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Community honors retiring deputy commander

U.S. Army Alaska said goodbye April 13 to its deputy commander, Col. Robert L. Ball, during a Circle of Honor ceremony at the Physical Fitness Center at Fort Wainwright.

Maj. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of USARAK, said he was honored and humbled to celebrate Ball’s 30-year career.

At the age of 5, Ball told his parents that he wanted to be a Soldier and attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He said it was a mystery as to where this desire came from since no one in his family had served in the military since World War I.

“That goal came to shape much of what that boy did up until today,” Ball said. “I do not know why God placed that calling on me, but I am so thankful that he did — for it has been a great journey. I have been able to serve in the greatest Army in the greatest country in the world.”

Ball has held many leadership positions during his Army career, including brigade commander in Saint Paul, Minn., and battalion commander at Fort Knox, Ky.

“He has experienced no greater challenge than in his last assignment in Alaska as our deputy commander,” Jacoby said. “He has worked for and provided the wisest of counsel to three commanding generals, steered Fort Wainwright through unprecedented force structure change and fostered and nurtured our wonderful relationship with the Fairbanks North Star Borough community.”

In the wake of the former 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team’s extension, Ball became the “face” of the extension to the community at Fort Wainwright. He interacted with families daily, not only in the office, with the media and at dozens of family readiness group meetings, but at the Commissary, in church and throughout the community.

“Always truthful and candid, he made no excuses for the extension, gave his full and unwavering support for the Army’s tough mission and refused to allow anyone to be treated like a victim,” Jacoby said. “He was a voice of compassion, and he spared no personal or organizational effort to mitigate any hardship imposed upon Soldiers, families and the community.”

During his speech, Ball mentioned his driver, Sgt. Jermaine McCants, and other non-commissioned officers who have helped him throughout his career.

“The NCO Corps is truly the backbone of the Army, and no one becomes an NCO without being a Soldier first,” he said. “I have always tried to remember that the young private (who) seems so young and gangly today could be the Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Garrett or Sgt. 1st Class Bernadette Young of tomorrow.”

McCants, who has worked for Ball for eight months, said the Army is losing a great mentor and leader to officers and NCOs alike.

“Col. Ball has been my best boss so far. He is a father figure and role model (and) keeps us motivated and is very in-touch with all Soldiers,” he said.

Jacoby agreed with McCants’ opinion.

“Most simply put, Bob Ball is a Soldier, an officer and a gentleman,” Jacoby said. “As an American, I am truly grateful for Bob’s service to our nation; as a Soldier I am full of admiration and proud to have served alongside him.”

Ball thanked friends and community members during his retirement speech.

“And so, it’s time for this old Soldier to fade away. I thank God for the opportunity to serve and for bringing each of you in my life,” Ball said. “When it’s all said and done, it’s the relationships that will provide me wonderful memories for a lifetime. Arctic Warrior Six, this is Sapper Six, request permission to leave the net. Sapper Six out.”

Col. Robert Ball, U.S. Army Alaska deputy commander, passes the USARAK colors to Maj. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., USARAK commander, during his Circle of Honor retirement ceremony at the Physical Fitness Center April 13.

Col. Robert Ball, U.S. Army Alaska deputy commander, passes the USARAK colors to Maj. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., USARAK commander, during his Circle of Honor retirement ceremony at the Physical Fitness Center April 13.

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