Former III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Maj. Neil L. Ciotola thanks Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the United States Army, right, and Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, former commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood during a departure and retreat ceremony Thursday at 1st Cavalry Division’s Cooper Field at Fort Hood.
Tonya Coleman, wife of III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Maj. Arthur Coleman, presents Beth Ann Ciotola, wife of the former Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Ciotola, with traditional yellow roses Thursday at Fort Hood.

By Colleen Flaherty
Fort Hood Herald

Transitions were on Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch’s mind and heart during the departure and retreat ceremony he shared with his longtime noncommissioned officer counterpart, Command Sgt. Maj. Neil L. Ciotola, at Cooper Field Thursday.

Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff and former 1st Cavalry Division commander, traveled to Fort Hood to serve as the ceremony’s reviewing officer.

Lynch, former Fort Hood and III Corps commander, said he preferred not to use the word “retirement” to describe the next phase of his career, but rather “transition.” It fit how he described the course of his life’s work.

“It really transitioned from a job to a profession to a passion,” he said of the Army, for three reasons.

First, Lynch said, “what you have in the U.S. Army are relationships that stand the test of time.” Second, he said, “We touch people on a daily basis. It’s all about service.”

Lynch’s final point was family, which Ciotola echoed in his rousing remarks directed at the soldiers present at the ceremony.

The command sergeant major said being part of the military meant being part of two families, which he wore on his chest: his given family, symbolized by the name on his name tape, and the Army family, symbolized by his uniform.

“I choose to believe in you,” said Ciotola, his voice strong, clear and filled with emotion. “I choose to believe in the future of this institution.”

Continuing at a near-roar, he said, “You are that which I have always aspired to be. You are what has sustained me over these 3½ decades. You look magnificent!”

Lynch was III Corps and Fort Hood’s top officer from 2008 to 2009 before leaving to lead the Army’s Installation Management Command in Washington, D.C. Ciotola served as his command sergeant major for both posts.

Lynch chose to have his retirement ceremony at Fort Hood in part because he plans to retire in the area, according to information from the post. His wife, Sarah, is a Killeen native.

The general is well known for his focus on families and comprehensive soldier fitness and for initiating the Fort Hood Resiliency Campus, the Army’s first.

Following the traditional troop inspection and honors to the nation, Chiarelli offered glowing reviews of the men’s careers, both of which spanned more than three decades.

Chiarelli described Lynch, with whom he worked at several points in his career, as a larger-than-life personality and an unforgettably effective leader known for “speaking loudly and carrying a baseball bat at times.”

Chiarelli called Ciotola, who was his command sergeant major when he led the 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, “truly one of the most incredible noncommissioned officers and individuals I have ever met.”

Through Ciotola’s commitment to leading from the front, putting himself at the same risk as his soldiers, Chiarelli said he learned much more from his top noncommissioned officer than Chiarelli taught him.

Chiarelli also praised Lynch’s and Ciotola’s close relationship, evidenced by their choice to retire at the same place at the same time. Strong bonds between officers and their noncommissioned officer counterparts “are essential in this business,” he said. “This joint ceremony is most appropriate, and I wish I saw it done more often.”

Hundreds of members of the Fort Hood and surrounding communities attended the ceremony. Among them was retired Col. Greg Schannep, former Fort Hood garrison chaplain and current aide to U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock.

Schannep said Lynch was a dynamic leader who “was just so high energy and did so much,” not the least of which were his efforts involving the Resiliency Campus. “He cared about the whole person, the whole package, mind, body and soul.”