Upon his arrival at PM Soldier Lethality in May 2018, Master Sgt. Willie D. Richardson told his new boss he knew very little about the Army acquisition business.
Project Manager Col. Elliott R. Caggins Jr. related this to an audience of Richardson’s fellow soldiers, colleagues and friends during Caggins’ Aug. 11 tribute during Richardson’s recent retirement ceremony.
“I told him that I’d been in this business for more than 15 years and he just needed to do what he’s been doing all of his military career — listen to soldiers,” Caggins told the live and virtual audience attending Richardson’s Aug. 11 retirement ceremony.
Following his boss’s advice, Richardson quickly exhibited the resolve, dedication and ability he employed throughout his military career by “providing critical feedback to PM SL leaders about the organization’s products from the Soldier’s point of view.”
Over the next 27 months, Rich, as he prefers to be called, worked tirelessly to bring the soldiers’ perspective to PM SL’s programs through his involvement in soldier touchpoints, equipment fieldings, new equipment training sessions, PEO soldier roadshow visits and exhibits and displays at public events like the annual Army-Navy game.
He quickly earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues in the PM SL workforce as well as his higher headquarters in Fort Belvoir, Va.
“Rich approached every task with the same dedication, demeanor and attention to detail,” Caggins said. “I thank you, Rich, for your dedication and service to this great nation, our Army and our soldiers. It is only through service like yours that our Army will be successful into the future.”
Caggins presented Richardson with the Legion of Merit medal during the ceremony in recognition of his 26 years of significant and lasting contributions through his training and mentorship of thousands of soldiers over a military career marked by true professionalism and exemplary conduct.
He also presented Richardson with his official retirement certificate, special service member’s flag and several personal notes from the commander in chief and other service leaders.
A small group of the organization’s senior managers and employees attended the ceremony in person and a larger number of his friends, co-workers and fellow soldiers from PM SL and PEO soldiers watched a live-streamed broadcast of the ceremony due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Richardson spoke briefly before the ceremony ended.
“It’s an honor to stand here today and reflect back on my 26 years of serving this great nation. I do not see this as a goodbye but more of a ‘see you later,’” he said.
He spoke fondly of the important role model his mother was and thanked the many individuals that helped him grow as a person and soldier throughout his Army career.
Richardson is a native of Sharpsburg and was born Aug. 28, 1976 and entered the Army on Oct. 4, 1994. He began his career with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles” 2nd Battalion 35th Armor Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Carson, Colorado.
After assuming the responsibilities as the senior scout in a RECCE Platoon in a RSTA Squadron, he was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom I and II from November 2003 until October 2004. After serving three years he was then assigned as the platoon sergeant for A Troop, 1st Squadron, 14th Infantry Cavalry (Stryker). He was deployed again in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom V and VI, where he sustained injuries when a Suicide Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Device detonated on his platoon while on mission.
Richardson received a Purple Heart and was medically evacuated out of country. After countless surgeries, he waived his dwell time so that he could redeploy and lead his platoon in combat operations. He also received the Bronze Star Medal for exceptionally meritorious service while assigned as a platoon sergeant, as well as the Meritorious Service Medal for his dedication and mission accomplishments while assigned to 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment.
Upon his brigade redeploying from Afghanistan, Richardson was reassigned to Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., to serve as the senior enlisted advisor to Project Manager Soldier Lethality.
Richardson plans to retire to his birthplace of Rocky Mount, where he currently resides. He has a 25-year-old daughter named Aysha.