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SPRINGFIELD, IL (09/18/2017) (readMedia)-- SAYBROOK, Ill. – Master Sgt. Jeffrey A. Beightler, of Saybrook, Illinois, a Soldier with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade based in Normal, Illinois, retired after 36 years of service, including several years of active-duty service.

Born and raised in Champaign, Illinois; Beightler joined the military one year after graduating from Champaign Central High School in November, 1980.

"My dad and his six brothers all served in the military," said Beightler. "My dad is a Korean War Veteran."

His decision to join the military was partly because of family tradition, and his father and uncles were all happy when he joined the Army, said Beightler. Having just graduated high school, Beightler's transition to military life was made a bit easier.

"My dad was a retired E7 and that helped me out a little bit when I went to basic," said Beightler.

The Illinois Army National Guard was his first stop, but he served on active duty from 1986-1990 before returning to the ILNG.

Beightler traveled many places during his 36 years with the military. While on active duty, Beightler was stationed at Camp Casey, South Korea, and Fort Carson, Colorado. He served two deployments during the War on Terror, in 2006-2007, at Camp Bucca, Iraq, as well as at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and Camp Buehring, Kuwait, in 2014. He also participated in one humanitarian overseas training mission to Botswana, South Africa. Lastly, Beightler spent 18 months with the officer training command program at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Beightler prepared many troops to become officers.

"He was a strong NCO and he had a good command voice," said Maj. Kory L. Harms of Springfield, Illinois, with the HHC, 404th MEB. "Everything he said, you listened."

Beightler had a profound effect on many Soldiers.

Staff Sgt. Jessica Guinn of Rockford, Illinois, with HHC, 404th MEB, has known Beightler since May 2012. Their friendship and mentorship began as soon as they met. Guinn said sharing the same job as military police, as well as their deployments, began an everlasting friendship.

"He has been a sounding board for me as I have come across various situations that have required wisdom, knowledge and experience that was outside of my wheelhouse," said Guinn.

Guinn said her first encounter with Beightler was in 2012 during annual training at the Marseilles Training Center, where Beightler was the acting first sergeant.

"He has always had a way of taking control in chaotic situations," said Guinn. "He has always lived by the NCO Creed. He puts the Soldiers first. He has an uncanny ability of knowing everyone and networking enough to get almost impossible tasks completed."

Guinn said Beightler is an NCO she will strive to be like and continue to look up to.

Beightler recalled his deployments and time away from home; remembering the training and the separation from his family. He said being away from his family was always the hardest part.

Beightler said he enjoyed the phone calls home and the mail he received from his wife and daughters. While he was away, one of his favorite gifts came from his daughters. They sent him an iPod shuffle, which he still owns today loaded with the same songs from 10 years ago.

"The best part of deploying was coming back with the support of the local communities," said Beightler. "A good handshake or a 'thank you' meant more than any medal that I've got on my chest."

While Beightler is proud of his accomplishments and the many places he has traveled, he said he remained in the ILNG for so long because he enjoys passing along his knowledge to the young troops.

"I like being with the troops," said Beightler. "I spent 17 years as a (tactical non-commissioned officer) TAC NCO and instructor with the (Illinois) state OCS program. I just like being around the troops, so I can pass on some of the stuff I've learned."

Beightler said he has enjoyed his career, and said he has seen both sides of the fence. He offered some words of advice to new troops entering the military.

"Listen to your sergeants and find one you think would be a good mentor so you can progress," Beightler said. "Learn from them. A lot of the NCOs are technically and tactically proficient, they do not even need a book in front of them; they have the information stored in their head."

Troops he mentored were able to attest to his good advice.

Harms said he plans to keep in touch with Beightler, but will miss catching up and sharing stories,but wishes him the best of luck.

"He is probably one of the best NCO mentors I have ever had," said Harms.

Beightler said, it has not set in yet, but he will miss the people and the camaraderie the most.

Beightler continues to work at the Illinois National Guard administered Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy in Rantoul, Illinois.

Beightler said he will maintain his civilian job as the LCA commandant, but plans to make good use of his weekends by taking trips to different states with his family.

Beightler said after retirement he and his wife plan to travel and he looks forward to sitting down to watch the weather channel.

"I plan on taking it day by day," said Beightler.

He said his ultimate goal, however, is to transition to Florida and make it a permanent move.

Beightler said he gives special thanks to his wife, Teresa, and his two daughters, Ashley Holmes and Erin Jordon, for their unwavering support throughout his many years of military service.

"It's been a good run," Beightler said.