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40 years in uniform
Army's most senior warrant officer retires
NegronCruz Vietnam 1968
Jose NegronCruz stands outside a barracks in 1968 as he was preparing for his second deployment to combat in Vietnam - photo by Photo provided.
Lyndon Johnson was the nation’s commander-in-chief when Jose NegronCruz joined the U.S. Army.
The then 17-year-old wanted to see the world and decided the only way to leave his home on the island of Puerto Rico was to don the uniform.
Now, 44 years later, NegronCruz not only has seen the world, but he also he has just retired as the Army’s most senior warrant officer. A full-blown ceremony Wednesday took place in honor of the man who enlisted the year Johnson started escalating the war in Vietnam.
NegronCruz said that when he enlisted had planned on doing just three years.
Growing up in the small town of Juana Diaz, NegronCruz set three; serve his country, see the world and get an education. In the 44 years since he raised his right hand and repeated the oath of enlistment in October 1964 he served in 10 overseas tours, and several military installations in the States.
Enlisting as an infantry soldier NegronCruz’s first duty assignment was an infantry man in a Special Troop Forces in the Dominican Republic with later tours in Germany, Vietnam and Korea. He did his first tour in 1966 at the age of 19 in Vietnam as the war was escalating.
He found himself in the thick of the combat zone during two more tours, in 1968 and 1971. NegronCruz found it was not easy to leave an institution that offered him the world. He re-enlisted and later changed his job to logistics where he eventually achieved the rank of sergeant first class before transitioning to the warrant officer corps 1978.
“I got to see Europe and just fell in love with everything the Army had to offer me,” he said.
NegronCruz met the woman who would become his wife during a festival in his hometown in 1971. He and Olga NegronCruz were married in 1973. There were more overseas tours and children where born. In 1991 NegronCruz did his fourth combat tour during Desert Storm.

Business degree
NegronCruz realized his third goal when he received two bachelor’s of science degrees in business administration from New York State University in Albany.
In 1996 NegronCruz found himself at Fort Stewart, which would become his last duty station where he served as the 3rd Infantry Division asset visibility officer and the G4 senior supply officer, assuring commanders had the equipment they were authorized to go to war.
NegronCruz was promoted to CWO5 in 1998.
The 30-minute retirement ceremony was in the main post chapel. With his wife by his side, NegronCruz received the Legion of Merit medal, a certificate of appreciation from President Bush and a certificate of retirement by the Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey.

Times change
Deputy Commanding General of Support, Col. Thomas Vandal, who spoke before the 100 soldiers who came to wish NegronCruz farewell said, “Let me put 44 year in perspective. When Jose first entered military service a gallon of gas was 31 cents. The average price of a home was $13,600, you cant even buy a car for that much anymore - and 95 percent of the soldiers in the Army weren’t even born.’
NegronCruz said he didn’t want to leave the Army, but had to because he was reaching mandatory retirement age of 62 in December.
“If I could have, I would have stayed till I was 65. I love this job and taking care of soldiers.”
Lt. Col. Nora Marcos, NegronCruz’s battalion commander, said his presence will be missed.
“His leaving is going to leave a void, but those he trained will more than cover him because of the great job he did in leaving a legacy in his subordinates,” Marcos said.
NegronCruz’s daughter, Olga NegronCruz, a warrant officer 2 assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C. She said she was proud of her father and his 44 years of service.
“I hope I can do half of what he has done,” she said.
NegronCruz said he is going to take it easy for a while and relax, and volunteer on Fort Stewart, though his wife has other plans.
“He has a honey-do list that has to get done, which includes fixing the gazebo in the backyard, tiling the floor, etc.,” she said with a smile.
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