Kenneth O. Preston – 13th Sergeant Major of the Army (retired)
Ken served as the 13th Sergeant Major of the Army from January 15, 2004, to March 1, 2011. He retired as the longest-serving SMA, with more than seven years in the position.
Preston is a native of Mount Savage, Maryland. He entered the Army on June 30, 1975, and attended Basic Training and Armor Advanced Individual Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Throughout his 36-year career, he served in every enlisted leadership position, from cavalry scout and tank commander to his final position as Sergeant Major of the Army. Other assignments he held as a command sergeant major were with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division; 3rd “Grey Wolf” Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division; 1st Armored Division in Bad Kreuznach, Germany; and V Corps in Heidelberg, Germany. Prior to serving as SMA, Preston was the command sergeant major for Combined Joint Task Force 7 in Baghdad, Iraq.
As Sergeant Major of the Army, Preston served as the Army chief of staff’s personal advisor on all Soldier and family-related matters, particularly areas affecting Soldier training and quality of life. He devoted the majority of his time in this position to traveling throughout the Army as a force provider for leaders at all levels of responsibility, overseeing Soldier and unit training, manning and equipping challenges, and talking to Soldiers and their families to understand their needs, personal hardships, and challenges serving a nation at war.
Preston’s military education includes the Basic Noncommissioned Officer’s Course, Advanced Noncommissioned Officer’s Course, First Sergeant’s Course, M1/M1A1 Tank Master Gunner Course, Master Fitness Trainer Course, Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer’s Course, and the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. Preston holds a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from Trident University International.
His awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star Medal, Army Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Good Conduct Medal 11th award, National Defense ribbon with bronze star, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NCOES Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon 5th award, NATO Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal (Government of Kuwait), Joint Meritorious Unit Award with bronze star, Army Meritorious Unit Commendation, and Department of the Army Staff Badge.
Preston serves as the vice president of Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier Programs at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). He sits on the board of directors for United Services Organization (USO), Homes for Our Troops, Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, Army Historical Foundation, and Armor and Cavalry Heritage Foundation. He volunteers as the chief financial officer for Saint George’s Episcopal Church in Mount Savage, Maryland. He also serves as vicechairman of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) and is a member of the Army and Air Force Exchange Retiree Council.
Preston and his wife, Karen, have three children and eight grandchildren. They make their home once again in Mount Savage, Maryland.