Arizona National Guard general leaves legacy of mentorship, leadership

Arizona National Guard general leaves legacy of mentorship, leadership

Chief Warrant Officer 5 John Vitt, Deputy Garrison Commander, Papago Park Military Reservation, Arizona National Guard, presents Brig. Gen. John Burke with his cased one-star flag, on the occasion of his retirement, 8 Nov. Brig. Gen. John Burke’s retirement from the Arizona Army National Guard marks the end of a 30-year military career. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Monette Wesolek/ released)

PHOENIX – The Arizona National Guard bid farewell to Brig. Gen. John E. Burk in a retirement ceremony here Nov. 8, celebrating the general’s contributions during his 30-year military career.

Burk began his military service in June of 1985 in the active duty Army as an enlisted Soldier and commissioned four years later in July 1989. He joined the Arizona National Guard in 1997.

Maj. Gen. Michael T. McGuire, the Adjutant General of the Arizona National Guard presented Burk with the Arizona Distinguished Service Medal.

“We are honored to recognize General Burk for his over 30 years of dedicated service to both the state and the nation,” McGuire said.

Leadership is not foreign to Burk as his positions of responsibility over his tenure included multiple commands, Chief of Staff of the Southwest Border Security Mission, Deputy Inspector General, Director of Operations of the Joint Staff and Director Joint Staff.

His time as a general officer has also had a profound impact on his family.

“The last few years of him in the general position has been such a benefit for us to be able to serve the troops and to be able to reach out to them as a command team and that’s been such an honor and a privilege,” said Dr. Nanci Burk. “Today, while that marks the end of his 30 years, that’s something we hope to continue.”

Capt. Mike Thorlin who served under Burk at the brigade level 10 years ago and more recently as his aide-de-camp describes his experience working for the general as a “huge growing and development opportunity” and says he is grateful for the mentorship.

“Being an aide-de-camp I was in a position to learn, observe and watch. At each point [of my service under him] he has been really good about, and more into, development and fostering leadership while educating his younger officers as opposed to looking at them strictly as a resource,” Thorlin said. “It’s very much a two-way street.”

Sharing his final thoughts on leadership and mentorship in an emotional and bittersweet good bye, Burk said, “I learned a lot about leadership in a 30-year career and about the leader I am. What I learned is that listening, building great teams, and creating a positive command climate while leading with honor and integrity is essential. And, that when your character is tested, responding with honor and integrity in word and deed for the good of the organization is hard, but the right thing to do. Personal and professional resilience is required. Leadership is about doing the hard right over the easy wrong, and if it were easy, everyone would do it. I know our organization has great leaders and potential leaders. Take the time to mentor future leaders and when a Soldier or Airmen says to you, “Hey, Sir or Ma’am, do you have a minute?” Say “Yes!” every single time, as a 5, 10, or 15 minute career development conversation makes a world of difference to our Service Members and I enjoyed every conversation I had like that over the years; I will remember them well.”