The Captain was finally promoted to … sergeant major?

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Steve Tressler, 138th Fires Brigade Public Affairs Officer

Kentucky Guardsman Sgt. Major Francis Osbourne stands in front of his picture from Operation Desert Storm in the lobby of the headquarters of the 1st Battalion 623rd Field Artillery, Oct 15. (photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Tressler)

GLASGOW, Ky.  —  1976 was a great year for America. Not only was it the bicentennial of this great nation but it also featured some other interesting events.

A small little start-up company, people often mistook for a produce farm opened its, uh-em garage door and called itself Apple. It’s done okay since then.

The Cincinnati Reds defeated the New York Yankees to win the World Series; both teams are doing well today.

Gerald Ford was defeated by Jimmy Carter for the office of president – which meant peanuts were cool again.

And in local news, a tall, skinny kid joined the Kentucky Army National Guard, became a private, and was assigned to Service Battery, 1st Battalion 623rd Field Artillery. And he’s still there.

He’s not a private anymore though.

Sgt. Maj. Francis Osbourne knew he wanted to be a Soldier.  If he didn’t know, then he does now.  He’s been in 35 years and counting. His boots outrank most of his Soldiers.

“I knew I was going to join but I didn’t think I would still be in,” said Osbourne.

The funny thing is, this new sergeant major used to be a Captain.

Sgt. Major Francis Osbourne watches over some of his Soldiers in the 1/623rd Field Artillery Battalion in action during drill. (photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Tressler)


You read that right.

Osbourne never finished getting his college degree and could not be promoted to the rank of major, a field grade officer. Plus he had a family of five and two jobs at the time so the thought of full time school was out. Rather than leave the Guard Osbourne decided to stay in and continue to serve his country even if it meant a huge pay cut and loss of rank by going back to the enlisted ranks.

So, to recap, Pvt. Osbourne who joined in 1976 became a sergeant, who became a lieutenant, who became a captain, who became a sergeant major.

Say that again?!

Consider this — at one point he was a captain and the commander for Charlie Battery of the 1/623 and 2nd Lt. John Bates was one of his platoon leaders.  The very next drill he was Bates’ platoon sergeant and a staff sergeant.

Bates, by the way, is now a lieutenant colonel.

Sounds weird huh? But for those who know Osbourne this doesn’t seem strange at all.

“He always wanted to be around Soldiers and be hands on,” said retired Sgt. 1st Class Mark Hanks. “He was a great teacher and was always very patient with the troops. As an officer you’re not as hands on as you’d like to be sometimes.”

Osbourne, who is the prototypical overachiever and workaholic, has finally realized that it may be time to slow down soon. But not until he accomplishes his next mission.

“Right now I want to keep the focus on training for a possible mobilization,” said Osbourne.

1st Lt. Francis Osbourne during his deployment in support of Operation Desert Storm in 1990-91. (Photo courtesy of 1/623)

Any plans after that?  “Well,” he pauses for a moment.  “I guess potentially retirement.”

And then?  “Then just jump on my Harley and ride to California. I’ve been working two and three jobs my whole life and I think it’s time to start slowing down.”

That’s just like Osbourne. His idea of slowing down is riding 75 miles per hour on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle from Kentucky to California, and on toward retiree happiness.

Osbourne has one daughter who is majoring in social work at Northern Kentucky University.

He also has two sons and both are in the Kentucky Army National Guard.

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