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    Pa. Guard Soldier to retire after 43 years of service

    Pa. Guard Soldier to retire after 43 years of service

    Photo By Master Sgt. Matthew Keeler | Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tracy Steele, maintenance officer for the 2-104th General...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Keeler 

    Joint Force Headquarters - Pennsylvania National Guard

    FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – A few of the movies that were released in 1979, the year Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tracy Steele enlisted in the military, were Apocalypse Now, Alien, Mad Max, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

    In the coming weeks, Steele, a maintenance officer for the 2-104th General Support Aviation Battalion, will end his adventurous career with the Pennsylvania National Guard, retiring after 43 years of service.

    “I enlisted three weeks after my 17th birthday,” said Steele, a Pottstown, Pa., resident. “Since my dad wasn’t around, the military needed my mother’s approval since I wasn’t 18 yet. She was for it! So, she signed the paperwork allowing me to enlist.”

    As a kid, Steele had a big brother through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. His big brother was a Pottstown police officer, who was also an Army Reservist and had served with the U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War. It was his big brother’s example, coming back from drills where he was a tanker, that influenced Steele to join the military.

    “My original intent was to enlist into the military police, but MPs at that time had a height requirement, and I missed it by about an inch,” Steele said. “So, I looked into 11B [Infantryman] and 11H [Anti-Armor Infantry].”

    Since Steele was 17 when he enlisted, he was part of the split training option which meant that he went basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the summer between his junior and senior years of high school. After basic, Steele returned to St. Pius X High School in Pottstown and graduated in 1980.

    “I graduated basic training and came back to finish my senior year of high school,” he said.

    After graduation, Steele went to advanced individual training at Fort Benning, Georgia. After graduating from AIT, he joined the 2nd Combat Service Support Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment.

    At the time, Steele said, he didn’t consider the National Guard to be a career.

    “At that time, the National Guard seemed like a part-time job,” he said. “It helped pay my car insurance. I didn’t look at being part of the National Guard, at that time, as turning it into a career, but as something to do.”

    Those thoughts changed in 1988 when Steele started to raise a family, and he became aware of the military technician program. He was a sergeant first class and a platoon leader when he took a supply clerk – or supply technician at the time – position.

    “I took a reduction in rank to staff sergeant to take the position, but I did supply both full-time and M-day (traditional member of the National Guard) for seven years,” he said.

    In 1994, the military started a reduction in force for technicians, and a transition of technician positions to Active Guard Reserve. But the military also opened different positions for technicians.

    “There were only a few of us on the supply side that were left at the units because many of them had been converted to AGR,” Steele said. “But the service support specialist or unit administrators, back in the day, were all technicians. They down-sized all the technicians out of the units and replaced them with AGRs. So, all these technicians across the state, they opened the maintenance field to additional MOS for compatibility.”

    In 1995, Steele was hired as a technician at a field maintenance shop four, starting his ground maintenance career.

    Steele’s career had taken a few twists. He had started as an 11B, was qualified as an 11H through on-the-job training, and then he became a 76Y (Unit Supply Specialist). With the opening of the new positions, he became a 63B (Light-Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic). To be eligible for the new position, Steele had to take another reduction in rank to sergeant.

    Steele worked there as a light-wheel vehicle mechanic and a track mechanic. He was selected for promotion into the 1067th Transportation Company as a senior mechanic and was promoted to staff sergeant.

    In the early 2000s, Steele and the 1067th TC saw their mission change.

    “I mobilized with the 1067th TC in 2003, we had a five day alert period and then a week later we were at Fort Dix. We got a phone call on a Wednesday, and then the following Wednesday we were at Fort Dix,” said Steele. “I ended up personally doing 27 Months at Fort Dix with base operations. We transported equipment up and down the east coast to ports, or to returning units during that two-year window; and then the extra three months we spent training up a reserve unit, a transportation company, to prepare them to get deployed.”

    After more than two years of active service, Steele demobilized and returned to his technician job.

    “In 2005, I demobilized and now on the technician side of the house I was a wage grade nine,” he said. “Wage grade nines could become warrant officers or work on the floor provided your supervisor was a warrant officer; which my supervisor was. So, I started looking at that route and I submitted a packet.”

    However, shortly after Steele sent his packet, his supervisor left and was replaced by a master sergeant. In 2007, the master sergeant retired, and Steele became the supervisor. He once more sent his packet for Warrant Officer Candidate School and went to Fort Rucker, Alabama, in 2008.

    When Steele attended WOC, the school was going through a transition, he said. He considered the school more Soldier friendly, and very different from the other Noncommissioned officer classes that he had attended in his career.

    Steele noted that throughout his career, transitions or updates were common to the classes that he had attended. Within a year or two after he would graduate a school it would be changed, so he considered that he was at the right place at the right time.

    “When I was promoted to platoon sergeant the first time, we had expanded from one platoon to three – so they needed two vacancies to fill,” he said. “Warrant officer was the same thing. I was at the right place at the right time. The 1067th TC was stood up around 1999, and they never had a warrant officer, and in 2008 I became their first warrant officer.”

    Thanks to the support of his family, Steele has been able to work to be in the right place and the right time throughout his career, he said. And, like a true heroic movie ending, Steele will wear the 28th Infantry Division patch to end his career just like he wore when he started.



    Date Taken: 03.02.2022
    Date Posted: 03.03.2022 08:03
    Story ID: 415620
    Location: FORT INDIANTOWN, PA, US 
    Hometown: POTTSTOWN, PA, US

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