Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Johnson, a Dorchester native, retired after 32 years of active service in the US Army on May 13 with a ceremonial send-off at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
The 51-year-old veteran was the Operations Sergeant Major for the 20th CBRNE Command, part of the Army’s specialized unit that deals with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives threats.
Johnson has held many other leadership positions during his very active time in the Army.
“I served as a squad leader and drill sergeant, among others,” he told the Reporter in an interview.
“It was just an array of special assignments and duty positions. I have been in Korea, Germany, Hawaii, and have done various state assignments. And I served in the Desert Storm campaign (Gulf War, 1991). These opportunities allowed me to grow as an individual, a father, a husband, and a leader. They made me a better person.”
Johnson enlisted in July 1984, an event that he says changed his life for the better. “I joined to break the cycle of the environment I lived in,” he said. “If I stayed, I more than likely would have been in jail. Enlisting was my way of starting a new journey for myself. I joined to go to college and get into the military instead of getting in trouble and I got a degree in human resources development.”
Johnson credited his late parents for being instrumental in “everything,” including giving him the opportunity to attend high school in Weston through the METCO program.
“Seeing a different environment intrigued me and I knew the Army could provide me that with no-out-of-pocket expense, and … the opportunity to see different parts of the world,” he said. “Culturally and socially, [the Army] allowed me to remove what I call the wall of ignorance because I got the opportunity to experience different things.”
Although he will miss the camararderie of service in the Army, Johnson said he is ready to face the next journey with his family. He and his wife Tiffany, who is on active service as an operations sergeant, have three children, Anna, Monique, and Justin, and are planning to move to San Antonio and relax in the suburbs.
“There’s no rush to get back into the work force, but when I do,” he said, “I plan to do some military consultant work and try to open up a franchise,” he said. “Maybe a Dunkin’ Donuts or something,” he added with a laugh.
Marion Clark, whom Johnson describes as his “adopted mother,” was on hand for the retirement ceremony. She has been a part of his life since nursery school, which he attended with her daughter. When Johnson’s mother passed away in 1997, Clark embraced him as her own son and has been one of his biggest supporters since.
“I guess I would say the key to my success truly is family and friends,” he said. “I know that regardless of the number of any accessory I wear on my uniform, I wear it on behalf of those that are serving and that’s why I want to say thank you to my family and friends who have supported me during my military career.”
At his farewell to the armed services, Johnson received a number of recognitions, one of which was the Army’s Legion of Merit, given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.