“I still love serving my community in any way that I can,” said retired Col. Ricky Snellgrove with a smile as he reflected on a 32-year military career serving his community and his country.
“I just loved serving our community, state and nation,” the retired Alabama National Guard colonel said. “I so enjoyed serving with outstanding soldiers who many times put their lives on the line for our great nation.”
Now a Real Estate Associate Broker at Team Linda Simmons Real Estate in Enterprise, Snellgrove’s interest in the military began as a member of the Enterprise High School JROTC.
Snellgrove’s interest in the service industry began years before that though, he said, as he recalled his first money-making endeavor. “I sold boiled peanuts downtown,” said the son of World War II veteran Edward S. and Ruby Nell Snellgrove. “I loved being out and around. I developed a love for this city and its citizens
“The Levy movie theater was downtown and I liked to go to the show, so I would sell enough boiled peanuts to make enough money to go. Mother and daddy would drop me off downtown so I could earn my way,” Snellgrove recalled with a smile. “I got to know everybody in town and that’s how I got all the support that has followed me through the years. They all had watched me grow up; one of the joys of being in a small community.”
Snellgrove said he was hugely impacted by the EHS JROTC instructors retired Col. James Lunsford, retired Master Sgt. George Spiliotis, retired Master Sgt. John Duhaime and retired Command Sgt Maj. Carl Griffin, who later became Enterprise City Clerk and Administrator for 18 years.
In February of his senior year, with three years of JROTC under his belt, the Enterprise High School Class of 1972 member enlisted in the Alabama Army National Guard. “A friend of mine and I were sitting in homeroom talking about what we were going to do after graduation,” Snellgrove recalled. “We went over to talk to Lt. Col Rex Redd and the guys at the National Guard Armory, which was on Crawford Street at the time.” Redd was at that time the battalion full time administrative officer at the 31st Support Battalion in Enterprise.
Snellgrove went to basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Knox, Ky. He returned to Enterprise, graduated from the junior college (formerly Enterprise State Junior College) and the University of Alabama, all while doing his monthly military drilling assigned to the 31st Support Battalion in Enterprise.
The 31st Support Battalion traces its lineage to the 31st Infantry (Dixie) Division, which was organized in October 1916 at Camp Wheeler, Ga. During World War I, the Dixie Division, as it was known, became a replacement unit and its soldiers were sent to the front lines of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. After the war, it was reorganized as a National Guard Division.
As a military organization, the National Guard is the oldest in this country. Alabama Guard units have served in every conflict since the War of 1812.
While in college Snellgrove said Redd asked him what his plans for the future were. ‘I’m going to be a football coach,’ I told him.” Redd said, ‘I need you to come by and talk to me.’
“He told me that he would like me to consider going to work full time with the Guard,” Snellgrove said. “So I did and that started a career that lasted 32 and one half years. What a blessing.”
At Redd’s urging, Snellgrove applied for and successfully graduated from Officer Candidate School.
“As I look back on my career I appreciate so many of my mentors who challenged me to be all I could be,” Snellgrove said, citing Redd, Maj. Gen. A.C. Blalock, Brig. Gen. Ned Turnipseed, Lt. Col. Charlie Stewart, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Elon W. Maddox and Command Sgt. Maj. James Speigner.
“I was blessed to work with what I believe was the greatest Guard community in the state,” Snellgrove said, adding that “total community support,” was key to the “Guard community’s” success. “We had one of the largest National Guard structures in the state.
“We were the third largest payroll in the city of Enterprise in the late 1980s and early 1990s,” Snellgrove said. “We all worked together. I was so thankful and so blessed because we were used as a model Guard community throughout the state and country. It was just amazing to be a part of something so special.
“If I make only one thing clear, it is that our Guard unit had the total support of the city, state and county officials,” Snellgrove said citing some whose support that he credits for the unit’s success: Former mayors M.N. Brown, Don Donaldson, Jackie Thompson, City Council President Dr. John Lester and Councilman Richard Fleming.
The “unbelievable support” of civic leaders, to include Whit Armstrong, Yancey Parker, Ted Averett, Lt. Gen. Ellis D. Parker, Thad Morgan and Charlie Howell are among others he credits for the success of the Guard unit that had up to 65 full time Guardsmen assigned to the armory.
“The bigger towns were always trying to take away what we had because we had such a great organization,” Snellgrove said. “I was young so I didn’t realize the full impact at the time, but Lt. Col. Redd always said that you’ve got to be actively involved in the community because the community is what is going to build a Guard unit. This truth stuck with me then and I carry it with me to this day.”
“We had very popular fish fries at the armory and invited elected officials to come eat dinner with us,” Snellgrove recalled. “We weren’t asking them for anything. It was an unbelievable relationship.
“I am so appreciative of the people in this city,” he added. “It’s amazing what we got accomplished.”
Over the decades, Snellgrove served as a company commander; as S1, the Battalion Commander’s Principal Staff Officer for personnel support; as S3, responsible for training every aspect of a battalion’s operations; and as S4, the Principal Staff Officer responsible for maintenance, transportation, and supply and services for the battalion.
He also served as Executive Officer, Battalion Commander, Deputy Director of Logistics and the Deputy United States Property and Fiscal Officer. He was the first person to come back as Battalion Commander to the unit where he had worked full time. “This was an honor for me” Snellgrove added.
Snellgrove served his final seven years in the military as a colonel at the Alabama National Guard headquarters in Montgomery. He retired active duty in 2004.
Snellgrove’s unaccompanied military tours included Germany, Romania, Belgium and Holland. That brings up the second point that Snellgrove wants to be clear about. “You cannot give enough credit to the family members,” he said, specifically crediting his wife, June.
The couple have three now-grown children, Christi, Lindsay and Brad and seven grandchildren. “I had total support from June,” Snellgrove said. “I was gone so much and she had it all placed on her raising our three kids and keeping up with their busy schedules, in addition to working full time. She did a wonderful job, for which I will always be grateful.”
Would he do it all over again? “Absolutely, absolutely. I loved it,” Snellgrove said. “The enlisted personnel and officers I served with here were outstanding.”
“We served locally during hurricanes, tornados and floods—in addition to our Federal duties,” he added. “Actually being able to help the local citizens was an opportunity of honor, and I still feel this way.
“I look back and thank God for a career of service that brought me from selling boiled peanuts as a child to retiring after a 32-year career of wearing a uniform I loved,” Snellgrove said. “It was an unbelievable and successful career—one that I will always treasure as one of my greatest accomplishments, retiring as a colonel in the Alabama National Guard.
“My God, my country and my family are what I’m all about; service is the key,” he added. “I am thankful and blessed and challenge every young man and woman to consider this option for their future; in the long run, the rewards far outweigh the demand.”