Mark, I want to thank you personally, from the bottom of my heart, for your 30 years of faithful service. Thank you.”
Day then recognized Ryan.
“Kevin enlisted in the Army at 17 in 1995, following in his grandfather’s footsteps,” said Day. “During one of his first assignments he met his wife, Maria, while she was also in the Army and they were both serving in Korea. Kevin’s career has been very successful and on a fast track. He earned the rank of sergeant first class in just 10 years and was then selected for the warrant officer corps.”
Day said he also dug into Ryan’s records a little and found out that he and Ryan share a background in aircraft maintenance.
“I have a real sense of how hard that is. It doesn’t matter what the weather, maintainers are out there getting ready for the pilots to go fly, and break, the airplanes,” Day joked while looking toward Hirschinger who is an Army pilot.
Day said he learned from Ryan that Army appraisals don’t start until the solider reaches the rank of sergeant.
“Maria, you laid a great foundation in those first years of marriage to set him up right. His first appraisal said Ryan was a good example of a true professional who leads from the front,” said Day. “The [appraisals] used words like mental toughness, extraordinary ability to accomplish mission under any circumstances, superb motivator and mentor for soldiers, always at the top, maturity beyond his peers, and finds simple, common sense solutions to complex problems.”
Day said Ryan was selected early for the CW3 and CW4 ranks and served as a company commander over several hundred soldiers, which is highly unusual for the warrant officer corps, and also trained with Boeing in industry, then came to DLA Aviation.
Day highlighted Ryan’s legacy in creating the Fleet Readiness Dashboard, the Authorized Stockage List Dashboard and Army Division Outreach Program that were all delivered down to tactical units and praised at the highest level of the Army.
“We are losing two fantastic, hardworking, dedicated DLAers,” said Day. “We will miss your bright ideas and quick wit Chief Ryan. He is a funny guy. Col. Hirschinger we miss your leadership and your embodiment of the Army values. I really appreciate what you both bring to the fight.”
In closing, Day expressed the wish that both soldiers reflect on the impact they had on many service members throughout their careers and that they would continue to give back to their communities.
Following Day’s remarks, Hirschinger and Ryan were presented with retirement orders, the Legion of Merit Award and Defense Meritorious Service Medal, respectively, for their exceptionally meritorious service. They also received the “Soldier for Life: Retired Kit containing a U.S. folded flag, a letter of appreciation from the Army chief of staff and their retirement pin. Lastly, they received farewell gifts from their division showcasing their favorite football team, the Green Bay Packers.
Following the gift presentations, Hirschinger gave his remarks.
“As I considered my remarks, I kept coming back to the same words…thank you, grateful and, privileged,” said Hirschinger. “You will hear those words a lot - since, that is my intent today – to relay my gratitude to DLA, friends, family, leaders and service members, who made my experience possible.”
Hirschinger joking displayed a special bottle of shampoo with the words no more tears on the label, because he said according to Chief Ryan ‘tears and water works’ will come from him.
“Probably true, but I believe ‘emotion, passion and leadership’ are inseparable,” said Hirschinger. “And, I tell you with sincerity, I love the Army and my time at DLA.
Hirschinger said an occasion like this is a time for thanks and a time for reflection. He offered thanks to the countless leaders, friends and service members who made his last 30 years so magnificent, rewarding and memorable for him and his family.
He said, it was an extraordinary privilege serving during such a significant time for our country.
“The end of the Cold War, Desert Storm, Peace Keeping in Africa and Europe, 9/11 and the 15 years of war that followed – through all of this, I had the privilege of flying helicopters all over the world, preparing and leading troops in combat, and serving with two NATO commands, side-by-side with key allies,” said Hirschinger.
Hirschinger said his DLA assignment came at the perfect time when he could give back to the aviation force based on his experience while transitioning to civilian life.
“To the DLA team, thanks so much for your work supporting combat readiness for our nation and the tremendous experience you gave me here,” he said. “Looking back, I am the luckiest soldier I know. I was allowed to live all over the world, learn, develop, make mistakes and have the privilege to command troops and conduct missions for our nation.”
Following Hirschinger, Ryan began his remarks saying he was one of the luckiest warrant officers having the distinction to lead, develop, make mistakes and ultimately be entrusted with our soldiers. “It is not a responsibility I have taken lightly over the last 22 years,” he said.
Ryan said he had many great leaders and mentors along the way as he remembered personal stories and thanked several in attendance. He acknowledged with thanks those who were absent and those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
“To my friends and colleagues in attendance thank you for your patience and mentorship, and support to the warfighter,” he said. “To my family, words can’t express the gratitude I feel for your support over the years. We have become more reliant on each other … I look forward to growing some roots and establishing stability that includes many more wonderful memories, similar to those over the last 22 years. To my wife, it is my turn to give you total support as you have given me while you continue here with your DLA career.
“As my Army career comes to a close, it has prepared me for that next chapter,” he said. “I have served with loyalty and I turn the page as a proud veteran, who served to the best of my ability throughout my career.”
In closing, the audience sang the Army Song before joining the retirees for a reception.