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NEWS | Aug. 1, 2023

Alaska National Guard command sergeant major soars into retirement

By Balinda O’Neal Alaska National Guard Public Affairs

Amidst the vast Alaskan skies, an impressive sight unfolded on July 21, as Alaska Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grunst prepared to take the leap of a lifetime. Gripping the side of an M-5 Maule aircraft, he peered down onto the Fort Richardson drop zone, knowing that this jump would be unlike any other in his illustrious career. Wearing his distinguished Army Service Uniform, jump boots, and maroon beret safely stowed, he braced himself for what lay ahead.
As the aircraft soared at an altitude of 7,000 feet, Grunst's anticipation grew, but it wasn't solely the thrill of free-falling that stirred his emotions. Rather, it was the significance of the occasion that added weight to the moment. The landing point beside the Camp Carroll flagpole and a crowd of family, friends and fellow service members marked the beginning of his retirement ceremony.

“From when he first enlisted until his last day in uniform [Command Sgt. Maj. Grunst], has been all in,” said Maj. Patrick Gargan, the presiding officer, reflecting on Grunst’s 34-year career culminating as the operations sergeant major for the AKARNG. “Throughout all those years of service in the Alaska Army National Guard, there are three recurring themes: joyful sacrifice, inspiration, and guidance.”

Gargan noted that there wouldn’t be a statue built in honor of Grunst, but his legacy will be carried out by the Soldiers whose lives he touched.

“He spent a career preparing them for war, leading them and teaching them how to lead,” said Gargan, Grunst’s former commander in the 207th Long Range Surveillance Company. “Our nation and state will be better tomorrow because of the Soldiers Command Sgt. Maj. Grunst developed.”

Grunst's retirement ceremony was not just a moment to reflect on his achievements, it was also an opportunity to express profound appreciation and admiration for his wife, Charity. With heartfelt words, he acknowledged her strength, intelligence, and beauty, openly admitting that she was the reason for the best parts of him.

“You are a massive reason why I am a moderately decent human being,” said Grunst. “You have made so many sacrifices for me, for the organization, for our children. I can’t say thank you enough.”
Reflecting on his long and diverse military journey, Grunst also shared moments of growth, learning, and camaraderie.

“As the great, legendary Gen. Patton said, ‘A bad plan, violently executed is better than a perfect plan never executed’,” said Grunst, proclaiming that even some of his violently executed plans turned out ok. 

From his early days as a Guardsman with Charlie Company, 6th Battalion, 297th Infantry, to his more recent positions as operations sergeant major for the 297th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade and command sergeant major of 38th Troop Command, he expressed gratitude for the opportunities that shaped his character and leadership.

“The essence of being a Soldier and what makes the Guard so much better than everyone else is our adaptability,” said Grunst. “We are a professional force, led by competent and trained non-commissioned officers, made up of a diverse and varied background all coming together willingly to answer the call of our state, our community, our nation.”
The retiring paratrooper concluded his remarks by expressing immense gratitude to his wife Charity, his children Caden and Chloe, and to the Soldiers of the Guard. He acknowledged that his relevancy was not tied to technology or weaponry but to the love and dedication he held for his family, community, and fellow service members.
On July 31, 2023, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grunst officially retired from the Alaska Army National Guard, leaving behind a legacy that will resonate for generations to come.
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