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Command chief warrant officer retires after 39 year of service

By Sgt. 1st Class Brent Powell | 76th U.S. Army Reserve Operational Response Command | Feb. 22, 2019

FORT DOUGLAS, Utah — Thirty-nine years. For some, that’s practically a lifetime. And for one person in particular it has been a lifetime spent serving her country. A lifetime full of self-less service, dedication, devotion to duty, honor, leadership, integrity and respect.

On February 10, 2019, a retirement ceremony was held here to recognize those 39 years of faithful and honorable service that Chief Warrant Officer 5 Dawn Blanchard, command chief warrant officer, 76th Operational Response Command had given not only the Soldiers and command here, but to her Nation for more than a quarter of a century.

“What a great day this is in many ways, but it’s really bittersweet,” said Brig. Gen. Doug Cherry, commanding general, 76th ORC. “Today we are going to retire a great Soldier, not just any Soldier though, this is a member of our command team. She is the first command chief warrant officer for the 76th Division ever. The position of command chief is relatively new, and there have not been many people who have held that position anywhere, and in our division there has been only one, and she is going to be very, very hard to replace.” 

Blanchard has had a distinguished career beginning with her enlistment in the United States Army Reserve in December 1979. She completed basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and her Advanced Individual Training at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

Her first assignment was as a field systems communication security repairer with the 410th Signal Company, Junction City, Wisconsin. She served the unit in various capacities eventually obtaining the rank of warrant officer.

From those early beginnings, her career would span numerous other assignments and positions including serving as a human resources technician, wheeled vehicle maintenance technician, biomedical repair technician, military personnel technician, signal systems maintenance technician, and military personnel officer.

“If you look on the Army flag behind us our campaign ribbons are on there, and just like that flag, Chief Blanchard has her own campaign ribbons as well,” said Cherry. “She wears them on her uniform, they are in her heart and her family wears them as well. So, just like the battle streamers on that flag, when she stands, what you see is support. What you see is a Soldier who serves Soldiers.”

Cherry went on to explain how dedicated and hard-working Blanchard was during her three years serving as the command’s first ever appointed chief warrant officer. “Right up to her last duty day here, Chief Blanchard was working,” he said. “She was helping me solve problems, and that is what she has done throughout her career. She has helped numerous individual Soldiers, units, the United States Army and this Nation. So for me, this is a really bitter sweet time. Saying goodbye to the first command chief warrant officer I’ve ever had.” 

During the retirement ceremony, Chief Blanchard was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal as an interim award while waiting on the Legion of Merit Medal to be processed. The award stated: “for exceptionally meritorious service from 1 Jan 2009 to 31 Dec 2018 culminating as the 76th Operational Response Command’s command chief warrant officer. Throughout her 39-years of service Chief Blanchard has distinguished herself in her exceptional duty performance in positions of importance and responsibility. Chief Warrant Officer 5 Blanchard demonstrated extraordinary leadership, technical and training skills, thereby enhancing the readiness of numerous units in the total Army. Her true professionalism and dedication reflects great credit upon herself, the 76th Operational Response Command and the United States Army.”

Blanchard was also presented a Certificate of Retirement, a Commander in Chief’s Certificate of Appreciation, a Chief of the Army Reserve’s Certificate of Appreciation, a Soldier for Life Retirement Pin, an American Flag, a coin and a plaque from the warrant officers of the 76th Operational Response Command, a shadowbox display from the 76th ORC, and a commander’s coin.

After the awards were presented, Blanchard took the opportunity to address the crowd of her family, friends, fellow Soldiers and coworkers. “First of all I want to thank my family, my husband especially, who is not only my husband, but my mentor. Thank you for sticking with me through good and bad. I also want to thank all the Soldiers I’ve had the honor and privilege to serve with, without you my success would not have been possible.” She also thanked her children and grandchildren. 

Blanchard went on to offer some advice to those in attendance. “The biggest advice I can give is that as you go through your career, push yourself to your limits,” she said. “If you start to get too comfortable, find something different. You will never know how far you can go or how much you can achieve if you don’t push yourself beyond your comfort zone.”

She concluded by discussing her military experiences and those she met along the way. “I’ve had so many good mentors and met so many good people and had such great experiences throughout the years and I will remember them all,” she said. “Making it to this level and serving as your command chief warrant officer has been the best assignment I’ve had. I would never ever have believed that I would have made it this far. This is a dream come true.”