Air defense officer, with long ties to Fort Bliss and Belen, retires

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An air defense officer whose career kept taking him back to Fort Bliss and El Paso is now looking forward to the next phase in his life.

Col. John R. Chavez, a 47-year-old Belen native, had a retirement ceremony in August and has stepped down as the chief of staff for the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command.

Chavez, his wife, Holly, and family were named the Association of the United States Army’s national Volunteer Family of the Year in 2007 when they were previously stationed at Fort Bliss.

Chavez has spent 13 years of his 27-year Army career at Fort Bliss.

“The timing was right,” Chavez said. “We met all our career objectives.”

His wife had said they would stay with the Army as long as they were having fun.

“We’re still having fun but we didn’t want to wait until we weren’t,” Holly Chavez said. “He’s met all his goals and we’re young. We just thought it would be the right time to see what we can do with the rest of our lives.”

Most recently, the Chavez family was stationed at Fort Bliss from August 2010 until now. He was chief of staff for the 32nd AAMDC for the past year, its operations officer from August 2011 to July 2012 and the command’s officer in charge of its forward element in the Middle East from August 2010 to July 2011.

Other stints here included being commander of the 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment in 2007-08 and a four-year stint doing various jobs with the 32nd from 1996 to 2000.

He also started his active-duty career here as a platoon leader in 1990. When he was in the New Mexico National Guard, they did their training in El Paso, too.

“It wasn’t by accident” that we kept ending up in El Paso, Chavez said. “We worked to get back here.”

The couple plans to do some traveling for the next few months. They’ve already enjoyed a 10-day trip to Alaska and plan to visit friends and relatives in New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.

They have three grown children and three grandchildren who live in the Albuquerque area, so they would like to stay in this part of the country, if possible, once Chavez starts looking for a civilian job.

“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Chavez said. “We know we will miss the military culture, but we know we won’t stay far away from it. Wherever we retire, we’ll gravitate toward the military community that’s in the area.”

They plan to keep the house they own in El Paso, at least for now.

“This is one of the warmest, most welcoming places we’ve ever been,” Holly Chavez said. “We’ve always felt 100 percent at home here.”

Previous assignments: Spent 13 of his 27-year career in various roles at Fort Bliss. Career includes four years in the New Mexico National Guard and 23 years active duty.

Degrees: Bachelor of arts in history from New Mexico State University, master of arts in human resource development from Webster University, and master of strategic studies from the Army War College.

Awards, honors: Bronze Star with an oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with seven oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation with two oak leaf clusters.

Family: Married to Holly. Three grown children, Rosemary Chavez, Noelle Chavez, who is married to Tim Ward; and National Guard 2nd Lt. John Chavez II. Three grandchildren, Rayven, Katerina and Liam. Two children are still at home, Sebastian and Nicolas.