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By Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Spreitzer
A small group of friends and family gathered at the Illinois National Guard Armory in Dixon, Illinois, to celebrate the career of Col. Gerald Newman on Dec. 5.
“It’s fitting that we’re here at the place it all started,” said Newman. “My military career started right here in an office upstairs. It makes sense that it comes to a close here too.” The retirement of a senior officer is typically a large event, but Col. Newman kept the event small and adhered to all the current COVID-19 safety protocols.
Newman enlisted in 1985 as an infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 129th Infantry Regiment, based at the Dixon armory. Five years later, he graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in Industrial Technology and commisioned as an air defense artillery officer with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 202nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, also based in the same Dixon armory.
Newman has held a variety of leadership positions in his career, most recently as the commander of the 108th Sustainment Brigade based in Chicago. The 108th recently returned from a deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While in Iraq, Newman’s unit was awarded the U.S. Secretary of Defense’s Sustainment, Training Advise and Assistance of Foreign Military Forces Award. Newman was also on state active duty for the “Great Flood” of 1993. He also deployed in 2005 to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and in 2012 to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Maj. Gen. Michael Zerbonia, Assistant Adjutant General - Army, Illinois National Guard, and Commander of the Illinois Army National Guard, deployed with Newman to Iraq and Afghanistan, officiated Newman’s retirement ceremony.
“When you think of Colonel Newman, you think hard-working, driven and dedicated,” said Zerbonia. “I’ve been with Jerry since the beginning. When I came off active duty in 1996, he was right there running a PT test right next to me. We’ve been together ever since.”
Zerbonia lauded Newman’s service and ability to embrace any assignment given to him. He also thanked him and his family for the many years of hard work and dedication to the Illinois National Guard. Zerbonia spoke highly of the memories and deployments he shared with Newman.
“When you serve with someone you create a bond, but when you deploy with someone that bond becomes an unbreakable bond of shared service and friendship,” said Zerbonia. “It’s a little hard standing up here, I’m not just saying good-bye to a great officer, but also one of my best friends in the military.”
During the ceremony, Newman was presented with his retirement orders, a retirement certificate and a flag commemorating his service. Newman’s wife, Angie, was also presented a certificate of retirement as a thank-you to her dedication to her husband’s career. Newman also presented his wife, his mother and mother-in-law with bouquets of roses in appreciation of their support.
Newman said throughout his career, he seized every opportunity given to him and attributed his success to taking those opportunities, even if they weren’t exactly what he was hoping for.
“My great-grandmother used to say everything happens for a reason, and it stuck with me,” said Newman. “I went wherever I was needed and took every opportunity. My reward wasn’t my success, but the success of the Soldiers and officers that I commanded.”
Newman thanked the many mentors he had during his military career, but was especially grateful for the advice of a retired Command Sgt. Maj. William Lafferty, who told Newman about the Guard.
“The decision to join was the best decision I made,” said Newman. “If it weren’t for that decision, I wouldn’t have the family that I have today.”