CSM Michael Balch holds the US flag, presented by COL Jorge Silveira as a traditional part of his retirement ceremony. Photos by SGT Intisar Sabree US Army
The SHAPE Auditorium was at standing room only today, on the occasion of the Relinquishment of Responsibility of Command Sergeant Major Michael Balch. The event also served as a retirement ceremony, with CSM Balch retiring from the US Army after almost 36 years service.
As the Senior Non-commissioned Officer to Allied Command Operations, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe since August 2009, CSM Balch was responsible for mentoring the Alliance's enlisted force, and representing them to senior leadership. The SNCO is also responsible for enlisted force professional development and standardization policies. These initiatives include the functional areas of leadership, performance, training, education, appearance and conduct of enlisted personnel.
Admiral James Stavridis, SACEUR, conducted the official Relinquishment of Responsibility ceremony, and presented CSM Balch with both the President's Certificate of Appreciation and his retirement certificate. He also presented Mrs Balch with a Certificate of Appreciation from Army Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey.
Adm Stavridis' speech reflected his long association with CSM Balch, with whom he has served both here at SHAPE and previously at US Southern Command in Miami. He commented on CSM Balch's "ability to deal with the immediate as well as being able to think strategically in the long term. The ability to do both well is not common.”
Adm Stavridis also pointed out the number of senior enlisted leaders in the audience from across the alliance, and their importance. "The senior enlisted leadership role is crucial in maintaining the operational effectiveness of our troops, particularly in these times,” he emphasized. "We are fortunate to have benefitted from the leadership of Mike Balch.”
CSM Balch focussed on the importance of each generation of leaders passing their skills on to the next, and his pride in serving his country, and the alliance, was evident. "It has been an honour to stand side by side with soldiers who do the job and make sacrifices for their nation and the alliance,” he said.
After the event, family, friends, colleagues and staff joined at a reception for the opportunity to wish CSM Balch and his family well as they return to Miami for the next chapter in their lives.