Indiana National Guard Major General Martin Umbarger retires after 46 years of service to his country
Adjutant Major General R. Martin Umbarger says he never thought about making a career out of his military commitment. However, after nearly 46 years of service, he will retire from the Indiana National Guard on May 31.
“You just never know where the road of life will take you,” Umbarger says. “I’m very appreciative and I feel privileged to have worn this uniform for almost 46 years. I made the decision to stay and it was the greatest decision I ever made. This has been a very fulfilling career.”
Umbarger’s grandfather started a feed business in 1939, Roy Umbarger & Son, in Bargersville. His father, Walter, went into the business, leaving to serve in WWII shortly after marrying his mother. Umbarger was born close to 9 months to the day of his father returning home from the war.
He grew up in Bargersville, graduating from Center Grove High School in 1965. He was an athlete, playing football and basketball. He earned a football scholarship to University of Evansville where he graduated with a business degree in 1969. When he returned home, his dad asked the question, “What are you going to do about your military obligations?” Although Umbarger says he thought he’d enlist in the Marines, his dad persuaded him to pursue the National Guard. A month after his college graduation, he enlisted in the Indiana National Guard.
“There was an armory in Martinsville and so I went down there and said ‘I’d like to join the National Guard,’” Umbarger says. “He said ‘you and 100 others’ because there was a waiting list. He saw where that I had a degree so about two weeks later, to my surprise, my mother got a phone call.”
While serving as a Citizen Soldier, Umbarger got hired by Mobil Oil Corp. and was sent to Rochester, N.Y. for 6-month training. He returned to work in Indianapolis. He says he enjoyed the job, but missed working in agriculture, his hometown and saw that in the corporate world he would continue to get moved around. He decided to join his dad in the business. Two years later, his Guard unit was called.
After turning down an offer to go to officer candidate school, Umbarger says he was assigned kitchen duties until he finally decided to attend and finished the school. Once his six years were finished, he was asked to remain in the Guard. After 10 years, he said his business was going so well, he asked to resign. His supervisor asked him to stay again, just for a year. One year turned into 22 years. He had enough time to retire from the military as a lieutenant coronel. It was then the adjutant general who asked him to stay.
“All of us that served in the military, we all have mentors, someone that you respect and look up to,” Umbarger says. “At times in your life you have decisions to make. Both of these officers didn’t scold me for wanting to resign. I had the right to retire. They said I think you did a great job; have you looked at your other opportunities; would you consider remaining around?”
Right after Sept. 11, 2001, Umbarger spent three years at a major army headquarters assisting the mobilization of the National Guard. When Umbarger was appointed to the position to lead the Indiana National Guard in March 2004, he said he knew that there would be an ongoing need to prepare troops for the war on terror.
“I knew we were going to be in this for the long haul,” Umbarger says. “I felt that we had to make certain that we articulated that to our soldiers and their families. A lot of them are deployed for more than a year. A lot of them have businesses. We had to make sure that we had programs to support them.”
As general, he has had a large part in reactivating Camp Atterbury and the creating Muscatatuck, the largest urban training facility in the department of defense. The property was a state-owned facility designated for wards of the state, which was no longer in use. Umbarger says they were able to acquire it, turning it into a useful component to the urban training for not only military, but emergency responders as well.
“My biggest accomplishment was the number of soldiers that we deployed and trained and how we tried to assist them in their training and ready to go and taking care of their families while they were gone,” Umbarger says. “I’m also very proud of the professionalism of the Indiana National Guard, the over 140,000 soldiers and airman that make it up. They can always be depended upon.”
Feeling it was time to retire, Umbarger says he knew there was a “good group of subordinate general officers that would be good candidates to choose from.” He announced his decision to Governor Mike Pence, who announced his selection for the new general in April.
Serving as general has been more than a full-time job, and Umbarger says he and his wife, Rowana, are looking forward to the extra time they’ll have together and with their three children. They hope to travel more and have a European river cruise planned. He will also return to the family business, Umbarger Show Feeds, and help where he is needed. The business is in its fourth generation, owned by Umbarger his son, Jackson.
Umbarger also intends to do more philanthropic work. He serves on the board of trustees for Franklin College and for Johnson Memorial Hospital and he will continue that.
“I could not have done it without the support of my spouse,” Umbarger says. “She has been by my side. She understands when she has things planned and I find at last minute that I have an obligation… I will have plenty of opportunities to fill my time; I just want to make sure it’s balanced – toward my family at the heaviest.”