From finding ways to mitigate the devastating effects of improvised explosive devices in Iraq to training future Army officers on the homefront, former Hagerstown resident David Ramsey capped an illustrious military career when he retired earlier this month.
The 56-year-old Ramsey said he retired as a colonel on Oct. 1 after 29 years of service.
“I’m very humbled,” he said of receiving the honor.
Ramsey said he got a job with the Maryland State Highway Administration shortly after he graduated from South Hagerstown High School in 1974. He joined the Army National Guard in 1983 as an enlisted man and went to Officer Candidate School in 1985. A year later, he was commissioned a second lieutenant.
He said he spent he early years as an officer serving as a platoon leader with the 121st Engineer Battalion at La Plata, Md. Ramsey then was sent to Camp Fretterd from 1994 to 1999 to run the same Officer Candidate School from which he graduated.
He said he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees while splitting his time between the Guard and the State Highway Administration. After he retired from the SHA in 2002 as an assistant district engineer for maintenance, he said he went on active duty at Fort Meade, approving and rejecting requests for security clearances at the Army Central Clearance facility.
In December 2005, Lt. Col. Ramsey was assigned to the 20th Support Command, an active duty unit in Edgewood, Md. He said a general in the 20th tapped him to choose four men to establish a task force in Iraq.
“Five of us went to help (set up) a counter-IED task force,” he said. “The task force’s focus was to eliminate or counter the IED threat that was becoming preponderant in Iraq.”
Ramsey said he returned to the United States in July 2006 after serving six months in Iraq.
In May 2007, Ramsey was assigned to the Army Operations Center at the Pentagon. He said his job involved monitoring worldwide operations and responding to requests for information from senior leadership.
“It’s a fast-paced environment with long hours,” Ramsey said of working at the Pentagon. “We worked 12-hour shift minimums. But it’s rewarding. You have the opportunity to provide information that affects decision making, which is a pretty positive experience.”
He said he stayed at the Pentagon until October 2009, then was promoted to colonel and volunteered to go to Afghanistan as an Army Reservist.
In Afghanistan, Ramsey said he worked with the local population to determine how they might respond to certain operations.
“It was an extra set of eyes for the commanders,” he said.
In 2010, Ramsey returned to the Pentagon as a staff officer. His new position required him again to monitor worldwide events, such as the uprisings in Egypt and Libya.
“The military wants to maintain situational awareness of events that could trigger instability and those types of things,” he said. “It’s about monitoring everything that goes on.”
During his second stint at the Pentagon, Ramsey said he reported to the Army’s leadership. Important events, he said, were forwarded to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He said one of the highlights of his career was molding young soldiers into lieutenants.
“Many of those young lieutenants who I had the opportunity to train ended up becoming junior leaders and company commanders when they deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan,” he said. “That’s something I took very serious. And over the span of those five years, there were probably 500 individuals that received commissions that I had some influence over.”
Ramsey said he was proud of his father, Bill, and late brother, Ed, who also retired from the Army. He said both served in Vietnam.
“I always held them in high regard and I was always very proud of their service,” Ramsey said. “Between the three of us, we have 70 years of service.”
Ramsey said after working with the SHA and serving in the military, he isn’t looking to start a third career.
He said he and his wife, Sharon, just moved to Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he plans to volunteer to help charities.