Watching students overcome personal fears was the most rewarding part of Lt. Col. Andrew Taylor's job guiding the lives of New Mexico State University Army ROTC cadets. After 20 years in the U.S. Army, and four years as professor of military science at NMSU, the Army ROTC commander has announced his retirement. He will be recognized in a formal ceremony July 31, at White Sands Missile Range.
"It's been absolutely tremendous; it's a blink of the eye," Taylor said. "I truly enjoy what we do, raising the next generation to take over for our sons and daughters, and I'd stay here as long as the Army would let me."
Taylor was selected by the Department of the Army to serve NMSU Army ROTC in 2009. While several memorable moments mark his tenure, among them, he pointed to the 2011 Look Who's Dancing competition, where he competed against other prominent community members to benefit the NMSU DanceSport Company.
"That was humorous in many regards, and a lot of fun," Taylor said. "I always preach get out of your comfort zone, and since I practice what I preach, and because I have no coordination and can't dance, that was huge."
Other highlights during Taylor's time with the Bataan Battalion include the Tough Enough to Wear Pink Week and the annual Halloween Run, where cadets run a course across campus dressed in costumes in support of a canned-food drive for local charities. Each year, cadets also participate in several military appreciation games with football, softball, baseball and basketball.
â€¨One of the major highlights was the Department of the Army approval for the new Bataan Battalion patch in 2012, which was pinned on cadets' uniforms by Bataan Death March survivors during the 70th anniversary of that infamous march.
"We get raw materials from mothers and fathers across this great country, and four years later, they leave as confident leaders," Taylor said. "It's a great transformation to witness and every day has been like that. So it's not one memory, it's multitudes rolled into one."
Taylor also served on the 2013 NMSU presidential search committee.
"NMSU has a history, it's long, it's proud, it's distinguished; ROTC, the same thing," Taylor said. "Everything we do here, we keep the cadets in mind, and think about how we can benefit them and the university."
Before NMSU, the career-military man served the 23rd Engineer Battalion, Ready First Brigade Combat Team, First Armored Division as a mechanized combat engineer, where he provided mobility, counter-mobility, survivability and general engineering support to armor and mechanized infantry forces both in training in Germany and in operations in Bosnia.
At Fort Bragg in North Carolina, he served as the 20th Engineer Brigade plans officer where he planned for real world contingencies, updating war plans and leading his company through a rotation to the Joint Readiness Training Center as the C/27 Engineer Battalion company commander.
He then spent time with the United States Air Force as an exchange officer at Langley Air Force Base, Va., where he served as the civil engineer's RED HORSE, the Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers. In that capacity, he was instrumental in the development, resourcing, training and validation of the Airborne RED HORSE program that has since deployed multiple times and is still a viable tool for joint and Air Force missions.
Then he was off to Fort Lewis in Washington as the Brigade Engineer for 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, before deploying in June 2006 for what would become a 16-month deployment.
Taylor was later assigned to the 555th Engineer Brigade as the brigade executive officer and later led the brigade advance party into Joint Base Balad, Iraq for their mission as the Multi-National Corps-Iraq Engineer Brigade.
Taylor received a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from Northern Arizona University in 1993, and a master's in civil engineering from University of Colorado-Boulder in 2002. He is the recipient of a Bronze Star Medal with two oak leaf clusters and a Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters.
Taylor's last day on the job at NMSU was June 18. He plans to settle in the local area with his wife Jennifer and their two sons, Trevor and Evan.
Lt. Col. David P. McCoy, an information technology and air defense officer, will succeed Taylor in June. McCoy comes to NMSU from Fort Bliss, Texas, where he was assigned as the Secretary of the General Staff for the 32d Army Air and Missile Defense Command.
"It's going to be hard not putting the uniform on and coming to work every day," Taylor said. "It truly is. I've been very, very blessed for the opportunity to serve here, and I'm very humbled and very happy for everything that has happened. I couldn't imagine my life any better than it is right now."