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Veteran Spotlight: Sgt. Maj. Michael King

By Wayne SoaresSpecial to iBerkshires
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — This week's Veteran Spotlight subject is retired Army Sgt. Maj. Michael King, who now leads the Berkshire Veteran Outreach Center.
King grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and served his country from 1993 to 2015. He enlisted at the age of 18 and was sent to basic training at Fort McClellan, Ala. 
"It was definitely a culture shock," he recalled. "I learned about biscuits and gravy from the mess hall, which I found delicious ... remember an obscene amount of heat and humidity."
King's first assignment was at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where he served in law enforcement as an military police officer. From there, King was assigned to the former Johnston Island Air Force Base — 800 miles southwest of Hawaii — that is now a wildlife preserve.
"It was a place where they destroyed chemical weapons and munitions ... the island itself was owned by the Navy and the base run by the
Army ... it was a volatile schedule, four-day shifts, four mid-shifts," he remembered. 
I asked what it was like for him to be away for the holidays and he explained it this way: "when you're young, you work on holidays so the soldiers with families can enjoy it with them. ... The single guys celebrated off the cuff, several days later — drinking, socializing, that type of thing."
After his duty at Johnston Island, he was sent back to Fort Huachuca, where he showed enough promise to be selected as a drill instructor. He then went on to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where he spent three years as a drill instructor, describing it as "the best experience in the Army."
"You get up at 4 a.m. every morning and you're home by 9:30 p.m.," he said. "You eat, iron your uniform, go to sleep, then do it all over again,'' adding with a laugh, "it was not conducive to a relationship."
King said there was a level of pride in taking an undisciplined young man, and taking him to trained, proficient, basic-level soldier. "Barney" training as he called it, after purple dinosaur.
"We broke down all different levels of people and found creative ways to help them understand things they didn't know," he said.
When asked about mentors during his service, there was no hesitation — Sgt. Freddy Nicks, Shawn Conrad and Leif Arneson (whom he talks with every other week). "All of these men had a huge impact on me."
King was sent to USGA Darmstadt Army Base in Cooperstrasse, Germany, and spent a year there building his team for deployment. He arrived in Iraq and found it "interesting." 
Prior to deploying, King's mother asked him why he was going. His response, "this is my Olympics." Things heated up a great deal while he was there and while on a mission, he and his unit were attacked. One soldier was killed, one injured and four were kidnapped (and later executed). 
"None of us ever should have walked out of there," he remembered somberly. He offered this on combat deployment — "If you ever question while you're there, it's taking your mind and focus of things that keep you alive." 
His thoughts on coming home? "Couldn't wait to get my kids in my arms," he said. "I had to refocus my priorities ... While you're away, the wife does everything top to bottom, then you come home and try to help and do everything ... It's a very tough family dynamic." 
King's overall thoughts on service? "Serving my country, honor, pride and accomplishments — the struggle comes from the death of young men and women, you go over and over it," he said. "What I miss most about the military is helping young soldiers." 
King continues his passion of helping soldiers and is currently the head of the Berkshire Veterans Outreach Center in Pittsfield. Sgt. Michael King, thank you for your service to our great country.
Veteran Spotlight is a special column by Wayne Soares that will run twice a month. Soares is a motivational speaker and comedian who has frequently entertained the troops overseas with the USO. To recommend a veteran for Soares' column, write to


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