Utah Guard Wife and Husband

Promoted to Colonel on the Same Day

 

By LTC Hank McIntire

 

Published August 11, 2010

 

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LTC Milada Copeland, right, listens to remarks during her and her husband's promotion ceremony June 17.

Photo by Ileen Kennedy

LTC Milada Copeland, right, listens to remarks during

her and her husband's promotion ceremony June 17.

DRAPER, Utah — A Utah National Guard wife and husband, LTC Milada A. Copeland and LTC William C. French, both of Sandy, Utah, were promoted to colonel in a recent ceremony at the Utah Guard headquarters here.

Copeland enlisted in the Utah Army National Guard in 1985 and was commissioned as a Field Artillery officer in 1988. Subsequently she transitioned to the Engineer Corps, where she has served as an operations officer, logistics officer, executive officer, commander of the 115th Engineer Battalion and deputy commander of the 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

French joined the Utah Army Guard’s 1457th Engineers as a heavy-wheeled vehicle mechanic in 1985. He received his commission as an Engineer officer in 1990. During his career he has served as a platoon leader, training officer, executive officer, commander of the 1457th Engineer Battalion and deputy commander of the 115th Engineer Group.

Major General Brian L. Tarbet, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard, spoke at the promotion gathering and offered a description of the Army’s efficiency at promoting a single officer, let alone pinning two simultaneously.

COL William French thanks his colleagues at the conclusion of his and his wife's promotion ceremony.

Photo by Ileen Kennedy

COL William French thanks his colleagues at the

conclusion of his and his wife's promotion ceremony.

"I want to take full credit for the elaborate choreography that allowed these two officers to be promoted on the same day," said Tarbet, tongue in cheek. "It is serendipity, and it’s a great occasion for the Utah Guard to recognize both of you today."

Tarbet then pointed to the dozens of fellow officers and Soldiers in the auditorium.

"This room today is filled with mentors and colleagues, and you both know that’s why you’re here," he reminded them, "because they took the time to teach you, to worry about your career and labor with you as you learned the art of soldiering."

Copeland and French were then invited up to the stage as the promotion order was read, and then they pinned each other in another elaborately choreographed maneuver worthy of Army Engineers that was captured on video.

Earlier this year Copeland returned from service in Kuwait in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom as a member of the Army Central Command staff. Her current assignment is as full-time comptroller for the United States Property and Fiscal Office at the Utah Guard’s Draper headquarters.

LTCs William French,  and Milada Copeland pin colonel rank  on each other in an "elaborately choreographed" maneuver.

Photo by Ileen Kennedy

LTCs William French,  and Milada Copeland pin colonel rank

 on each other in an "elaborately choreographed" maneuver.

In 2003-2004 French deployed with the 1457th Engineer Battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is currently assigned to Joint Forces Headquarters, Utah National Guard, as chief of Training Branch.

When invited to offer some remarks at the ceremony, Copeland recognized her colleagues for their mentoring and support.

"I thank my friends in uniform," she said. "There is no way I would be standing here if it weren’t for you guys and gals."

She singled out two individuals in attendance who had helped her at key times in her career: retired CSM Craig Hone and retired COL Linda Higgins.

Copeland recalled Hone’s words to her on a day many years ago when things weren’t going so well: "Someday you are going to make [colonel], and when you do, I’ll be there to celebrate your promotion no matter where I’m at."

Hone made good on his promise, flying in from Ukraine, where he is employed, with only a week’s notice.

Copeland also acknowledged Higgins, who was the first nonmedical female officer to be promoted to colonel in the Utah Guard and who commanded 97th Troop Command, the same unit that Copeland will lead beginning in September.

Newly minted COLs French and Copeland share a laugh after their pinning ceremony June 17.

Photo by Ileen Kennedy

Newly minted COLs French and Copeland share

a laugh after their pinning ceremony June 17.

"I’m very honored to be following in her footsteps," she said.

French was equally appreciative of the many in attendance who had helped him over the years.

"It’s so amazing to come to work every day to a job you love," he said. "Within the confines of the Guard are the best people you will meet. Anywhere."

French, with a smile, also expressed gratitude for the mentoring provided to him along the way by his seasoned enlisted colleagues.

"I would like to thank all senior NCOs who came into my office, closed the door and said, ‘Sir, what the hell were you thinking?’"

Last of all, French thanked his wife and fellow colonel, Milada.

"When I deployed," he explained, " I had three day’s notice. I would have left with [just my uniform] if she hadn’t packed my stuff," he admitted, to the laughter of the audience. "We couldn’t do it without each other."