NEWS | May 4, 2021

A Soldier’s Soldier – Land Component Command senior enlisted leader retires ending 43-year military career

By Sgt. Ariel Solomon Utah Army National Guard

After 43 years of military service, Command Sgt. Maj. Steven B. Wooldridge’s change-of-responsibility and retirement ceremony was held April 30, 2021, at Camp Williams, Utah.

Described as a “soldier’s soldier,” Wooldridge’s military career spanned four decades of service, culminating as the command sergeant major for the Utah National Guard Land Component Command.

Wooldridge relinquished responsibility for Land Component Command to Command Sgt. Maj Richard G. Thalman.

“The effect of someone who has served for so long and impacted so many Soldiers will be felt in our ranks for some time, and secondly, with his civil service in the Salt Lake police force extends his impact on our community,” said Thalman. “He is an example of why we do what we do. His impact and those footprints he leaves behind – we will continue his legacy.”

Wooldridge began his military service in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 1978 as an Infantry mortarman. In 1987, he completed Scout Sniper Instructor Course and was assigned to the 23rd Marine Regiment at Fort Douglas, Utah. He joined the Utah Army National Guard’s 19th Special Forces Group as a staff sergeant in 1989. He would serve in leadership roles throughout the special forces and the National Guard for more than 30 years.

In his remarks, he related a story that taught him about being a U.S. service member. He said that while he was in South Korea, he and his radio operator took a shortcut with their jeep and came to the end of the road to an unknown village in the mountains. The people of the village came out to meet them and offered them food and hospitality, and thanked them for what they as American service members were doing in their country. He said it was then that he understood what the American Soldier meant to people around the world and how important it was to maintain the reputation of professionalism and service Soldiers had earned through deeds and actions. He explained how he took that story with him everywhere he deployed and how it drove him to teach his fellow Soldiers to maintain the same.

Wooldridge gave parting advice to Soldiers, “Being in the Army, at home or overseas, is a fantastic and dynamic opportunity that can hardly be replicated at a university or civilian job. It’s an opportunity to learn from men and women who’ve had training and experience; learn from them. Keep up your physical training for yourself and your own health. Don’t think of it as a chore; it will keep you healthy throughout your life. And now with all the technological advances, you can get schooling in the time it used to take you to drive to and from school, take advantage of it.”

He continued, talking to noncommissioned officers, “It is better to try and make honest mistakes and learn good judgement; and to senior NCOs give your junior NCOs the opportunity to go out and be in charge; even make some mistakes along the way so they can develop good judgement.”

Wooldridge will continue to serve his community in the Salt Lake City Police Force. Employed for years as a SWAT officer and police officer, he anticipates completion of a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice in August.

When asked his thoughts on retiring from military service, Wooldridge said, “Although the opportunities won’t be there to provide world-wide service and continue to mentor and coach other developing leaders, it gives me the opportunity to bring the knowledge and experience I’ve learned to the greater civilian community.”