FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico –
Command Sgt. Maj. Orlando Santiago, the senior federal U.S Army Non Commissioner Officer (NCO) in the Caribbean, retired after over 36 years of service to the nation, in a ceremony conducted at the command’s headquarters, March 22, with family, Soldiers and friends as witnesses.
During the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Dustin A. Shultz, Commanding General of the 1st Mission Support Command, U.S. Army Reserve-Puerto Rico, recognized Santiago’s dedication and long career.
“Old Soldiers never die. They just fade away and leave a legacy of excellence. You did that, both on uniform and in your civilian capacity as well,” said Shultz.
Santiago, who also recently retired as detective from the Alexandria Police Department in Virginia, performed a key role advising the Commanding General on all matters related to enlisted ranks, especially in the aftermath of hurricane Maria, one of the most challenging natural disasters that affected the Caribbean island in recent history.
“I know that during the emergency of Irma and Maria, your goal was to sustain the welfare and wellbeing of our Soldiers. You did that very well, and for that we thank you,” added Shultz.
For the retiring top NCO, the hurricane emergencies in Puerto Rico marked his career.
“That was the most challenging experience I have ever experiences, and the highlight of my career. But that emergency made us better, stronger and battle tested, not only in contingency missions, but in natural disasters as well, in support to Defense Support to Civil Authorities,” added Santiago.
The Soldier also reflected about his legacy as the senior federal Army NCO in the region.
“I feel that I left great a legacy to the Non Commission Officer Corps, especially to the new generations, building and developing NCOs to take charge and drive the combat readiness of their squad, support the intent of their commanders, and to not only be technically proficiency , but to truly understand the tactical edge of the battlefield”, said Santiago emotionally.
The outgoing command sergeant major joined the United States Army on Dec. 20,1982, as an infantry man, serving seven years in the active component. He transferred to the Army Reserve in 1990, serving in many positions of great responsibility.
“This great United States Army changed my life, because it gave me purpose and direction. If it wasn’t for the Army, I probably won’t had achieved all the things that I got on my life. The highlight of my career was certainly serving in this glorious command, wearing the Garita on my shoulder. ” stated Santiago before exiting the command.