BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The head of the Louisiana National Guard is retiring after 37 years in the military, including eight years as its top leader during the state's response to disasters including major floods, hurricanes and cyberattacks on government.
Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis will leave his position as adjutant general on Jan. 10, Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a Monday event announcing the retirement from his cabinet. Brig. Gen. Keith Waddell, who's worked as Curtis' chief deputy, will take over the job upon Curtis' retirement.
"It has been a tremendous honor and privilege for me to work with Gen. Curtis," the Democratic governor said, standing with both Curtis and Waddell. "His leadership has been stellar. It's been steadfast. And his service to the people of our state has been just simply outstanding."
Curtis was named adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard by former Gov. Bobby Jindal in November 2011. Edwards kept him in the post when he took office in 2016.
Curtis led the National Guard through two massive floods across north and south Louisiana in 2016. He also was at the helm of disaster response efforts to several hurricanes and tropical storms and has been part of the state's team of governing officials combating recent ransomware attacks on government computer systems. He oversaw the deployment of many soldiers overseas to Iraq and other nations. During Curtis' time as adjutant general, Louisiana National Guard soldiers were sent to Puerto Rico and hurricane-ravaged states to help with recovery work.
Asked to describe his hardest moments in the job, Curtis got choked up and replied: "When we had to bury kids."
"There are three numbers I carry with me every day," he said, listing 59 members of the National Guard killed in combat, six who died in training and 48 who committed suicide.
Curtis enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard in 1982.
The man succeeding him, Waddell, has worked as assistant adjutant general and principal military adviser to Curtis. He's been in the National Guard for 25 years and has served in Iraq. A resident of Lake Charles, Waddell has been assistant principal of Westlake High School and has coached high school sports teams.
"I'd imagine there are actually many skills that will transfer from that career to his new role as adjutant general," Edwards said. "I am supremely confident that our National Guard is in good hands."
Curtis described Waddell as a "steadfast leader (who) makes great decisions, has great vision."
Curtis is retiring as Edwards nears the January start of a second term. An official change of command ceremony will be scheduled early next year at Camp Beauregard.