‘Truly inspirational’: Former Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Forbes retires from service

Former Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Rodwell L. Forbes Jr. is presented with the American flag during the Old Glory Flag presentation at his retirement ceremony. Forbes, who began as a Marine, served in the military for 27 years. (Photo courtesy 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera))

“Welcome to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland,” former Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Rodwell L. Forbes Jr. announced during his retirement ceremony. “You’re in a dynamic place at a very dynamic time.”

Forbes, who served at Fort Meade from 2014 through 2016, retired from the military on June 14 after nearly three decades of service.

Forbes’ wife, Patricia, and their children were joined at the 90-minute ceremony by other family members, friends and service members from throughout his long career.

During the “Old Glory Presentation,” an American flag was presented to Forbes.

Among the many who spoke was Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard, who praised Forbes’ work ethic and warmth.

“Only a few times in life are we blessed to serve with leaders who are truly inspirational, whose charisma, excessive purpose and example compel us to be better men and women,” Rickard said. “Rodwell Forbes is one of those great leaders, and I’m grateful and humble to have served our nation with him.”

Forbes, who served 27 years, initially began his military journey in the U.S. Marine Corps as an embarkation specialist. He was stationed in San Diego, Calif., where he completed basic training. After four years in the Marines, Forbes completed Army Advanced Individual Training at Fort Gordon, Ga., as a signal support system specialist.

Soldier For Life

Before he arrived at Fort Meade, Forbes served as command sergeant major of the 72nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion in Schweinfurt, Germany.

“I guess after four years as a Marine, he saw the light and came to the right side,” Maj. Gen. Phillip Churn jokingly said during his remarks. “Your career personifies what it means to be a professional noncommissioned officer.

“You are a leader among men and women. You are a coach, mentor and teacher. As we say farewell to you, you will be missed. Your indomitable spirit will live on in the thousands of Soldiers, NCOs, officers and family members that both you and Patricia have touched.

“Our Army is better for having you as a part of our organization. You are a Soldier for life.”

Close family and friends continued to impress Forbes and the audience with their heartfelt farewell speeches.

“Not only has Rodwell been a tremendous colleague, Solider and mentor, but he also became a great friend,” said Lt. Col. Darcy Saint-Amant, deputy brigade commander for the 21st Signal Brigade, Fort Detrick. “We all know that his wonderful laugh can lighten anyone’s mood and completely change the atmosphere for the better.

“He is the type of leader who tells people what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. He challenges us to think better, be better and treat our fellow man better. His vision, dedication to duty and patriotism has been proven time and time again, but it’s the incredibly positive impact that he has had on every Soldier, NCO, civilian and officer who is fortunate enough to meet him that is his legacy.

“Command Sergeant Major Forbes, throughout my career you have been the NCO who I have measured every other NCO against.”

While everyone showered Forbes with many thanks and love, there was no holding back when big brother Archie Aples stepped up to the podium.

“He’s a klutz,” Aples shouted to the audience. “He has three left feet at home. He doesn’t even know how to start a lawn mower; it’ll most likely roll backwards.”

As the room filled with laughter Aples quieted the audience with sentimental words for Forbes.

“My brother means the world to me,” Aples said. “I’m encouraged, motivated and inspired by you. … You can follow him anywhere; he’ll be the first one to lead you. He’ll do the hard stuff that other people won’t do, but he’ll never think he’s better than anyone.

“I’m proud of what the future holds for him; I welcome him to the other side. Big brother is always here for you through the good, bad and ugly. I love you little brother.”

Forbes’ wife of 19 years also offered moving words for her husband.

“I’m honoring you today, babe,” Patricia Forbes said. “I’m honoring you after your 27 years of service. As the military would say, well done.

“Babe, I love you with all of my heart, soul and strength. As you being my husband, a father, grandfather, minister, I love you for every area that God has blessed you with. The best is yet to come.”

During the ceremony, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Stewart, the senior garrison chaplain assistant at the Religious Support Office, graced the audience with his vocals as he sang and played on keyboard his original song, “Soldier’s Tribute,” dedicated to Forbes.

“I felt like the words were fitting for who Forbes is as a person,” Stewart said after the ceremony.

In his speech, a visibly overwhelmed Forbes thanked everyone for their support of him and his wife.

“People have just continuously come forth,” he said. “It amazes me to see the love and support that is here for me today.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Rodwell L. Forbes Jr. and his wife, Patricia. (Photo courtesy 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera))

Forbes also thanked his wife.

Many Thanks

“There’s no way that I could have accomplished anything without you,” he said. “You have been my sounding board. You have given me advice, whether I wanted it or not. But everything that you have done, you did it in love. No one knows me like you do. … As long as you’re by my side, I can do all things.”

Forbes went on to thank his three children — Vandale, La’Tisha and La’Shauna — and eight grandchildren with one on the way.

“I’m truly honored to be your pop/papa,” he said.

Forbes also took a moment to thank Stewart for his song.

“Phenomenal job,” he said. “I started to tear up, but I had to say, ‘Suck it up, Soldier.’

Forbes and his wife plan to move to Raeford, N.C.

“We’re not taking any grandkids or kids with us,” Forbes said, laughing.

“I’m a great advocate for Transformers,” said Forbes. “You know how you have Optimus Prime [a movie character]? Well, I like to call myself Rodwellmus Prime.

“So you see I’m about to transform from the U.S. Army into a civilian. So when you see me, don’t call me Sergeant Major, call me Forbes, Rodwell Forbes.

“This is Sergeant Major Rodwell Lincoln Forbes Jr. signing off. I will not say goodbye, but until we meet again.”

As the event ended, Patricia Forbes stood up to describe the old truck that her husband drove. Pulling out her iPad, she then showed him a photo of the new truck she had purchased for him.

As Forbes cried, the audience broke into applause.

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