Rusty Kreitz Retires After Nearly Four Decades of Service
Growing up just a few blocks away from Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., John C. Kreitz III ' or "Rusty" to practically everyone ' had boyhood dreams of serving his country one day, and his ambition to accomplish this led him down a path that has taken nearly four decades to travel. Unfortunately, for the staff of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command headquartered at Fort Detrick, Kreitz's new chapter of retirement creates the difficult situation of trying to replace not only a dedicated quality assurance specialist, but a very personable friend and colleague as well.
"Rusty is dedicated to the command, the Army, and the Nation," said Kelly Garrett, director of Quality Management, USAMRMC, and supervisor to Kreitz. "He always focuses on doing the best possible job regardless of the circumstances, and he embodies selfless service. As a friend, Rusty is always dependable and available to be a sounding board. He is a top-notch person who is a joy to be around."
Krietz's technical training started early in his educational career when he began attending the Franklin County (Pa.) Vocational-Technical School, learning electronics, as part of his program of study at Waynesboro (Pa.) Area Senior High School.
"It was through the Vo-Tech school that I started with the Government on a Cooperative Education Program that allowed me to work at Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg (Pa.) while I was still in school," said Kreitz. "I started out as a Wage Grade 1, Student Learner, working mostly on electric forklifts. I went full-time the day after graduation, and I eventually became a WG 10 journeyman electromotive equipment mechanic. After a series of lateral job assignments to other mechanic, inspector, and administrative positions, 10 years after I was hired, I was selected as the branch chief of the shop where I started, the Mobile Equipment Maintenance Branch."
Although he wanted to serve in the military as well, Kreitz was denied this opportunity due to medical reasons. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1976 and was sworn in as an Airman Basic under the Delayed Enlistment Program. However, when he reported to his processing center to leave for basic training, an evaluation from an Air Force doctor discovered that Kreitz had a bad knee, even though he had passed the initial physical exam.
"I was crushed," he said, "but I called Letterkenny the next day and went right back to work."
And "work" he did. In fact, since 1984 Kreitz has been a member of the professional workforce, handling a multitude of positions with practically no downtime in between. He has served as a supervisor and the president of a local labor union. He has worked in four different Headquarters-level organizations, attended the Army Management Staff College, deployed overseas, and was selected for a long-term training opportunity in 1993 that allowed him to complete an Associate's degree in Management with a 4.0 GPA.
While many would consider these to be important career accomplishments, Kreitz instead views his accomplishments as "opportunities."
"I've had a great many opportunities in my career to serve in a broad spectrum of roles," he said. "For one, I served as the Depot System Command's lead project manager for installing Roll-over protection Systems on Army jeeps, and we were able to complete the project under budget and ahead of schedule after installing more than 13,000 ROPS throughout the U.S. and abroad using teams of Army Depot mechanics."
But while his career as a civilian employee has afforded Kreitz many "opportunities" for advancement, when asked about his most significant career memory, he warmly recounts a special event that occurred during an overseas deployment.
"The greatest memory I have of my career has to be how I met my wife, while I was deployed to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm," said Kreitz. "As a contracting officer's representative for Tactical Wheeled Vehicle support, I was issued a vehicle with a mobile phone to reach the contracting officer. When I would call the Contracting Office, I would hear, 'Contracting, this is Jackie.' To which I would reply, 'This is Rusty, is Fifi in?' After many of these exchanges, the woman on the other end finally said to me, 'You know, you don't always have to talk just to Fifi.' That exchange started a relationship with the woman who would become my wife, and we're going on 22 years now."
Kreitz recounted another important event in his career, which took him back to 1989, when he was accepted to attend the Army Management Staff College. He remembered how truly humbled he was to be acknowledged for his outstanding writing skills among a class of nearly 80 students, which led to his nomination as 1 of only 5 students for the U.S. Army's Outstanding Student Award.
"Having the opportunity to attend AMSC and then deploy in support of our forces, remain two of the most memorable aspects of my career," said Kreitz.
When asked about influential people throughout his life and career, Kreitz said that there were many who helped guide and mentor him over the years. However, he was able to narrow down the field to two: Brian Newman and his current supervisor, Garrett.
"Brian selected me in a lateral transfer to work for him as a quality assurance specialist in 1988 at the U.S. Army Depot System Command, and he became my first mentor. Brian pushed me well outside of my comfort zone and guided me quite a bit," said Kreitz. "Kelly has been a friend and mentor much like Brian before him. He not only pushes me outside of my comfort zone, he steps outside of his, right beside me. Kelly is a true Battle Buddy and coach, and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to serve with him as my career is ending."
But similar to his work relationships, Kreitz's family bonds are very strong as well. He said that his parents have been extremely influential throughout his life, and he credits his father for his "can-do" attitude and his mother for her "zest for adventure." But, of course, there is always that woman from the other end of the phone line while he was deployed.
"My wife and my daughter are certainly the two most important people in my life," said Kreitz. "They have endured seemingly endless travel, missed events, and me returning home a basket case from stress. I think they are looking forward to my retirement more than I am."
Kreitz said that he plans on dividing his "free" time between work and relaxation, and he hopes to continue with his hobby of hunting for antiques and collectibles, although his new interest will be in "un-accumulating" the large amount of items he has amassed over the years. While he enjoys working with his hands, doing home repairs, and working on vehicles and equipment, above all this, he is an avid reader.
"What I do most with my free time is read," he said. "I enjoy many authors and genres, and sometimes I judge vacations by the number of books I was able to read."
Reminiscing once again over his 12 years at Fort Detrick, Kreitz said that he has had many opportunities to serve with some of the best people in the Army.
"Between the Garrison, MEDCOM [U.S. Army Medical Command], USAMRMC headquarters, and our subordinate commands, I feel I have an extended family of friends, all dedicated to serving our Nation's guardians. We've worked hard, we've had fun, but most importantly, I believe we've all made a difference."