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Myrtle Smith retires after 57 years

By Pfc. Jason D. Mills | | May 5, 2006

The year was 1947, Harry Truman was President, the Cold War was just beginning, the U.S. Air Force and the National Security Council were just getting underway, and a young Myrtle Smith was checking into Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island for her first job after high school.

Now, years later, the transportation supervisor has worked on the Air Station longer than most service members here have been alive. On Monday she retired after 57 years and five months of United States Government employment.

“When I look back and see how many commanders have come and gone since Myrtle has worked here, it’s pretty amazing; it’s a long list,” said Col. Robert Lanham, the Air Station commanding officer. “Myrtle will be missed, the Air Station will truly be losing a wealth of knowledge when she leaves.”

Over the course of her more then half-century career, Smith, who began in the days of rotary phones and carbon paper, has witnessed many changes. One thing did not change however, her unfailing dedication to her job, according to Kevin Jordan, the passenger supervisor at the Traffic Management Office. Jordan worked with Smith for more than 20 years.

“Mrs. Smith is a Joint Federal Travel Regulation book with legs and I’m glad I don’t have to fill her shoes there. We have seen the typewriter change to the computer, and now we have Central Web Application and Defense Transportation System and Powertrack,” said Shirley Jones, the supply directorate at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, who worked with Smith for more then 25 years. “I’m sure the appropriation numbers will be in her dreams for awhile.”

She was very often the first in the office and was always the last to leave, according to Jordan. Smith was also notorious for not taking leave; in fact during her near 60-year stint here, Smith accumulated more then 900 days of sick leave.

“I’m just so happy for her, she has earned this more than anyone I know,” said Capt. Julie Hendrix, the TMO officer in charge. “I’m losing a great supervisor and she has blessed and touched my life so much, as well as the lives of many Marines and civilians who have come before me. We were truly blessed to have had her over all these years; this is really going to be a bitter-sweet goodbye.”

Smith started her extensive career in civil service because her husband was working civil service at Parris Island. Smith started working on the Air Station in 1956 after being transferred here from the Recruit Depot.

“I started working here when I was 18, and now I’m 76. I never planned on working here for as long as I have but I had wonderful bosses all through my career and really I couldn’t have asked for any better,” Smith said. “They have all stood behind me and I just feel like I have always been there to try and help military members who have had travel issues.”

During her retirement ceremony, Smith was presented with numerous awards including a Commendation for Meritorious Civilian Service, a Length of Service Award and a Certificate of Appreciation. Letters of appreciation from the Air Station’s commanding officer, commanding general and from the deputy commandant of information and logistics, Headquarters Marine Corps, were also presented to her. She was also presented with a cased American Flag that was flown over Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on April 26.

“She’s talented, knowledgeable and professional. She has probably touched the lives of more Marines moving in and out of Beaufort than probably any other one person - civilian or Marine - that I have ever known,” said William Snead, the Air Station’s logistics officer. “She’s very knowledgeable about the rules of moving people around, when I have a question about moving somebody somewhere, she’s the person I call.”

Over the years, Smith was viewed as a firm boss and made sure that everything was just as it was supposed to be.

“She was very strict, by-the-book,” said Staff Sgt. Rhonda James, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of household goods here. “She was never much for small talk but she always got the job done, and it was always done right.”

The Air Station has changed a lot since Smith first started here, but what hasn’t changed is her feeling of self-satisfaction from helping the servicemen and women here.

“I enjoyed my job so much and I feel like I have been such a help to all of the military people and I did my best to do things for them,” Smith said.

Smith had many reasons for retiring but one thing is for sure, she has earned her retirement perhaps more then anyone else here.

“I thought of my age and thought if I’m going to enjoy any of life at all then I think it’s time for me to retire. I want to really get involved with my Sunday school class and I would like to do a little volunteer work at the hospital,” Smith said.