BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - The 401st Army Field Support Brigade recently paid tribute to Lt. Col. Joseph M. Parish upon his departure from Afghanistan and his upcoming retirement of 33 years of service after serving as the chief of staff from Aug. 10, 2012 to Nov. 10, 2013.
Parish began his military career at 17 years old by enlisting in the Alabama Army National Guard in December 1979. His military occupational specialty was 52C, refrigerators repairs, and he completed basic training at Fort Dix, N.J. Parish remained enlisted from 1979-1984 before entering the Alabama Military Academy.
Parish remembers his experience in the Officer Candidate School, OCS, as being very long and challenging and he drew tremendous strength from his future wife, Charlene, who he was dating at the time.
“She was my inspiration, my motivation and my support group. She allowed me to get through the difficult times of this course because she believed so strongly in me and my ability to succeed. I owe her a tremendous amount of thanks and I truly would not have been able to have the successful career I have today, if it had not been for her love and support.”
In June 1984, Parish graduated OCS and received his commission as a 25A signal officer and attended his officer basic course at Fort Gordon, Ga. In August 1984, Parish married his wife Charlene. They have been married 29 years and have three wonderful children named Jenna, Joscelyn and Frasier.
From 1988-1989, Parish was assigned to Fort Rucker to attend Army flight training. This led to a career as an Army aviator and company command where he commanded an Alabama aviation unit with 17 Huey helicopters and about 120 soldiers.
Parish says that after more than three decades of service, being company commander remains his favorite assignment, while the travel time and distance to various Army reserve units in which he served were the most challenging.
“For nearly 13 years of my career, I traveled 100 to 200 miles to attend weekend drills,” he said.
During his farewell speech, Lt. Col. Parish recognized three mentors who helped develop his military career.
“Both my parents played a big part in my career, but my father who served in the U.S. Air Force for six years encouraged me to join the Army,” Parish said. “My third mentor was Col. Vicki Baxter. I served as her battalion executive officer during our deployment together from 2007 to 2008 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. She was a tremendous leader, coach and mentor.”
Lt. Col. Parish will be missed by the 401st AFSB team when he ends his long and distinguished career to retire in Alabama.
“There were a lot of hugs, tears and words of appreciation as soldiers presented Lt. Col. Parish with farewell gifts and thanked him for his great service to our country for the past 33 years,” said Sgt. 1st Class Bradshaw Nunnally, who is a 401 AFSB engineer. “He was very much loved and appreciated by the soldiers of the 401st AFSB and will be truly missed.”