Photo submitted The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), provides ceremonial support for a Department of the Army Retirement Ceremony held at Summerall Field, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., July 30. Amsterdam native Alberto Kercado, right, was presented gus retirement certificate and flag from the U.S. Army Commanding General of the Military District of Washington Major General Jeffery Buchanan.
By CASEY CROUCHER
Former Amsterdam Police Officer Lt. Col. Alberto Kercado recently retired from working at the Pentagon.
Kercado retired from APD in 2010 to work at the Pentagon as a staff officer for the mobilization division of the Army Operation Center.
He said his job was to get numerous soldiers prepared and ready for deployment so they would be safe and return home after their tour ended.
He also helped launch a new process for the de-mobilization of soldiers, so that when they returned home, their health benefits would be extended, and everything would be ready for them when they returned.
"When I was at the Pentagon, I was at the rank of a lieutenant colonel, so I was placed to lead certain projects," he said. "It took a year to get the chief of staff of the Army to approve my de-mobilization process to help soldier's with various components of health and financial coordination."
He said he was working 14-hour days, which he loved, but his position at the Pentagon went year-by-year, so when his year ended this summer, he decided it was time to retire from the military in early August.
"Jobs in the police and military fields are for young men and women," he said. "I was only supposed to serve in the Army for 28 years, and I had my time extended to 31 years; I think I had a good run and now it was time to end it."
Kercado's awards include the Bronze Star Medal, Legion of Merit, three Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals, three Army Achievement Medals, the Combat Action Badge and the Army Staff Badge.
Since retiring from the military, Kercado said he's been working a nine-to-five job for the state of Virginia, where he and his wife, Eva, currently live.
"My transition from a police officer in Amsterdam to working at the Pentagon would not have been possible without my wife," he said. "She made the move from NY to DC with me."
He said he misses Amsterdam and all of the friends he made at the police department, as well as the friends he made during his time in Iraq.
"If there's one thing I learned during my time with the police department and in the military, it's that friends you make in those careers last a lifetime," he said.
Kercado, an Amsterdam native, originally started his career in the Army when he signed up with the ROTC for a college scholarship. He attended Union College where he got his bachelor's degree, then soon after served four years on active duty. He enjoyed working in the Army so much that he stayed in the Army Reserves when he came back to Amsterdam.
While he was home, he joined the Amsterdam Police Department, where he worked for 22 years.
"I started as a patrolman, then was a juvenile officer, then I got bumped up to detective, then I became patrol sergeant and ended my career with the department as patrol lieutenant," he said. "My favorite part of working on the police force though was teaching the DARE program."
He said he remembers his work with the children the most.
"Starting your career being a DARE officer and teaching kids in school and then later seeing those same kids as grown adults, it's really special," he said. "That's a memory. When I taught Dare those kids were in fifth grade and 20 years later those kids are in their 30s, it makes you say 'where does the time go?'"
While working for the Army Reserves, Kercado went on active duty and served in Iraq 2004-05, making him a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He served as a colonel and was with the 1st Calvary and the 3rd Infantry Division.
"My job in Iraq was civil military operations," he said. "So, for the city of Baghdad my job was to be the liaison between the Iraqi government and the military."
He said he had to make sure that Baghdad city services and all the facets of government including police officers, firefighters, electricity and public works continued to function though there was a war going on.
During his time at war, Kercado said he realized that there are "a lot of similarities between what people want, despite different cultures."
"In Baghdad all of those residents wanted their electricity, just like we do," he said. "They wanted jobs, just like we do. So we promoted public contracts to improve the roads and the buildings to employ people -- and all of this was happening while violence erupted in Baghdad."
He also got to experience the first elections in Baghdad during his time at war. He said his department set up the elections and polling sites in schools and during the elections process he had to hire roughly 15 different people to work the polls because there were about 15 different political parties.
"Even in the middle of a war zone there was over a 70 percent voter turnout and that was the first election which set up the Iraqi Parliament and that was a big part of my time in Baghdad," he said.