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NEWS | March 28, 2024

Smithton Soldier retires after 23 years of service

Lt. Col. Wyatt Bickett’s 23 years of military service was honored during a retirement ceremony March 27 at the Illinois Military Academy on Camp Lincoln in Springfield. 

Bickett, of Smithton, the deputy commander and officer-in-charge of the 129th Regiment (Regional Training Institute) was commissioned as a chemical officer through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in 2001. He served on active duty in the U.S. Army until 2007 when he transitioned to the Illinois Army National Guard after returning from deployment to Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division from 2005-2006. 

“When I think about Wyatt Bickett, three things come to mind,” said Col. Randy Edwards, Chief of Staff of the Illinois Army National Guard. “The first is officer in charge. Wyatt has served as the officer in charge of three separate battalions and a brigade on his way to serving 11 years as an officer in charge. The Illinois National Guard is postured well today in part because of your extraordinary leadership.” 

Edwards said the second thing which comes to mind when thinking about Bickett is his ability to not sweat the small stuff. 

“Wyatt has mastered knowing when to get serious and dig in and when not to sweat the small stuff,” Edwards said. 

The final thing which comes to mind for Edwards is Bickett’s love of family and service. 

“Wyatt is big on family. He loves his wife, Jenny and is very proud of his three children,” Edwards said. “As far as service, no one sets out to be an OIC for 11 years. That’s amazing. That’s someone who truly cares about Soldiers, the unit and this organization. I wish you the best in retirement.” 

Edwards thanked Bickett’s family for their support. 

“Thank you for your support of Wyatt all these years,” Edwards said. “We’re not able to do what we do without the family’s support.” 

Bickett said he and Edwards have been friends for a long time. 

“Seems like a handful of years ago we were standing in the back of the RTI, the last two majors of our group standing, talking about retirement,” Bickett said. “Now he’s the chief of staff and I’m retiring. It’s been great serving with you.” 

Bickett thanked a few people who he’s served with throughout his career. 

“I couldn’t serve 23 years without people helping me out along the way,” Bickett said. “Looking around the room, many of my cohorts are now the directors, so I know when I leave this organization, it’s in good hands.” 

Bickett also thanked his family, wife, Jenny, and children, Leioni, Hatcher, and Clara. 

I want to thank my family for all their support. My children were born into the military,” he said. “They probably think well everyone’s dad lives hours away. It’s just normal to them. They probably don’t think they’ve done a lot to support me. They’re resilient.” 

“Jenny joined up about halfway through the military career, but she’s always very supportive of my career,” he said. “I wouldn’t be standing here without their support.” 

Bickett said he’s had a lot of great assignments throughout his career. 

“I’ve had a lot of great assignments from Germany to here,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to start where I did and end where I did. My first assignment was Germany and today I’m ending my career at the 129th. There were rough assignments between, but it eventually brought me back to Illinois. What made the assignments great was the people. It’s just time for me to do something different and be reenergized by it.”