Shortly after relinquishing command of the 63rd Regional Support Command, Maj. Gen. Nickolas Tooliatos ’80, J.D. ’83 retired from the Army Reserve after 36 years of service.
Tooliatos received the Distinguished Service Medal from Maj. Gen. Peter Lennon, Deputy Commanding General (Support), U.S. Army Reserve Command, capping off a career which began in 1980.
Tooliatos joined the Army Reserve after graduating from Santa Clara University that year, and was commissioned as a Distinguished Military Graduate. In the three decades that followed he served in leadership positions throughout the Army Reserve, culminating in his three-year tenure as commanding general of the 63rd RSC. Tooliatos, of San Ramon, Calif., remembered the day he took his oath of office as a second lieutenant 36 years ago.
“The day I commissioned I had my mother, my father, my sister Paula and my then fiancée Joni (Chiesa) ‘80, M.B.A. ’82 in the Rose Garden at Santa Clara University just a few miles up the road,” Tooliatos said. “My mother and Joni pinned my bars on. As I looked across at my dad he had a grin from ear to ear. My dad was a World War II (battle of) Peleliu Marine and he was the greatest patriot I’ve ever met.”
“I owe my life to my wife Joni, who has stood by me through everything,” he said.
“She’s been there through deployments … through rocket attacks when I would click the Skype off so she wouldn’t have to hear the incoming rounds. I’d call back and say it was a bad connection,” Tooliatos joked.
The demands of Army life often meant missing important family events, including his children’s baseball games.
“My poor kids had to endure me coaching baseball games in my old Battle Dress Uniform back in the day,” he said. “How many kids do you think had their dad coaching a game in BDU’s? I’ll always be thankful to my battalion commander who gave me the leeway to do that and let me maintain some balance.”
“I challenge all of you to maintain that balance. Your priorities are your family, your civilian job and then the United States Army,” he continued. “The Army is a jealous mistress. She will take as much time as you’re willing to give her and we need you. But you have to maintain that balance.”
Tooliatos thanked all his mentors and influences for helping him improve as an officer and reach the rank of major general.
“In some way they all gave me opportunities that I probably didn’t deserve and praise on evaluation reports that I probably didn’t earn,” Tooliatos said. “Thanks for being great teammates and bringing out the best in me.”
Being afforded the opportunity to command the 63rd RSC as his last assignment has been an honor and a privilege, he said.
“You are a great group of soldiers and it’s been an honor to serve alongside you,” he said with pride.
Even in retirement Tooliatos asserted that he would remain a Soldier.
“When I was on the Army Reserve Forces Policy Committee we coined the concept called ‘Soldier for Life,’” Tooliatos said. “Believe me I’m going to be a Soldier for life,” he said.
Although he has retired from the Army Reserve, he will continue to practice law in the Pleasanton, California, firm of Randick, O’Dea & Tooliatos, LLP, where he is a Certified Specialist in Probate, Estate Planning and Trust Law. He plans to take Joni on some well-deserved and long-deferred trips to see the world and play golf and hunt with his two sons, Nickolas and Michael.