Two senior North Dakota National Guard leaders marked their retirement Jan. 8 as two longtime service members stepped up to take on new leadership roles.
Chaplain (Col.) William Ziegler and Command Chief Master Sgt. Paula K. Johnson were honored for nearly 60 years of combined military service. Ziegler served as the North Dakota National Guard's state chaplain and Johnson was the state command chief. As they retired, a Change of Authority ceremony at the North Dakota Air National Guard base in Fargo, introduced Johnson's successor as the senior enlisted leader for the state's entire Air National Guard.
Command Chief Master Sgt. Bennett Bush, of Argusville, N.D., will now serve as the state command chief, a position that connects him directly to Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, the North Dakota adjutant general, in monitoring and working on the needs, concerns and development of enlisted Airmen across the state. Bush joined the North Dakota Air National Guard in January 1981. Outside of the Guard, he works as the safety director for Maple River Grain and Agronomy.
Upon Ziegler's retirement, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) John Flowers, of West Fargo, now assumes the role of state chaplain. Flowers most recently served as the senior chaplain for the 119th Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard. His military career began in 1991, when he joined the North Dakota Army National Guard. He served as a battalion chaplain for the Fargo-based 142nd Engineer Combat Battalion and Valley City-based 141st Engineer Combat Battalion before transferring to the North Dakota Air National Guard in 2002. Flowers is the founding pastor for West Fargo's Living Hope Baptist Church.
"Chaplain Ziegler and Chief Johnson have greatly contributed to the overall well-being and success of the North Dakota National Guard since the 1970s. Both are strong leaders who care immensely about the Airmen and Soldiers in our organization, as well as our military families," Sprynczynatyk said. "The legacy both of these distinguished Airmen leaves will continue through the numerous Guardsmen they have mentored and trained, and we are a better force because of their efforts."
During the retirement ceremony, Ziegler, of Horace, was honored with both federal- and state-level Legion of Merit awards. He has earned a number of other awards during his 30-year career, which brought him to places as far as Antarctica and Guam, including the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with an oak leaf cluster, Air Force Achievement Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with a silver oak leaf cluster, National Defense Service Medal with a bronze star, Antarctica Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon with silver and bronze oak leaf clusters, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with a silver hourglass and an "M" device for mobilizing and the Air Force Training Ribbon. His state-level ribbons include the North Dakota State Commendation Ribbon, North Dakota Air National Guard Outside the Continental United State Service Ribbon, North Dakota Air National Guard Recruiting Ribbon, North Dakota National Guard Emergency Service Ribbon, North Dakota National Guard Service Ribbon with three silver hourglass devices, Virginia National Guard Bronze Star Medal and the Minuteman Award from the National Guard Bureau.
"I've always had three priorities in my life, to serve God, to serve my family and to serve my state and country...we're not going to have the careers that we want if we don't give our lives to something bigger than ourselves. We have to serve transcendent purposes," Ziegler said during the ceremony. He closed with, "Soldiers and Airmen have always been in my heart, to serve them has been a great honor."
Johnson, of rural Moorhead, Minn., also was honored with awards, including a federal Meritorious Service Medal and the North Dakota Legion of Merit. During her 27 years as an Airman, she also earned the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with nine devices, Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal with seven devices, National Defense Service Medal with one device, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Ribbon with four devices, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with a silver hourglass and "M" device for mobilizing, North Dakota State Commendation Ribbon and North Dakota State Achievement Ribbon.
"I'd like to leave you with some advice, remember to live the Air Force Core Values: service before self, integrity first and excellence in all we do. Don't just say it, but live it," she said to the many Airmen gathered for today's ceremony.
Johnson and her husband, Burton, have an adult son, Garett Johnson, who also serves in the North Dakota Air National Guard. Ziegler and his wife, Kendra, also have an adult son, Zachary. Both spouses also were honored with a certificate during today's ceremony.
"While I will miss the contributions that Chaplain Ziegler and Chief Johnson have brought to our organization, I know that their successors will continue in their mission with dedication and confidence," Sprynczynatyk said. "Chief Bush brings 31 years of military experience and leadership and Chaplain Flowers has been a steadfast and devoted chaplain for our Airmen and Soldiers for 20 years. I know our Guardsmen will continue to be in good hands with these key leaders assuming these new roles in our organization."