164th ADA’s top enlisted Soldier retires after 41 years

Written by  //  June 6, 2012  //  Feature Stories

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Outgoing Command Sgt. Maj. John Hafford during the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Change of Responsibility Ceremony in Orlando on Sunday. Courtesy photo

ORLANDO, Fla. (June 6, 2012) – Command Sgt. Maj. John Hafford relinquished responsibility for the 164th Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Brigade in an official ceremony at the brigade’s headquarters, June 3. He passed the responsibility on to Command Sgt. Maj. Neihl Keefer in front of family, friends, VIPs and Soldiers from the Florida National Guard.

“After 41 years of serving our state and country, I can’t think of a better way to go out than this,” said Hafford during his speech.  He thanked his many supporters in the crowd and acknowledged that he will indeed miss being a part of the Florida National Guard. 

During his speech, Keefer admitted that “following in the footsteps of Command Sgt. Maj. Hafford will not be an easy task,” but said he looks forward to the challenge.  Emotions ran high when Keefer acknowledged his wife’s dedication and support through the many sacrifices that often accompany the role of a military wife.  Although Keefer has been with the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade for many years already, this new position promises even more responsibility and commitment on his part. 

The evening prior to the ceremony, Hafford’s Soldiers, friends and peers, gathered for his retirement dinner at the Holiday Inn Orlando Airport to commemorate the end of his 41-year tour of military service.  Hafford served as the highest-ranking non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the brigade for more than ten years and even deployed twice to the National Capital Region as the 164th Task Force Command Sergeant Major. 

The passing of responsibility within a brigade is a time-honored tradition wherein the outgoing command sergeant major passes the brigade colors to the incoming command sergeant major in recognition of the significance of maintaining the organizational colors throughout military history.  The colors have traditionally been at the commander’s side, and it is considered the highest honor to carry the colors into battle.  The command sergeant major accepts the colors as a symbol of his commitment to the unit, and with it, the responsibility for the welfare of its Soldiers. As the senior non-commissioned officer within the brigade, the command sergeant major monitors the welfare of every Soldier and helps mentor and guide the non-commissioned officers throughout their military careers.

The 164th ADA Brigade consists of more than 2,000 Soldiers assigned within two Avenger battalions, one HIMARS battalion, and one composite Transportation battalion consisting of one Transportation company and three Military Police companies.  The 164thADA Brigade serves as the Northern Area Command during State Active Duty in support of State emergencies and disasters. 

Outgoing 164th Command Sgt. Maj. John Hafford (left), incoming Command Sgt. Maj. Neihl Keefer and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Glenn Finch salute the American flag during the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Change of Responsibility ceremony in Orlando on Sunday. Courtesy photo

Hafford, a resident of Sebring, Fla., is originally from Riverhead, Long Island, N.Y. He is a graduate of South Florida Community College and St. Leo College with an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor’s in Psychology. Hafford’s military education includes the Advanced NCO Course, the Senior NCO Course, the First Sergeants Course, and the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. Hafford deployed in support of Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), National Capital Region Integrated Air Defense (NCR-IADS) with Task Force Osprey 2006-2007 and most recently with Task Force Knight 2010-2011 serving as the Task Force Command Sergeant Major on both deployments. 

Hafford’s previous assignment was as the Command Sergeant Major of 2nd Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment.  Other positions held include:  Command Sergeant Major of 3rd Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regimen; Command Sergeant Major 1st Battalion, 116th Field Artillery Regiment; First Sergeant of Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 116th Field Artillery Regiment; First Sergeant of Service Battery 2nd Battalion, 116th Field Artillery Regiment; and Target Acquisition Platoon Sergeant of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 116th Field Artillery Regiment. 

Hafford’s awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M device and Gold Hour Glass, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Florida Service Medal, Florida Commendation Medal, Florida Meritorious Service Ribbon, Honorable Order of St. Barbara and the Ancient Order of St. Barbara. 

He is an Enlisted National Guard Association Member and an Air Defense Artillery Association Life Member. 

Command Sgt. Maj.  Keefer resides in Orlando, and he is originally from Maricopa, Calif. He is a graduate of Central Texas College, Killeen, Texas, where he earned an Associate of Science Degree.  His military education includes The Primary Leadership Development Course, Basic NCO Course, Advanced NCO Course, First Sergeant’s Course, and the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. 

Keefer entered the Active Army in November 1984. He attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Jackson, S.C.  He left the Active Army after 12 years of service and joined the Florida Army National Guard in December 1996, assigned to Regional Training Site Maintenance (RTSM) Florida. 

His previous assignment was as the 3-265th ADA Battalion Command Sergeant Major.  Other positions held are:  Command Sergeant Major of the 164th ADA Brigade (National Capital Region); First Sergeant of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Joint Force Headquarters – Florida (JFHQ-FL); First Sergeant of the 631st Maintenance Company; Senior Operations NCO G3, JFHQ-FL; Assistant Inspector General JFHQ-FL; Training NCO JFHQ-FL G3 and Instructor RTSM Florida.  CSM Keefer also currently serves as the 164th ADA Brigade Active Guard Reserve (AGR) Senior Operations NCO. 

He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004 with the 13th Corps Support Command, Balad, Iraq, assigned as the Senior Assistant Inspector General.  

Keefer’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M device and Bronze Hour Glass, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, Florida Distinguished Service Medal, Florida Commendation Medal, Florida Meritorious Service Ribbon and the Honorable Order of St. Barbara.  

Keefer is a National Guard Association Life Member and an Air Defense Artillery Association Life Member.  CSM Keefer serves as a member on the National Guard Association of Florida Executive Council. 

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