Michael Parker was determined to follow in his father’s footsteps. His father had served during World War II as a bombardier, a radar operator and navigator on B52s. But he says he ultimately joined the Army because the Air Force didn’t want him.
“My eyesight was so bad that the Air Force wouldn’t even let me fly in a transport much less sit in the cockpit,” said Parker, a management analyst in the Aviation and Missile Command’s Resource Management Directorate.
Parker was commissioned a second lieutenant of Infantry in 1975. His first assignment after training was as a rifle platoon leader with the 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Division near the demilitarized zone of South Korea.
“That was my favorite assignment. I turned 23 while I was assigned there,” he said. “I had great Soldiers. I learned a lot from the Soldiers and noncommissioned officers.”
During his years on active duty, Parker served as a guard post commander in the DMZ. He served as platoon leader in the antitank company and gunnery officer with 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division.
“I became quite an expert on the TOW antitank missile system,” he said.
In 1980 Parker changed branches, joining the Chemical Corps. He completed the first-ever Chemical Officers Advanced Course at Fort McClellan. Following his course, Parker was assigned in what was then West Germany as the chemical officer for the 4th Transportation Command.
“It was a great opportunity to spend more time with troops, and that’s what the Army’s all about,” he said.
It was his second career change, moving into the combat development field, serving at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, that set him up for his civilian career. Parker transitioned to his new job as an Army civilian in 1987, also working combat development. As such, he programmed the budget for the new series of protective equipment to be used by the armed forces.
Parker continued to progress through the civilian service ranks, serving with Headquarters, U.S. Army Europe in Heidelberg, Germany, before accepting a position at Redstone Arsenal with AMCOM.
“The diverse experience in the military helped me to be successful in my civilian career,” he said.
Parker continued his military service as a member of the Army Reserve, retiring as a major. On Nov. 8 he’ll hang up his hat from his civilian position, with a total of 44 years federal service, returning home to Orlando, Florida, where he plans to spend time at his favorite destination, Disney World. And embarking on his next career: being a full-time husband and grandpa to his six grandchildren.