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ORLANDO, Fla. – Family members, friends, civilian coworkers, and fellow Soldiers both active and retired gathered April 14 to honor the impressive career of Command Sgt. Maj. Steven A. Brown during his retirement ceremony in Orlando, Fla., as the Army bid farewell to one of its top senior enlisted leaders.
A native of Webster, Mass., Brown served as the senior enlisted advisor for the Army’s Program Executive Office Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) from August 2019 to April 2023 as his last assignment during a highly decorated military career spanning more than three decades.
Brown was joined by his wife Khloud, children, grandchildren, and a crowd of more than 100 people and an additional 200 viewers online for the ceremony. Also in attendance was Brown’s father, Richard Brown, an Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War.
“Thank you so much for everything,” Brown told his wife and family while presenting each member with a special gift, acknowledging family support was key to his success in uniform.
Brown focused the rest of his remarks on telling his personal Army story, which began when he decided to enlist after attending college for two years and having no clear direction in life.
“I think it is really important for everyone to share their Army story, whether they served in uniform or as a civilian because the Army has a recruiting problem,” Brown said. “The military is a family business. Who wants to send their sons and daughters into an institution they know nothing about? That’s where we come in, spread the word, and share our Army story.”
Brown told the audience how he did not like the Army in the beginning and could not see making it a career.
“Over time something shifts,” Brown said. “I don’t know if it is when you become a professional, or when you make the commitment to reenlist, but something shifts and it becomes more than about yourself, it becomes about the people that you serve with. Thirty-one years l stayed because it is all about the people.”
Brown also recognized a number of special guests in the audience who had a direct impact on his career and are part of his Army story. These individuals included leaders from his first duty station to fellow Soldiers he deployed with in combat.
“Even if I didn’t specifically speak about you or call you out, just know that each of you are part of my Army story,” Brown told the audience. “I think serving our country is the most noble profession in the world.”
Brown’s impressive list of personal decorations and awards over the past 30 years includes the Bronze Star (three awards), Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Army Commendation Medal (two awards), Army Achievement Medal (eight awards), and the Army Good Conduct Medal (nine awards).
During the ceremony he was presented the Legion of Merit, one of the nation’s highest honors, as an end of career award.
The award citation stated, “For exceptional meritorious service while serving over 30 years in positions of increased responsibility culminating as the senior enlisted advisor to the Program Executive Office Simulation, Training and Instrumentation. Sgt. Maj. Brown led more than 1,200 Soldiers, Army civilians, and contracting personnel while supporting the development, production, testing and fielding, and lifecycle management of training devices, simulators, and software.”
Karen D. H. Saunders, SES, the program executive officer for PEO STRI, served as the guest speaker for the ceremony and recalled several stories about how Brown had positively impacted both the mission and people at PEO STRI. She focused her remarks on recognizing his accomplishments, managing the transition from military to civilian life, and looking forward to new opportunities.
“I describe Sgt. Maj. Brown as a quiet professional, and that really is who he is,” Saunders said. “Even being that quite professional, he never missed an opportunity to talk about our workforce, our people, to talk about the Soldiers that he represented, because he really took a larger view about the Army. He never missed an opportunity to talk about our capabilities.”
Saunders highlighted Brown’s career history including duty stations across the country, in Hawaii, and in Germany, and specifically mentioned his time as a training instructor and drill sergeant at Fort Benning, Georgia, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“He helped to shape and train young men and women into Soldiers who would eventually go off and represent our country in theater, both in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Saunders said. “Sgt. Maj. Brown himself would deploy, once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan, representing our country as a senior non-commissioned officer, taking care of our Soldiers.
Saunders spoke on how Brown was selected for the nominative billet as the PEO STRI senior enlisted advisor prior to her arrival as PEO, but how glad she was to have such a talented leader as part of the staff.
“Sgt. Maj. Brown is a professional Solider, and his contributions to PEO STRI as the senior enlisted advisor cannot be overstated,” Saunders said. “I am very proud of how he represented this command to the rest of the Army.”
While at PEO STRI Brown was a constant traveler, logging thousands of miles while visiting numerous installations, combat training centers, and other Army facilities across the country. During these site visits, Brown was known not just for following protocol and visiting the commanding officer and command sergeant major’s office, but also for taking the time to visit the PEO STRI liaison reps at these locations.
“As I was preparing my remarks for today, I was also reminded of a photo of Sgt. Maj. Brown taken last July when we were fielding the new Soldier Monitoring System [SMS] to cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point,” Saunders said. “In this photo, Sgt. Maj. Brown is handing one of the orange SMS tracking devices to a young West Point cadet.”
Saunders described the image as a very tall and combat seasoned Brown on one side of the table, with a younger, much shorter, female cadet on the other side.
“This photo is very powerful and very symbolic,” Saunders said. “It shows the role Sgt. Maj. Brown has played here at PEO STRI, the evolution of our Army, the changing of the guard, the definition of leadership, and a reflection of our Army core values.”
Saunders concluded her remarks by talking about how Brown had a profound impact on the PEO STRI mission, and even more importantly on the people – both the workforce and the Soldiers.
“You are now a lifetime member of PEO STRI, and you are always welcome to come back,” Saunders told Brown. “As the PEO, as a former Solider, and as an American, I want to thank you for your years of service to our Army and to PEO STRI; we are going to miss you.”
A small reception for family and friends followed the ceremony. Brown said he plans on staying in the Orlando area after his retirement and hopes to work in a position where he can continue to support Soldiers and the Army mission.
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