Story by 2nd Lt. Tracci Dorgan
Photo by Staff Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine
U.S. Army State Command Sgt. Maj. Robert H. Brickley Jr. celebrated his career in the South Carolina National Guard during a ceremony with his family, friends and fellow Guard members June 17, 2016 at the Bluff Road Armory in Columbia, South Carolina. After 36 years of distinguished service and holding the highest enlisted position in the state for the last six-years, Brickley retired as the 11th state command sergeant major for the South Carolina National Guard. “When I was a senior in college I worked as a helicopter repairman in Saluda and for the family business in a mill,” said Brickley. “That’s when I met my recruiter, Staff Sgt. Dwight Bradham. I knew I wanted to be in aviation and I wanted to be in the military. There were no pilot slots available so I enlisted as an E-3, private first class. I joined the Guard to see the world, support the country and still be a good son while supporting the family business. I have been able to do all that.”
Brickley enlisted in the South Carolina Army National Guard Nov. 11, 1980 when he was 24 years old.
“I swore in at the armory on Veterans Day along with Joan and Barbara Boyd, sisters that are both still in the guard,” said Brickley. “I was a mechanic on the OH-58 helicopter with the 218th Infantry…There are many stories; I will never forget when I was first sergeant for the Black Hawk unit, we went to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. It was so hot there that the wax would melt off our black boots. We would get gassed and our masks would fill up with sweat. We loved doing it though. We were all in it together. Those are the stories that until you live it, you just don’t understand.”
Brickley’s service has also made an impact on the Soldiers he’s worked with during his time in the National Guard.
“Over the years, Brickley has earned the love and respect of his fellow Soldiers,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Darlene McGriff, Joint Forces Headquarters state boards non-commissioned officer. “My first time working with him was when I was an E-4 right from active duty and my unit was conducting border patrol in Yuma, Arizona for annual training…Sergeant major would visit Soldiers during their patrol shifts. We did 24-hours on 24-hours off. This particular day he told me he wanted to play with the [Night Vision Goggles] so he told me to ‘go take a nap’. When he woke me up, my shift was over. He worked my entire shift that night.”
“I have had the opportunity to work with him in several units, I haven’t met a person yet that doesn’t like him. He is awesome and I would follow this man anywhere. When you are a junior Soldier and you have to work with higher ranks, you can easily feel intimidated, he has never given me that feeling,” added McGriff. “He has always been someone you could talk to and he would help however he could. He always speaks to you like you are a human, not a rank.”Brickley has accomplished a great deal in his career and is proud to have been part of the history of the South Carolina National Guard.
“In the past six years I’ve done so much more than I ever thought I would. I’ve gone on training missions with every unit in South Carolina. I’ve had the opportunity to do every job and go everywhere my Soldiers are. My job was to be in the field with them. We’re all working to make the South Carolina National Guard the number one Guard in the nation and I always believed in leading by example.”“I can’t tell you how many PT tests I’ve taken nor how many ruck marches I have done. I’ve attended numerous ceremonies that celebrated our Soldiers accomplishments. I hate that I don’t get to play anymore,” said Brickley sadly. “I’ve loved wearing this uniform and I love what it stands for.”
While Brickley shared many memories of his years in the Guard, his wife, Julie Brickley, had a few stories to share, as well.“We met Christmas Eve of 2009, so I didn’t experience much of his journey with the Guard,” said Julie. “But I have been right beside him since the vetting process started before he was selected for state command sergeant major. I remember the day he had to cancel lunch with me because he was called to report to Maj. Gen. Eisner and Brig. Gen. Huff. That’s when he was told he got the state CSM position. He was extremely proud.” Julie remembered how often he would change his clothes in the parking lot, “Like Superman in a phone booth. He did that so much that he has lost a lot of this clothes and favorite cowboy boots,” she laughed. “But that’s what he did. He was needed.”
Brickley previously held a civilian job flying for South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) that he retired from to accept the position of state command sergeant major. “My last shift ended Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and the next morning at 7:30 a.m. I was in my new office,” added Brickley “That’s how citizen-Soldiers do it; change uniforms and do your next job…My mama always said I was in my element in my uniform…I will miss it all;
the Soldiers, Airmen, the job, and the fact of being 1 of 54 state command sergeants major was pretty amazing.”
Even though is career in the National Guard has ended, Brickley said he has plans to participate when he can.“I still have a lot to give to the Guard,” said Brickley. “I will help wherever I can. I want to give something back to the state that has given me so much joy.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr., Adjutant General for South Carolina, has worked alongside Brickley for years and has seen the impact he has had on the troops. “It has been a true honor to work alongside such an esteemed Soldier as Bob Brickley,” said Livingston. “He has been my tie to the Soldiers and Airmen of South Carolina. He knows them better than anyone. He has been out there with them, on ruck marches, PT Tests, and rainy days during the flood.”
Livingston listed the requirements needed to be the state command sergeant major and said that Brickley embodied all of them. “Bob Brickley truly is a Soldiers Soldier,” A statement that was echoed many times over as friends and fellow Guardsmen stood to talk about Brickley, his life, his leadership and his passion.
Julie added another point to Livingston’s list, “Love is the number one requirement, and Bob has that. He loves his Soldiers and Airmen…It’s the career that he received daily gratification. I have a husband that loves his job so it makes it easier to be away from him because he is so full of joy when he gets to help Soldiers. He always said ‘they are our future, we have to take care of our Soldiers.’ When I would attend ceremonies with him I would be able to see the interaction between the Soldiers and him. That was rewarding. I could tell they really loved him.”
To end the ceremony, Brickley thanked everyone who was part of his life in the Guard.
“I walked in six years ago, blinked my eyes twice, and the years flew by. I never thought of it as work, it was an adventure. It has been my honor and privilege to work with the greatest Soldiers and Airmen in the country. I’ve had a very rewarding career.”