Amboy native with 28-year Illinois Army National Guard career honored at Dixon armory

Command Sgt. Maj. Johnny O’Brien is presented the National Guard Bureau Certificate of Service by Lt. Col. Joseph Harris, Commander, Illinois Army National Guard (ILARNG) Recruiting and Retention Battalion (RRB), during a retirement ceremony June 9, 2023 at the Illinois Army National Guard armory in Dixon, Illinois. O’Brien served for 28 years in the ILARNG, most recently as the RRB’s senior enlisted leader.

DIXON – Command Sgt. Maj. Johnny O’Brien’s 28-year career with the Illinois Army National Guard officially came to a close in June with a retirement ceremony at the Dixon armory.

O’Brien graduated from Amboy High School in 1994 and earned a bachelor’s degree in human resource management from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

He enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard in 1995 as an Army man-portable air-defense systems (Stinger Missile) crew member, serving with the 202nd Air Defense Artillery in Dixon. He served with the 202nd ADA until 2001, including units in Kewanee, Milan, Machesney Park and NIU.

In 2001, he transferred to the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, where he served as a recruiting and retention noncommissioned officer, team leader, first sergeant, operations sergeant major and was promoted to command sergeant major in January 2020.

O’Brien, now a resident of Sherman, was serving as the National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion’s senior enlisted leader when he retired June 9.

“Command Sgt. Maj. O’Brien played a critical role in leading the Recruiting and Retention Battalion through COVID and the toughest recruiting environment in the 50 years of the all-volunteer force,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Harris of Springfield, who is commander of the Illinois Army National Guard Recruit and Retention Battalion. “His commitment to soldier care and the development of our Recruiting and Retention noncommissioned officers was the driving force for Illinois to achieve the No. 1 recruit sustainment program in the nation.”

O’Brien was deployed to Afghanistan in 2013 as part of Task Force White Eagle, Polish Land Forces, where he served as the force protection noncommissioned officer in charge for the task force and was inducted into the 25th Air Cavalry Brigade, Polish Land Forces.

“O’Brien was a mentor to hundreds of noncommissioned officers and thousands of junior enlisted soldiers throughout the Recruiting and Retention Battalion,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Chad McDannald, the RRB’s senior enlisted leader. “He will be remembered for his passion and love for recruiting. He was an instrumental leader who greatly contributed to the overall success of the Illinois Army National Guard.”

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