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Face of Defense: Trail-blazing National Guard Attorney Retires

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va., March 23, 2010 – A pioneering National Guard Bureau attorney who was instrumental in founding the Youth ChalleNGe Program retired at a ceremony held here.

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Joseph Monachino retired March 12, 2010, in a ceremony at the Army National Guard Readiness Center, Arlington Hall, Arlington, Va., after more than 35 years of service as an attorney for the National Guard Bureau. Monachino's numerous accomplishments include an instrumental role in establishing the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, which provides youth a second chance at a better life. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Joseph Monachino, who retired March 12, served the bureau for more than 35 years, including 24 as an Air Force civilian. He wrote thousands of legal opinions for dozens of offices in support of the National Guard leadership on behalf of the organization’s chief counsel.

“It’s just absolutely incredible, Joe’s accomplishments,” said Army Lt. Col. Chris Rofrano, the bureau’s chief counsel. “Joe is a very, very modest person, and he doesn’t go around plugging his accomplishments and the great things he’s done.”

For years, Monachino was the bureau’s only contract attorney. He developed the Guard’s first procurement regulation, and he developed and taught the Guard’s fiscal law course that educated personnel in procurement procedures.

“I have never met a finer person in my life,” Rofrano said. “I have never met a boss who was more caring about his employees.”

“Are you sure you’ve got the right guy?” Monachino joked after tributes during his retirement ceremony at the Army National Guard Readiness Center here. “All I did was just do my job. … I always looked forward to coming to the office. I felt that [by] coming to the office I was at least doing something that may have been useful. I was real proud to be a member of the Guard.”

Monachino’s contributions to Youth ChalleNGe, a program that provides young people a second chance at a better life and is now nearing its 100,000th graduate, is just one among his myriad accomplishments.

“We wouldn’t have ChalleNGe today, but for Joe,” Rofrano said.

Early in his life Monachino worked as a laborer for his immigrant farming parents. When he decided to pursue formal schooling, his parents sacrificed to put him through law school.

Drafted into the Army after law school, Monachino entered as a specialist, serving in Europe. Returning to the United States, he practiced law in upstate New York before entering the Air Force as a judge advocate and serving in Libya and upstate New York, where he met his future wife, Kay.

He transferred to the Air National Guard in 1972. He served in uniform at the National Guard Bureau from 1974 to 1985, before retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He served Congress for two years, then returned to the bureau as a civilian in 1987 and stayed.

Monachino talked about how all his life he has seen examples of the spirit of 1776 living on to the present day, in the sacrifices of those who did not return from war and those who did.

That spirit of service, he added, includes “not only the military, but civilians, as well.”

And, the National Guard “is going to be there,” Monachino said, as it continues to serve the nation in the years ahead.

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