Longtime Command Sgt. Maj. John E. Smiley retired from the Georgia Army National Guard on Dec. 6, following 38 years of service.
A retirement party was held in Smiley’s honor at Club Stewart, an event hosted by Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Carden Jr. Smiley’s daughters Brittney Smiley and Jenna Newton were in attendance as well as Smiley’s parents Carol and Hugh Smiley along with an abundance of other relatives and fellow soldiers wishing to see him off, including relative and World War II retired veteran 1st. Sgt. Billy Smiley.
Carden said in reference to the amount of people in attendance, “It says so much about Command Sgt. Major Smiley and his service and the thumbprint that he’s placed on the organization… he puts the uniform in the closet today but he’s still a part of the Georgia National Guard family, and those of us that he trained and mentored—literally thousands of soldiers—he’s going to continue to soldier on, but he’s going to continue to soldier on through us.”
Smiley is a native of Hinesville, Ga. and enlisted in the Georgia Army National Guard on Dec. 5 1981 at 17 years old. He attended basic training at Ft. Jackson, S.C., and advanced individual training in Aberdeen, Md. as a light wheel vehicle mechanic.
Smiley said that his uncle, Robert Smiley, talked to him into joining the military, saying that he went to basic training in between his 11th and 12th grade years.
Smiley’s first assignment was at the 82nd maintenance company in Hinesville, Ga. where he rose through the ranks. His other assignments included Maintenance Support team leader, Platoon Sgt. Bravo 148th Brigade Support Battalion, Moto Sgt. in the 348th Cavalry Regiment, and 1st Sgt. in the Bravo 148th Brigade Support Battalion.
Smiley’s previous Command Sgt. Maj. Assignments were Command Sgt. Maj. Land Dominance Training Center, Command Sgt. Maj. Ft. Stewart Warrior Transition Battalion, 78th Troop Command, Command Sgt. Maj. Georgia Garrison Training Center, Command Sgt. Maj. 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Command Sgt. Maj. 48th Infantry Brigade Rear, Command Sgt. Maj. 148th Support Battalion, Command Sgt. Maj. 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, and Command Sgt. Maj. 648th Combat Engineer Battalion.
Through his years of service, Smiley inspired and supported many soldiers.
“Sgt. Maj., being a technician, as a CSM for all those years, he ensured that all those soldiers stayed within standards and did the right thing and wore the uniform properly, and I’ll tell you it speaks high volume of him,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Logan about Smiley, “When I deployed as a 1st Sgt., (Smiley) was my brigade CSM, I will tell you when he found out we weren’t getting the attention that we needed, he ensured that I reached out to him every day … he knew exactly what we were doing and how our soldiers were being treated and how they were doing.”
Before retiring he earned a slew of awards such as the Legit of Merits Second Award, Bronze Star Medal Second Award, Meritorious Service Medal Second Award, Army Commendation Medal Second Award, Army Achievement Medal Third Award, Good Conduct Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign medal, Global war on Terrorism Medal, along with a multiple of other service awards and decorations.
He was given a certificate conferring him the Honorable Order of Samuel Sharpe, which “recognizes individuals who have served the United States Army Ordnance Corps with demonstrated integrity, moral character, and professional competence over a sustained period of time,” according to the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps Association website.
“The thing about Sgt. Maj. Smiley,” Carden said, “is he’s people oriented, so he invests in everybody around him to align them with their full potential. He’s helped people through his career. The essence of leadership is helping everybody around you reach their full potential and he lives it every day.”
Smiley stated, “The military is a very rewarding experience if you enjoy it… I just enjoyed leading soldiers and making a difference.” He went on to say that Command Sgt. Maj. James Nelson inspired in him his career as well as his father who pushed him further and to do more than others.
When asked about his legacy Smiley said, “My legacy, I hope, will be I influenced soldiers to be better and to always treat others as they would themselves if they were in that situation. It was a great ride and a great experience and I wouldn’t change a thing.”