New special assistant to the director of Army National Guard gets 2nd star
By PAUL TENNANT | The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass. | Published: January 1, 2016
Military service seems to come naturally to the family of Lawrence native Richard Gallant.
A recent photo taken at the Pentagon shows him, his daughter and future son-in-law – all in uniform.
That photo was taken on Tuesday the day Gallant was promoted to major general in the Florida Army National Guard.
He has been assigned to the Pentagon, where he is a special assistant to the director of the Army National Guard.
Gallant joined the Massachusetts Army National Guard in 1981, while he was a student at Bridgewater State College. He enrolled in the Guard's officer candidate program and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1983.
Gallant has risen through the ranks and received his second star in a promotion ceremony at Arlington Hall in Arlington on Tuesday.
Gallant was promoted to brigadier general four years ago. A brigadier wears one star while a major general is entitled to two.
"I thought I would make lieutenant colonel," he said during a recent telephone interview.
Gallant's father, the late Omer Gallant, served in the Navy aboard an aircraft carrier during the Korean War.
His son, Russell, served in the Army for 10 years and was a staff sergeant. He now works as a train dispatcher in Texas.
His daughter, Rebecca Jean Gallant, was promoted to first lieutenant in the Florida National Guard at the same time as he was promoted to major general.
Gallant, his son and daughter have all served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Our family has had six deployments altogether," he said.
Gallant was commissioned as an infantry officer and while he has risen to a very high rank, the infantry – the foot soldiers, also known as the "grunts" – "is where my heart is," he said.
Gallant commanded an infantry battalion in Afghanistan in 2003, so he has had the experience of leading troops engaged in combat. He and the troops he led helped train Afghan National Army soldiers.
Gallant assumed command of the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team in 2008. The brigade was assigned to Kuwait in 2010 and was responsible for security for the U.S. Central Command and checking convoys going into and out of Iraq.
"It was a very busy time," Gallant said. "I had great soldiers."
"It's an honor to serve," he said when asked what has kept him in the military so long.
During his younger days in Lawrence, Gallant spent many years in Boy Scouts, first in Troop 18, sponsored by St. Patrick Church, then Troop 102 in Andover. He was the senior patrol leader and advanced as far as Life Scout.
The Scouting ideals of service to others and the nation influenced his decision to pursue a military career, he said. Those ideals are shared by other members of the armed forces, according to Gallant.
He said he is "amazed by the dedication" of today's all-volunteer military.
"They are the finest men and women in America," he said.
Gallant began his career in the Massachusetts Army National Guard – but he ended up in the Florida Guard. His wife Carol, whom he met at Bridgewater State, had an opportunity to get a better job in the Sunshine State, so they ended up moving there, he said.
Carol is a retired certified financial planner.
Gallant was able to transfer from the Massachusetts to the Florida National Guard.
"We love both places," he said. A few nights ago, the temperature was 73 degrees in St. Augustine, Florida. where he and his family live – but it was only 20 degrees cooler in Lawrence, despite that it was late December.
Gen. Gallant expressed respect for the family members of military personnel who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"They have sacrificed as much as anyone else," he said. His daughter Michelle was a finalist for Military Child of the Year for 2015. She is a high school student and plans to attend college after graduation.
His wife, he said, is "an amazing woman."
Gallant lived on Salem and Monroe streets in South Lawrence during his youth. His father operated Gallant's Meat Market and Deli on Parker Street for many years.
His mother, Margaret Viola Gallant, now lives in Merrimac.
Gallant graduated from St. Patrick Grammar School in 1975 and Central Catholic High School in 1979. John Cuddy, a classmate of Gallant's at both schools and who remains his best friend, called the general "a fantastic role model for the kids of Lawrence."
Cuddy, who retired from the Navy after 20 years of service in the Seabees – construction battalions – and now works for Federal Express, said Gallant is "one heck of a good dad."
©2016 The Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, Mass.)
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