Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Fort Carson Mountaineer

First SMA dies at age 89

“Take care of each man as though he were your own brother. He is.” — First Sgt. Maj. of the Army William O. Wooldridge

U.S. Army Public Affairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The first Sergeant Major of the Army died March 5, at age 89, in El Paso, Texas.

William O. Wooldridge was sworn in as the SMA July 11, 1966, and served until his term ended in August 1968.

“Sergeant Major of the Army Wooldridge was a one-of-a-kind noncommissioned officer selected to be the first sergeant major of the Army because of his initiative, intelligence, experience and drive to excel,” said current Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler. “His legacy lives on in the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy, the centralized (noncommissioned officer) promotion system and our professional NCO Corps.

“He was an innovator, a true inspiration to Soldiers and the epitome of a professional warrior. Our hearts and prayers go out to (his wife) Patty and the rest of the Wooldridge family during this difficult time,” Chandler said.

Wooldridge entered the Army Nov. 11, 1940, at Fort Worth, Texas. His early assignments included the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division and detached service with British forces in Iceland in 1941 and 1942.

In 1942, he was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division in Europe as he participated in the North Africa and Sicily Campaigns and the D-Day landings June 6, 1944. In October 1944, he was wounded during the battle for the fortress city of Aachen, Germany, and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action. He received his second Silver Star in the Battle of the Bulge Campaign in December 1944. Upon his return to the United States in May 1945, Wooldridge was assigned to numerous posts.

Upon completion of his term as sergeant major of the Army in 1968, Wooldridge returned once again to Vietnam as sergeant major of the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam. Upon his return stateside, he was assigned to the White Sands Missile Range, N.M., in the fall of 1969 and retired Feb. 1, 1972, at Fort MacArthur, Calif., after 30 years and 10 months of service.

“SMA Wooldridge traveled wherever Soldiers were stationed to listen to their concerns and dedicated himself to strengthening and preserving the rich history of the NCO Corps; ‘the backbone of the Army,’” said Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, commandant of United States Army Sergeant’s Major Academy. “He was responsible for implementing the Major Commands Command Sergeants Major Conference in 1966, which from that year forward resulted in a multitude of proposals to enhance and improve the training, morale and readiness of noncommissioned officers Armywide.”

Read more about Wooldridge’s Army career at mil/leaders/sma/Former/sma(underscore)bio1.html.

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