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NCO wraps up 40 years with Africa tour

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Image by US Army Africa
United States Army Africa

Army NCO wraps 40-year career with tour in Africa

By Staff Sgt. Lesley Waters
CJTF-HOA Public Affairs

CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti – Richard Nixon became 37th president of the United States, gas cost 35 cents per gallon, the New York Mets won the World Series in five games over the Baltimore Orioles, and Catharine Zeta-Jones, Brett Favre, Renee Zellweger and Jennifer Aniston were born. The year was 1969.

That was also the year Army Reserve Sgt. Maj. Samuel Stoner, Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa’s joint intelligence chief and senior enlisted advisor was drafted into the military – on April 21. Stoner said he never dreamed of making a career of the Army when he first got drafted.

“After serving my first two years on active duty, I just wanted to put the military behind me and get on with life,” Stoner said. “Instead, I felt I had something more to offer my country and my fellow Soldiers, so I decided to continue my first six-year obligation in the Army Reserve.”

For the past year, Stoner served at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti as joint intelligence chief and senior enlisted advisor. He is now returning to his unit in St. Louis, Mo., then retiring to his home in Pennsylvania. He recently received the Legion of Merit, for his 40 years of faithful service to his country.

After his six-year Reserve obligation, Stoner decided to make the Army Reserve a career, he said.

“My plan was E-8 at 20 years and then punch. Here I am 40 years later – who would have ever thought? Now, I am looking forward to kicking my feet up and laying back in my recliner at ‘Ft. Living Room, P-A’,” Stoner said, using the postal acronym for his home state.

During a recent interview, Stoner reflected on four decades in service to his country. One of the biggest changes he’s seen during his military career is automation. The Internet has to be the most influential technology of modern day history, he said.

“I think back to the day of using carbon paper, three-part forms, electronic typewriters, mimeograph machines and copiers,” Stoner said. “We were sensationalized by how much time was saved using them. Now to think how our lives have so drastically changed since the introduction of the personal computer and the ever-changing computer technology of today.”

Stoner’s older brother Barry, a retired Army master sergeant was – and still is – an inspiration to Stoner.

“My brother has always been an example for me to follow throughout my military career,” Stoner said. “I have tried to call my family at least once a week since my deployment, but I’ve always made a special effort to call him just to get words of encouragement. He has been a true brother to me in every meaning of the word.”

Military service runs in the family. His father served in the Army during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. A son enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve and was mobilized during Operation Desert Storm.

Over the years, it’s been an honor to wear the uniform and serve his country, Stoner said, but it wasn’t about him.

“To me, it has always been about ‘taking care of Soldiers’,” he said. “A true leader can never give enough of himself to a Soldier who has given of himself so freely to his country.”

U.S. Army photo by CJTF-HOA
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