FORT BRAGG, N.C. –
Fort Bragg molds many young warriors and leaders in the U.S. Army. Today it bids farewell to a Soldier who transformed alongside this base over more than two-decades of service.
Brig. Gen. Michael Warmack, Chief of U.S. Army Reserve Command Operations, Plans and Training, retired in a ceremony at Marshall Hall after 32-years of service — 22 of those years spent at Fort Bragg.
“This was my first duty station, when I first got here, I thought, ‘Hey this is the Army and we have crummy buildings; okay that’s cool,’” Warmack said recalling the first time he came to Fort Bragg. “We all hung together at Willy’s, the old officers club, it’s gone now, and just the ghost of Willy’s is there now.
“Over time I’ve seen that almost every building has been demolished — there’s only a few buildings left,” Warmack said looking out at Fort Bragg from his office on the fifth floor. “They’ve built a new hospital, replaced all the clinics, and renovated all the homes — the facilities and quality of life that the Army is providing to our Soldiers, is just so much better.”
Warmack said he knew he wanted to be a Soldier when he was 5-years old, it was in his blood. He didn’t know it at the time because, as it turns out, he was adopted. Warmack wouldn’t meet his parents, or learn their story until well into his military career.
After the passing of his father, and with his Mother’s full support, Warmack decided it was time to look for his birth parents. He learned that his birth father was a Vietnam-era helicopter pilot and his mother, living in Germany, was the daughter of an Army officer. Before Warmack was born, the relationship dissolved and his mother traveled to Washington D.C. to give birth. Warmack said that at that at that time, in the 60’s, keeping him and becoming a single mother just wasn’t something you did.
Warmack’s relationship with his adoptive parents, especially his mother, Toni, defined his life. During his retirement ceremony he gave a heartfelt tribute to them and outlined their importance to his life and his military career.
Warmack stated that growing up, it was evident to his parents, and everyone around him, that the military was not just a calling, but an eventuality.
“I always knew I wanted to go in the Army, I wanted to go into the infantry, I just wanted to be an Airborne Ranger.” Warmack said. “I wanted to jump out of planes and be the best infantry officer I could possibly be.”
The Army granted Warmack’s wish and brought him to Fort Bragg where he cut his teeth leading roughly 40 paratroopers in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
“I loved being a platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne Division. What a great job to learn all of your basic leadership skills,” Warmack said of his favorite duty assignment. “When I made mistakes they were mostly tolerant of me — I had a great platoon sergeant, who, although I had great ideas and was hard as woodpecker lips, as they used to say, he’d guide me and my ideas in the right direction.”
He accomplished his childhood goals, and Warmack set his sights on becoming a battalion commander. When he reached that goal, he found himself unsure of what to do next.
He never thought a general officer’s star was on his horizon.
Upon meeting his future spouse, Laura, Warmack recalls that he told her, “I’ll never make it above lieutenant colonel, I want you to know that right up front.”
“I married her and boom I was getting promoted,” Warmack said. “She was my absolute lucky charm, motivation, and the one person, who, besides my adoptive parents, really inspires me and is always there for me.”
Laura, a full-time professional at IBM, said that being a military spouse had its challenging moments. The community they’ve become a part of at Fort Bragg has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. She said this community will be the hardest thing to leave behind — it’s a large part of what makes her marriage special.
“I have traveled all over the world for IBM, and this is the best community in the world — bar none,” Laura said. “He has allowed me to be part of this community and I will be forever grateful."
Both Warmacks agreed that living on base has been an amazing experience that they’ve cherished and will be missed.
“We love hearing the 75mm Pack Howitzer go off in the morning. We’re going to miss all the flags in the neighborhood, there’s a flag on every single house, the oak trees, ‘Taps’ being played at night,” Warmack said. “I’m going to miss all the great people who, when you say we have to get something done, they get fired up — and they move out, uniformed and civilian personnel alike.”
Warmack and his family will have some time to relish the community at Fort Bragg — his last day won’t be until October. This ceremony is just another way the military community differentiates itself from the private sector.
“I think the retirement ceremony is so special in and of itself. I know Mike is doing it for his family, but I have been with IBM for 27 years, and I will be lucky if I get an email when I leave,” Laura said. “The people in the Army community congratulate you, people want to send him off with a pat on the back.”
When asked about his plans Warmack jokes, “Well, after the ceremony I’m jumping in the car with my family and heading to beach,” he says with a laugh before turning serious. “One of my goals is to give Laura choices — it’s time for me to give back to her.
“I’m thankful to be here, to be a part of the U.S. Army Reserve. I think I’ve served in all the seams and gaps. I’m privileged to have served all over the Army in development and diplomacy,” Warmack said of his career. “I have five tours down range, starting with Desert Storm — which is very much different than everything we’ve done recently. I’m very happy to have jumped out of a plane 150 times or so; even if my back is not quite as good as it used to be.”