Not many people can say they dedicated most of their life to a career in the federal service. For the past six decades, Robert Bigelow, chief of the Community Recreation Division, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz, has proudly served our country through combined military and Civilian service.
Born and raised in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, Bigelow started working at 16 years old delivering groceries. He joined the U.S. Air Force at 17 years old as an air policeman and retired as a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations after almost 29 years of service.
“I retired Nov. 1, 1989,” he said. “My entire career spanned the entire Cold War, the Berlin Wall went up when I joined the military and fell eight days after I retired from active duty.”
Bigelow’s military career focused on law enforcement. He served on a tour in Vietnam with the 1041st Combat Security Police from 1967-1972 where he worked as a combat police instructor and provided training in Ranger small unit tactics. From 1972-1974 he worked on the Joint Drug Enforcement Team and concluded his military career working for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations from 1974-1989.
Two years after military retirement, Bigelow worked as a private investigator before joining the Civilian service. He worked in sports and fitness for both the Air Force and the Army from 1989 to 2005, stationed over the years at Fort Drum, New York, as well as Hohenfels, Baumholder, and Kaiserslautern, where he has worked since 2005.
In his current position, he provides management and leadership for all recreation programs within the USAG Rheinland-Pfalz such as Sports/Fitness/Aquatics, Library services at Landstuhl, Kleber Kaserne, and Baumholder; Outdoor Recreation Program at Kaiserslautern and Baumholder; Music and Theater Program, Arts and Craft Program, Auto Skills Program at Pulaski Barracks, Landstuhl, and Baumholder; and Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers/ Warrior Zone programs at Sembach and Baumholder.
Bigelow said that what keeps him motivated is the ability to serve Soldiers, Civilians, retirees, and families.
“I have not found a better place/work place I would rather be, I enjoy the people and the organization I’m with, it’s a good life,” he said.
Some of the awards Bigelow received throughout his career include an Award of Honor from the International Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association for his work in law enforcement and suppression of drug trade, two Joint Service Commendation Medals, three USAF Achievement Medals, and the Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon.
Bigelow was honored during the quarterly recognition ceremony held at the Armstrong’s Club on Jan 17.
“I could have not done this without the support of my wife, Kweta. She won’t let me retire,” he said with a smile.
Bigelow and his wife currently live in Sembach. As far as retirement plans, Bigelow said that he never intended to reach the 60-year milestone however, he said he still has “no immediate plans to retire.” When that happens, he would love to travel and enjoy family time.
Bigelow has a few words of advice for the younger generations, noting that listening is an integral part of communicating effectively with others.
“Take time to listen to people, don’t always speak, you won’t be able to hear what people are saying,” he said.