One more thing: General Reggie Centracchio in the foreground | Columnists

Retired Lt. Gen. Reginald A. Centracchio, Adjutant General Emeritus of Rhode Island, is a gregarious and familiar figure in his hometown of Scituate.

Despite his welcoming smile, he still evokes the impulse to stand at attention and salute.

With a quick wit and a friendly demeanor, Centracchio looks like someone who has spent some 45 years in military service. Now 81, he easily looks at least 10 years younger in looks and vigor.

We gathered at a donut shop near the Foster Row to talk about his career, but the opportunity had to be taken to ask a few questions regarding Russian Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine.

“I didn’t think he was so mad,” Centracchio says. “…I don’t think he believed he would get that kind of resistance (from Ukraine).”

The potential for nuclear confrontation seriously complicates the picture and presents a fine line to walk. Nuclear sites in Ukraine have been targets for Russian forces, and Putin has referred to the use of Russia’s vast array of nuclear weapons if provoked enough. However, Centracchio points out that there is potential for deterrence.

“The prevailing weather conditions in Ukraine are such that if radiation were released, it would end up in Russia,” he said.

General believes Putin will eventually take over Ukraine, but draws parallels between Ukrainian resistance and early American settlers who waged unconventional warfare against the British military and ultimately won the War of Independence .

There will be guerrilla warfare going on in Ukraine if Putin wins the conventional war, Centracchio believes, and Putin and the Russians will be in trouble.

Looking ahead, the general called Putin’s decision against Ukraine a “test for the West, especially for the United States.”

“There will be a day when the outcome of the invasion of Ukraine will affect the balance of power between China and Taiwan, North Korea and South Korea, and Iran and Israel,” he observes. -he. The United States will have to be prepared for these eventualities, he said.

Preparing for conflict and unforeseen disasters has been central to General Centracchio’s career. His connection to the military began when he was a student at Deering High School in West Warwick. In 1957, while still a junior, he enlisted in the Rhode Island National Guard.

Centracchio explains that his older brother had been drafted in 1955. Growing up, they were inspired by the fact that five of their uncles served in World War II. One landed at Utah Beach on D-Day. It had to deploy from the landing craft while it was still in 25 feet of water. This uncle always said he learned to swim in deep water in the Pawtuxet River, and he wasn’t going to drown when he landed during the invasion.

When eligible, Centracchio applied and was accepted into the Officer Candidate School. On his birthday, July 23, 1962, he was appointed second lieutenant. This was the start of his rise through the ranks.

His first assignment as an officer was at one of Rhode Island’s five Nike missile sites. These were surface-to-air anti-aircraft emplacement designed as the last line of defense against Soviet H-bomb-carrying aircraft should they evade American interceptor fighters.

In 1968, he was battery commander of the North Smithfield site, which themselves housed Hercules missiles armed with nuclear payloads.

Centracchio steadily rose in rank and responsibility. Along the way, he went to the Army Command and General Staff College and earned a degree in public administration from Roger Williams College.

In 1964, he married Linda Lindgren. They had three children, a daughter and two sons. Sadly, she died of breast cancer in 1990.

Eventually Reggie became the Director of Plans, Operations and Training, Headquarters, State Area Command, Rhode Island Army National Guard before retiring in 1992 as as a full colonel.

After spending three years in real estate, an experience he did not enjoy, in 1995 Governor Lincoln Almond appointed him state adjutant general and commander of the National Guard.

The State Emergency Management Agency was merged into the National Guard in 1996, and he also became head of that agency. That same year, he married Linda Felici.

For 10 years he served as Adjutant General, a period that included leading the RI Guard throughout the 9/11 response as units were mobilized for Federal missions. He was also appointed state homeland security adviser in 2001.

“I had a lot of good people around me,” he notes.

In 2005, he retired for the second time, this time with three stars on his shoulders.

One thing that meant a lot to the general over the years was playing the trumpet. Harry James and Ray Anthony were his idols.

“I started playing music in middle school,” he says.

In high school, he joined a band called the Rhythm Kings, led by Dick Lowney.

“We have become well known in the Pawtuxet Valley,” he says, explaining that he played a lot until he became adjutant general, but put it aside when he bore all the responsibilities and had great public visibility. At the time of his retirement, he had not played professionally for 10 years.

Since 2005, however, he has returned to his vocation and led the Reggie Centracchio Quintet. Today, he manages all of the music for the Scituate Art Festival, he plays for Gloria Gemma’s breast cancer awareness events and for the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association, among others. (His brother died of ALS.)

Besides his other causes and activities, he has built a train which he uses at the festival to take children for rides. “I’m having fun,” he adds.

Additionally, he has written a children’s book called “Papa’s Pond and Other Stories”, and he is also working on writing his autobiography.

“The experiences I’ve had have been absolutely amazing,” he says with a smile.

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