Staff Sergeant Ross Russell's tenure with the T&T Defence Force, which falls under the Ministry of National Security, has come to an end after 26 years.
This also means that, at present, the 47-year-old will not be able to serve the Army-Coast Guard combination as coach of its Digicel T&T Pro League football team as head coach or in any official position.
Only if Russell–the most successful coach of the Defence Force football set-up in recent years�is promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer would he be able to serve the TTDF and its top-flight football team for three more years–something Russell has been very optimistic about over the past year.
At present, Russell's able apprentice and close friend, 36-year-old Lance Corporal Marvin Gordon, will serve as interim head coach and will lead the soldiers out against Play Whe San Juan Jabloteh from 7 pm at the Marvin Lee Stadium on Saturday in Round One Match Day Eight of the 2014-2015 Digicel Pro League.
Another former player, Anton Joseph, will continue to serve as assistant coach of the top-flight Defence Force football team.
Last month, Russell served out his final days of his 26 years as a member of the TTDF prior to December 18 when the Staff Sergeant reached his 47th birthday�the retirement age based on his last rank�two days after his last match in charge which ended in a 1-1 draw with Point Fortin Civic.
Russell's successes as coach of Defence Force's top-flight team includes winning the soldiers' two (Digicel) Pro League championships (2010-2011 & 2012-2013), the First Citizens Cup (2009) and the Digicel Pro Bowl (2012) during his spell, which began in 2009.
Last season, Defence Force, interrupted by issues relating to national security, went trophyless for Defence Force. It was also a traumatic season for the team, after 30-year-old club winger and T&T player Kevon Carter died of a heart attack on February 28, 2014, and two months earlier defender Rawle Fletcher was murdered in his Couva hometown.
However Russell's accomplishments in the new era of professional football in T&T have not gone unnoticed.
"He (Russell) was a dedicated soldier... both to country and organisation," said Lieutenant Basil Thompson, who serves as the team manager. "He usually puts country first (opting to various national football team coaching duties) during times of military courses where he could have been promoted in the service. He served the country in football and even in the service he has always been diligent, never once having a problem. And with the current squad of footballers we have, the motivation he inspires is unparallel."
Despite being away from the job, it is also understood that Russell, who presently serves the T&T men's Under-17 team as assistant coach/goalkeeper coach, continues to unofficially share advice with the current coaching staff at Defence Force FC.
"I think I've served the service well and never brought it under any disrepute," said Russell, who has also served T&T men's and women's teams from youth to senior levels in various coaching positions. "I thought I deserved the promotion to serve a few more years."
Today, the former national said he holds no regrets over his decision 26 years ago to join the T&T Defence Force.
Russell, a 19-year-old captain of the national Under-20 team, enrolled in the army in 1988 and went on to serve the Defence Force admirably as a soldier and footballer.
"I think the Defence Force was good to me," Russell added. "I enjoyed every moment in the Defence Force... all 26 years of it and I won't change anything even if I had the chance. I think I was a very good soldier and served the Defence Force and country to the best of my ability."
Russell, during his early time as a soldier, was at the time the only national footballer serving the infantry battalion of the TTDF but went on to have an exciting and well-accomplished playing career. He won every title on offer domestically, which included multiple national league titles and the FA Trophy, as well as the Caribbean Club title.
But for Russell his most precious memory is "leading Defence Force to ten straight league wins then winning the (2010-2011 Digicel Pro) league title as coach," while his fondest military memories includes being a member of Echo Company (military unit) and being a footballer while serving in the front line, as well as "being the fittest recruit in my time."
Russell's son, Ross Russell Jr, a left-footed defender/winger, has already followed some of his father's footsteps, representing T&T at youth level, and joining the military where he also serves the Defence Force top-flight team.
Russell Sr said he plans to continue coaching for as long as he can, and there are already offers from local clubs, but plans to weigh his options carefully.