Springfield, Il –
The year -1984. The original Apple Macintosh personal computer was released. Michael Jordan, NBA draft’s number 3 pick, was Rookie of the Year and a young Bull; but Magic and Bird still ruled the hardwood. Prince’s “Purple Rain” would flow out of the boom box and everyone got “Footloose” in movie theaters.
And an Illinois Army National Guard recruiter snatched a young Peggy Bates of Glenarm from an Air National Guard recruiter beginning a 38-year journey. That journey ended Sunday, Aug. 7, in front of family, friends, and colleagues at the Illinois Military Academy on Camp Lincoln with her retirement from the Army as a chief warrant officer 4.
Over decades she would climb the enlisted ranks, becoming a first sergeant, before transitioning to warrant officer. Known as a leader, mentor and friend to countless service members and civilians, she says that she hopes to leave things better for the people that will eventually take her place.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t know much about the National Guard and I had no desire to join,” Bates said. “My best friend’s uncle served, so she convinced me that it would be fun if we went to basic combat training together. We started speaking with the Air Guard recruiters before eventually speaking with the Army. I saw a poster of a Soldier carrying a civilian out of a flood zone and I instantly knew that it was what I wanted to do.”
Bates’ friend would back out, so Bates went to basic training by herself.
“I really didn’t have any plans to go to college,” she said. “At the time, I wanted to be an architect and I knew that I would eventually have to go to college at some point. The National Guard’s educational benefits had me hooked and they ended up offering me a military technician job once I finished Advanced Individual Training.”
Throughout her career, Bates has had a profound impact.
“Chief Bates and I have served together during several assignments, in both the G4 Logistics division and within the 108th Sustainment Brigade Team II deployment to Iraq,” said Maj. Alan Davis, Supply Management Specialist, G4. “Chief Bates is a true professional who will always tell you how it is and assist with developing solutions to identified problems. I will probably miss that the most about her as she completes both of her careers, both (traditional one-weekend-a-month National Guard) and full-time.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Dena D. Ballowe serves as the Adjutant General’s Senior Enlisted Advisor – the top enlisted service member in the Illinois National Guard. She advises Maj. Gen. Rich Neely on the training, management and well-being of the Illinois National Guard’s 13,000 Soldiers and Airmen. As a young Soldier, she served under Bates.
“I’m extremely thankful and blessed that I got to be a young Soldier under her leadership,” Ballowe said. “She was my first sergeant and I’m very proud to be able to say that.”
Bates served more than 22 years as an enlisted Soldier and completed the Sergeants Major Academy. Then she re-invented her career.
“I asked myself ‘how could I stay relevant and continue to progress my career?’” Bates said. “If I want to be in for over 30 years, what do I have to do to make myself standout? There weren’t any other schools to go to because I had topped out my (NCO) military education, so becoming a warrant officer was an opportunity to reset my calendar and give myself a path to continue my education and development in the Guard.”
“Having a successful senior noncommissioned officer advance to the position of warrant officer pays several dividends for the organization,” Davis said. “Not only do you gain a technical expert, but also someone with the backbone to execute in some of the most critical areas within the logistics field. Mentorship within the logistics community is critical for newcomers trying to navigate such a challenging arena. Chief Bates has always been willing to share her knowledge and experiences to better the Soldiers she has served over.”
Bates’ love for her community and for the United States has been a driving force. Her passion for the Illinois National Guard and her family legacy have helped develop her into the person that she is today.
“I’ve tried to make everything that I’ve done better than the way it was when I got there,” Bates said. “At the end of the day, if I’ve made a difference in at least one person’s life, then it’s all worth it.”