“Dragon 6, all of us here today join in offering best wishes … for blue skies, light breezes, full canopies and soft drop zones in all that lies ahead. Good Luck. Godspeed, Air Assault and Airborne all the way,” said the Director David H. Petraeus of the CIA to Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick during Helmick’s retirement ceremony Tuesday at Fort Bragg.

Amidst Family members and an audience that sounded more like a who’s who of Army generals, Helmick, commanding general, XVIII Airborne Corps, said goodbye to the Army, after nearly 37 years of service.

Petraeus, a former Army general, served as guest speaker for the event, which was attended by other flag officers and special guests, including Helmick’s classmates from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Helmick graduated from West Point in 1976, along with Gen. David Rodriguez, commanding general, U.S. Forces Command, who participated in the relinquishment of command ceremony during the event.

Others in attendance included, former Dep. Defense Secretaries Paul D. Wolfowitz; and Gordon R. England; former N.C. Senator Tony Rand; retired Gen. Dan K. McNeill; Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, commanding general U.S. Army Special Operations Command; Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, director, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization; Fayetteville mayor Tony Chavonne; Spring Lake mayor Chris Rey, among other dignitaries.

“Relinquishing command of this great corps is a significantly emotional event — a must do, but a dreaded task,” Helmick said. “I’m very happy that Lieutenant General Dan Allyn will take command of XVIII Airborne Corps on 22 June. Deb and Dan are the best in the business. They are the absolute right team to take command of this historic corps and Melissa and I wish them the absolute best.”

Helmick said he loved his job as a Soldier and he thanked many officers and noncommissioned officers who helped him throughout his 36-year career.

“You may take this Soldier out of the Army ranks, but you will never take the Soldier out of my heart,” Helmick said as he ended his farewell speech.

“Frank Helmick has brought to every unit and to each of his command and staff positions enormous energy, infectious enthusiasm, extraordinary determination, organizational genius and above all, outstanding leadership and a true passion for out troopers and their Families,” Petraeus said during the ceremony. “In addition to all of that, he has, plain and simple, been a true comrade and a great friend to many of us.”

Petraeus then thanked Melissa Helmick and daughters, Jane and Christina, for their support throughout Helmick’s career.

Helmick served as Petraeus’ assistant division commander, while they both were assigned to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Helmick most recently served as deputy commanding general for operations, U.S. Forces-Iraq during the drawdown and eventual withdrawal of U.S. Forces from the country in 2011. He was also responsible for the current deployment of units to Afghanistan and the Corps’ humanitarian mission to Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake that rocked the small country in January 2010.

Petraeus closed by saying of Helmick, “thanks for all that you have done for our country for the past 36 years. As you take the final salute, know that you have served our Soldiers and our nation magnificently. Everyone here will remember your achievements, recall countless episodes of the pleasure of your comradeship and feel honored to have served with such an exceptional officer.”