CBRNE deputy commander bids farewell during retirement ceremony


ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Nearly 100 service members, friends, family members and other members of the Army CBRNE community gathered here to celebrate the career of Col. Thomas Langowski, 20th Support Command (CBRNE) deputy commander.

By Christopher Bush
20th Support Command (CBRNE) Public Affairs

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Nearly 100 servicemembers, friends, family members, and other members of the Army CBRNE community gathered here to celebrate the career of a legend within the Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal community Dec. 10.

Col. Thomas Langowski, deputy commander of the 20th Support Command (CBRNE), retired from active duty during a ceremony at the Edgewood Chapel. Befitting the no-nonsense approach that characterized his leadership and service, the Wisconsin native was candid, if slightly reflective, about his 26-year Army career during remarks to attendees.

“I don’t have a speech because today is not a day for heavy-handed words or for me to get philosophical with you; but it is a day of thanks,” Langowski said. “I’ve got a card full of people I want to thank so I appreciate the opportunity to say thank you to these individuals.”

Langowski credited his faith, family, and the exceptional officers and enlisted servicemembers he had led and learned from throughout his nearly three decades as a Soldier. In the ceremony’s most poignant moment, Langowski read the names of the officers and enlisted personnel under his command who had made the ultimate sacrifice while defending the nation. During a career that began at the University of Wisconsin’s Reserve Officer Training Course Program in 1986, Langowski served in a number of assignments throughout the globe. He was an EOD officer and commander at locations within the United States and overseas, an assistant professor of military science and Reserve Officer Training Course brigade recruiter, an assistant division material management officer while deployed to the Balkans, division ammunition officer and support operation officer for the 101st Airborne Division, a planner on Joint Command South Central in Larissa, Greece and United States North Command, in addition to commanding the 52nd Ordnance Group (EOD) and Commander of Combined Joint Task Force Paladin in Afghanistan, an assignment that directed the theater’s Counter-IED Task Force. His career culminated as the deputy commander for the 20th Support Command (CBRNE).

Langowski’s awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Senior Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge, the Air Assault Badge, and the Combat Action Badge. Maj. Gen. Leslie C. Smith, 20th Spt. Cmd. (CBRNE) commanding general, called Langowski a passionate and focused leader and said his exit from active duty would be felt not only by the command but by the entire Army. “This is a good day, but also a sad day… we need officers like Thomas Langowski,” Smith said. Smith, using the retiring officer’s career path as an instructional template for audience members, shared points in Langowski’s career that highlighted his dedication to seeking out challenges including the colonel’s time in the joint operations arena. “I think that is important because it helps broaden you because it allows you to see more than just about the Army,” Smith explained.

Langowski’s expertise was critical in creating a unit-based solution for EOD operations in theater for the execution of counter-improvised explosive device operations, Smith said.
Smith remarked that the attribute he would miss most about his deputy commander was the often frank assessments Langowski would offer up to the commanding general.
“Thomas is focused on the mission and we are going to miss him because I could always count on him to give me the 'no kidding’ advice like 'sir, this is jacked up,” or 'sir, I was wrong, and this is what I need to do,” the general said. “It is not often you find an officer who has the wherewithal or the fortitude to say that.”
Senior noncommissioned officers shared Smith’s admiration of the retiring Soldier’s service and thoughtful demeanor.

“He challenged you. He wouldn’t accept the humdrum answer; he made you do your research,” said Sgt. Maj. Sean Burke, a senior EOD expert within the 20th Support Command (CBRNE). Langowski was also a tireless advocate for the tight-knit EOD career field, Burke said. “He was constantly educating the big Army about EOD and the value they bring to the force.”
Burke said he wished Langowski had decided to stick around for a few more years because he felt the Army would be better off having the recognized expert remaining on active duty.
“I would have liked to see him go even further up in the Army,” Burke said.

As is the case with many in his chosen career field, Langowski yielded from the spotlight even at his own retirement ceremony and chose to end his career in a humble yet telling method. Reciting the many call signs he had gone by as a commander in the field, he looked out into the audience with a voice slightly cracking and signed off with a simple word: “out.”

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