Sgt. Maj. Gregory Rock has used a combination of music and leadership to inspire people around the world. Now after 28 years of dedicated service to his country, seven presidential inaugurations and thousands of ceremonies and performances, Rock has finally hung up his colonial uniform patterned after Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army for good.
Soldiers from 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), held a retirement ceremony to honor Rock, a former U.S. Army Fife and Drum Corps [FDC] sergeant major, at Conmy Hall on Joint Base Myer Henderson Hall, Va., Jan. 13.
“I have spent a good portion of my adult life here in The Old Guard, and it has been an honor to serve as sergeant major of the Corps these last 11 years,” said Rock. “Retirement sneaks up on you when you are doing something you enjoy.”
When Rock first arrived at The Old Guard as a trombone player in 1988, however, he admitted to being very unsure about his military career.
“I came from the U.S. Army Field Band on Fort Meade, Md., so I felt like a duck out of water,” said Rock. “I had no idea where the Corps would take me.”
Rock would become only the third sergeant major in FDC’s 53-year history. He was the senior enlisted advisor to one of the U.S. Army’s premier musical organizations.
“I am the guy behind the scenes that makes sure everything and everyone is in the right place at the right time,” said Rock. “Everything that you see during a ceremony has a specific purpose. There is a history and a tradition behind what we do.”
Rock also had the task of maintaining continuity within FDC, and now that responsibility will be passed on to another noncommissioned officer.
Sgt. Maj. William White, the current Corps sergeant major, said he is honored to take over position from such a distinguished person.
“There was perhaps never a transition where someone was handed an organization as talented, gifted, put together and well-maintained as the one I inherited from him,” said White. “I learned a lot from Sgt. Maj. Rock.”
White said some people tend to get rattled when things become challenging and difficult, but Rock was the type of person to excel in just those situations.
“He brought a sense of calm to the job no matter how busy things got,” said White. “He called it ‘being in the eye of the hurricane.’”
Rock’s greatest memories were from the most mentally and physically demanding missions.
“Performing for Nelson Mandela and the Pope was crazy,” said Rock. “It was such a huge part of history, and I wouldn’t trade away those times for anything.”
Rock said the key to any success mission was surrounding himself with the right people.
“I did not make it this far without the help from people I have served with and those I love,” said Rock. “Every person that I have encountered in the military, good or bad, has taught me something.”
Rock said he doesn’t regret the instant when he decided to do something out of the box and join FDC.
“If I could give any advice to the next generation of Soldiers it would to push yourself outside your comfort zone, and trust the people around you,” said Rock. “It is the only way you’re going to grow as a leader.”
Rock said he has truly enjoyed being a part of FDC for so long, but he is looking forward to the next chapter in his life.
“I am glad to have my beautiful wife to share this journey with,” said Rock. “I am ending my time here with this great unit on the right note.”