CAMP WILLIAMS, Utah –
The Utah National Guard said ‘goodbye and best wishes’ to its senior enlisted leader and one of its most trusted caretakers Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, in a celebratory retirement ceremony at Camp Williams. Following a distinguished career which spanned parts of five decades, Command Sgt. Maj. Eric W. Anderson is hanging up the boots.
Utah’s famed 640th Regimental Training Institute hosted the ceremony as Anderson retired following more than 31 years of service to the state of Utah and United States Army.
Put in perspective, when Anderson enlisted in 1989, President George H. W. Bush was finishing up his first year in office, Operation Desert Storm was still a year away, and the Berlin Wall had not yet come down.
“While I’m getting older, I have thoroughly enjoyed my service. It’s been the honor of my life to serve our country and our state,” said Anderson. “The best part about this is that we are leaving the Guard in great hands. We have great servant leaders in this organization. I truly have no worries about leaving, this is a great place to be.”
While Anderson makes claims to the contrary, he is actually still a young man. Having joined the National Guard at the age of 17, he has the rare opportunity to retire from a 31-year-career before his 50th birthday. Military service has been a constant in Anderson’s adult life and helped to forge the lives of those around him.
“We’ve built our world around this (military service),” said Anderson’s wife Britt.
“It’s kind of hard,” she continued emotionally, wiping tears from her eyes.
“Change is always tough, but this change is exciting. We are so very grateful. So grateful for the experiences and the relationships we’ve built. We are both so honored to be a part of something so great.”
Britt Anderson met her husband in the early 1990s when the two of them attended the same college. In the years since, they have welcomed four children into this world, while balancing the rigors and demands of a long career in the military. Throughout his career, Anderson has been well-known for his trademark intensity and stoicism. Over the past couple of months, Britt Anderson has noticed her husband beginning to decompress and adjust to a slower paced lifestyle.
“It’s been interesting seeing Eric kind of relax these past couple of months,” she said. “This morning when he put on the uniform, the sergeant major came back!” she laughed.
“It does feel good seeing him relax,” she said.
The Anderson family has left the hustle of Salt Lake City for a more relaxed setting in Central Utah where they are from. While Britt recognizes the difference in her husband’s intensity, the civilian Eric Anderson has no plans of slowing down.
“I have always been the type of person where I’ve loved every job I’ve been in just a little bit more than the last one,” he said.
“I think it’s a state of mind where if you are positive in each position you serve and take excellence and motivation with you, you will be successful.”
Anderson will bring his motivation to the state of Utah where he has taken work as an emergency preparedness planner in three counties in the south central portion of the state.
“I’ll be busy, working for the state in a field that I feel passionately about,” he said. “Preparing our citizens is something I feel strongly about and I’m very excited.”
While he may be away from the Salt Lake Metro area, Anderson’s presence and influence remain a constant in the Utah National Guard.
“He has been a phenomenal example and mentor to me,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Spencer Nielsen, the senior enlisted leader for the Utah National Guard and the individual tasked with replacing Anderson.
“Not only has he shown me what ‘right’ looks like, but he is an excellent standard bearer for the entire NCO corps and it is an honor to follow him.”
“Any leader aspires to leave an organization better than we find it,” Nielsen continued.
“Command Sgt. Maj. Anderson has made our entire organization exponentially better. We are in a great place and we have a great team. I truly appreciate what he did. His priorities of lethality and readiness are things that will sustain and endure this organization for a very long time.”
Ever the stoic leader, Anderson’s final word to the Soldiers and Airmen of the Utah National Guard embodied the sentiment of Nielsen.
“Be excellent in what you do,” he said.
“Become a subject-matter expert. Learn from those around you, and never think you are above anyone else. We are all equal no matter your position or grade. If we all learn from each other and keep those values, we can all grow together and have successful careers.”
As Anderson’s days as a uniformed Soldier in the Utah National Guard are rapidly drawing to a close, his legacy is one that will echo his career.
Indelible, excellent and enduring.