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More than three decades of ‘Being Excellent Every Day’

By Staff Sgt. Noshoba Davis, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office

PINEVILLE, La. – What started as a simple thought on the way home from a coaching conference has become the mantra many Soldiers and Airmen in the Louisiana National Guard strive to uphold: Be Excellent Every Day.

On the evening of March 9, friends, family, and fellow service members gathered at the Dabadie Gym Complex at Louisiana National Guard Training Center Pineville to bid farewell and congratulations to Maj. Gen. Damian “Keith” Waddell, the former adjutant general of Louisiana, on his retirement from the military.

Waddell, who is known for challenging Soldiers and Airmen to ‘Be Excellent Every Day,’ retired from the LANG with more than 33 years of service.

A native of New Roads, Waddell served as Louisiana’s adjutant general for the last four years. During this time, he led all National Guard operational missions and training.

During the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Thomas Friloux, Waddell’s successor as the adjutant general of Louisiana, spoke of the challenges faced by past adjutants general while leading the LANG and the challenges faced by Waddell during his command.

“Maj. Gen. Waddell, from day one, this has been four years of tests. Instead of a change of command, we went straight into COVID-19 restrictions and dealt with COVID-19; the same year, we had five or six named storms all the way to Zeta. When you think we will have a break in 2021, no, we have Hurricane Ida, then ice storms. Then we had the tornadoes, followed by flooding, and then the fires this year,” said Friloux.

Friloux commended Waddell for his leadership through every all-hazard response and challenge.

“Sir, you never faltered one bit. Your tenacity as a leader and your ability to make the entire organization follow that same lead are incredible, and I’ll always remember that,” concluded Friloux.

Waddell explained that his leadership and mantra of ‘Be Excellent Every Day’ was what the Soldiers and Airmen deserved from him.

“I’m honored, humbled, and blessed,” said Waddell. “The Soldiers, Airmen and leaders also inspired and motivated me every day. They were the ‘secret sauce’ that fueled me every day,” said Waddell. “Let’s just call it ‘Payback.’”

Waddell graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and a minor in General Science. Additionally, he earned his commission through the school’s Reserve Officer Training Corps. He earned a Master of Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College and a Master of Science in Homeland Security from Northwestern State University. Furthermore, he completed his certification in educational leadership from McNeese State University.

Waddell began his military career as a military officer in 1990 and served on active duty at Fort Johnson, formerly Fort Polk, from 1991-1995 before joining the LANG in 1995.

“It is kind of fitting that I finished where I started,” said Waddell. “Being able to lead, serve, collaborate, and support Soldiers, Airmen, State employees, families, volunteers, and employers, this community of stakeholders, coupled with their accomplishments and efforts, never ceased to amaze me in the best and worst of times.”

Waddell chose to be an engineer officer after growing up hearing his grandfather’s stories from World War II and went on to serve in various leadership positions and staff assignments at the company, battalion, and brigade levels. Notably, he commanded the 769th Engineer Battalion, the 139th Regional Support Group, and the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Additionally, he served as the joint director of military support for Louisiana, assistant adjutant general and ultimately as adjutant general.

Waddell has mobilized numerous times for stateside responses and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he served as the battalion commander for 769th Engineer Battalion while deployed.

Before his appointment as the head of the LANG, Waddell was the assistant principal of Westlake High School. In 2003, he was named the Louisiana High School Coach of the Year in baseball, and in 2005, he was named the Louisiana High School Coach of the Year in basketball. He has also been named District Coach of the Year several times for multiple sports throughout his coaching career.

“I did my very best each and every day. I talk about being excellent every day, and that was part of my mantra as a leader. That’s never going to change as long as I’m living and breathing,” said Waddell.

During his ceremony, multiple individuals thanked Waddell for his leadership and mentorship. Each speaker had a common theme when describing the leader: He consistently embodied his mantra of “Be Excellent Every Day,” both in his actions and his words.

Waddell and his wife, Lisa, reside in Lake Charles, La. and have three children and four grandchildren.

“Lisa, thank you. As I was thinking about leaving active duty, Lisa said, ‘Keith, whatever you want to do, we’re in your corner.’ So with her, Kimber, Michael and Kenny, as a young family, she was willing to PCS wherever we’d go,” said Waddell. “Family is what it’s all about; people who you get to serve with will come and go; hopefully, those relationships endure, but when I’m 100 years old…that’s the goal is to get to 100…hopefully, my family is still around and they’ll take care of me because I’m going to look after them, especially in my retired days.”

Waddell was awarded the Certificate of Service from the National Guard Bureau, the United States Army Certificate of Retirement, a Certificate of Appreciation from the President of the United States and the Minuteman Plaque commemorating his 28-plus years of service to the LANG.

Waddell’s wife was also presented with the United States Army Certificate of Appreciation for her unfailing support and understanding throughout her husband’s military career.

Other notable awards that Waddell holds are the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Louisiana Legion of Merit, Louisiana War Cross, Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge, Bronze De Fleury Medal, and the General Douglas McArthur Leadership Award.

Waddell stated that he is not done working but will enjoy this time to relax and spend plenty of time with his family, especially his grandkids.

“I am a very blessed man, and I just thank you for sharing your life with me for the last 33 years or however long I’ve had the opportunity to serve and know you,” said Waddell.

When asked what his final piece of advice and remarks were for the Soldiers and Airmen of the LANG his response was, “What else?! Be Excellent Every Day. I am going to miss my teammates big time.”

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