82nd Airborne's Former Top Noncommissioned Officer Retires in Ceremony

One of the nation's longest-serving paratroopers will get an All American goodbye today on Fort Bragg.

Command Sgt. Maj. LaMarquis Knowles, who served as the 82nd Airborne Division's top noncommissioned officer from October 2012 to April 2015, will retire in a ceremony on Stang Field.

Knowles will be ending a 32-year career with full honors from the division where he spent most it.

The reviewing officer will be a former 82nd Airborne commander who served alongside Knowles, Lt. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr.

Nicholson served with Knowles from 2012 to 2014, when he handed the reins of the division to current commander, Maj. Gen. Richard D. Clarke. He is currently commander of NATO's Allied Land Command.

Knowles relinquished responsibility for the 82nd Airborne Division in April.

At the time, Clarke -- who is currently deployed to Iraq with the division headquarters -- said Knowles was the heart of the division, instrumental in setting up training for female soldiers to attempt the Army Ranger course, pushing the division's focus back to its global response mission and ensuring a smooth transformation as the division moved from four to three brigade combat teams.

Clarke said Knowles set exacting standards and was passionate and demanding.

During his career, Knowles was long the example for other soldiers, officials said, in particular the roughly 17,500 paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne.

After the Cleveland, Ohio, native joined the Army in September 1983, he served in nearly every infantry post for an enlisted soldier, including team leader, squad leader, platoon sergeant, air and operations noncommissioned officer, Ranger instructor, first sergeant, operations sergeant major, battalion command sergeant major, brigade command sergeant major, post command sergeant major and division command sergeant major.

During his April change of responsibility ceremony, Knowles reminded those in attendance of the 82nd Airborne's top commodity.

It wasn't parachutes, rifles or vehicles, he said.

"Let us never forget, people are our No. 1 commodity," Knowles said.

In all, Knowles spent 18 years of his career with the All Americans on Fort Bragg. He said the end of his career was bittersweet, not unlike life as a paratrooper.

"It's almost like jumping out of an airplane," he said. ". At some point you're going to have to land."

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