Following 37 years of service, Adjutant General Ben Corell, a native of Strawberry Point who began his Iowa National Guard career by joining a unit based in Oelwein, will be retiring on March 1.
Governor Kim Reynolds made the announcement last Wednesday as part of the Iowa Veterans Day ceremony at the Capitol in Des Moines.
“I want to thank him for his decades of selfless service to this state and this country,” Reynolds said of Corell, according to a Radio Iowa report. “Not only has he served, but I can’t imagine going through the last two years with anybody else at the helm of the National Guard. Your story and your service is incredible and this state is better for it.
“Through unrest, natural disaster recoveries, and a pandemic, General Corell has been a guiding light, not only for me, but for every Iowan,” the Governor continued, according to an Iowa National Guard press release. “When I appointed General Corell, I said we couldn’t know what the future would hold. None of us could have predicted the trials and tribulations we would face in that time. I am thankful for General Corell’s strength and guidance during those trying times. And I will be forever grateful for his dedication to our state.”
Having selected him for his current role in 2019, it will also be the Governor’s responsibility to name Corell’s replacement following his departure this spring.
Later Wednesday, at the same ceremony, Corell, an Upper Iowa University graduate, addressed the gathering directly, during which he recognized the sacrifices made by those he has commanded as well as by all veterans who have served.
“In the 100-plus years since the end of World War I, our nation’s warriors have battled tyrants and terrorists in defense of this country. We have traveled to distant corners of the globe to serve in dangerous and difficult conditions,” he said, Radio Iowa reported. “In every one of those places, there have been Iowans who have answered the nation’s call and have done the dangerous work that our nation’s asked us to do.”
Less than a week prior to Wednesday’s announcement, Corell had delivered the annual Condition of the Guard address, which focused largely on his own story, emphasizing his path to and journey through the Iowa Guard as emblematic of that taken by countless others, including many of those he has commanded.
Hailing from northeast Iowa, Corell was born in Manchester and raised in Strawberry Point. Following his 1979 graduation from Starmont, he first enlisted in the state’s Army National Guard in January 1986 before completing both his basic and advanced individual training at Fort Benning’s Infantry school in Georgia. Later, in 1989, he earned his officer’s commission through the Iowa Military Academy’s Officer Candidate School at Fort Dodge, an achievement catapulting him to a service career that has seen him command and deploy units overseas at the Company, Battalion, Brigade and Division levels.
“With now 37 years of service, coming from a financially challenged rural Iowa kid with no college education, no real direction in my life,” he said, while delivering the recent Condition of the Guard address, “I stand before today you as a General Officer, the holder of a master’s degree, selected by our Governor to serve as the 27th Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard.”
“I proudly represent all the members of the Iowa National Guard as we serve the state of Iowa, and our great country,” he added.
In explaining his decision to step away, Corell highlighted his wishes to devote more time to his family as a primary motive.
“My wife has sacrificed much for my career. We’ve got seven grandkids,” Corell said to media members on Wednesday. “My grandparents influenced me growing up, gave me the values that I have. I want to put some values in my grandkids that have been passed down through my family.”
In resigning his position as the Iowa Guard’s top General, Corell can look back on a service career that has included “six overseas deployments and command at every level,” with most recently having “served as the division commander of the 34th Infantry Division ‘Red Bulls’ during a deployment to Kuwait in support of Operation Spartan Shield,” the Guard’s release explained.
Among these assignments, Corell commanded the Iowa National Guard’s largest deployment since the Second World War in leading the 2nd Brigade Combat Team during a deployment to Afghanistan. In addition to commanding the Guard’s largest deployment since the 1940s, Corell also lead its longest, which occurred when the 1st Battalion of the 133rd Infantry Regiment, based in Waterloo, was sent to Iraq for two years, according to Radio Iowa.
In his current position as Adjutant General Corell commands more than 9,000 service-members.
Among the comments recognizing Corell posted on the Guard’s Facebook page following the retirement announcement were well-wishes from many people, including those who served with or under him. “Congratulations Sir,” read one post. “Honor to serve with you even when I screwed up a few times. You are a good man and a good commander.” Another stated, “Enjoy your retirement. You are a great man and one hell of a leader. I am proud to have known you and called you a friend.”