Family Tradition of Serving in the Military and Working for NRCS – Meet Mr. Neil
Two generations, a grandfather serving in the military, and a father who retired from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, have led to a current generation’s path. Mr. Neill Ray, Soil Conservation Technician in Team 18 in the Elizabethtown Field Office, has followed the steps of his dad, John Ray, and grandparents.
“I grew up on a family farm in Hope Mills, which is now a pine plantation,” said Neill. “Serving in the military and working with NRCS is always something I wanted to do because my grandparents served in the military and my dad was NRCS.”
Neill is quick to point-out that he grew-up in the shadow of Fort Bragg and his family service to the US military. “My Granddaddy served during World War II in North Africa, Italy, France, and even my grandmother served in the U.S. Army Women’s Army Corps during the war.”
Upon graduating from South View High School in Hope Mills, he enrolled in Fayetteville Technical Community College getting a degree in Civil Engineering Technology and then enlisted in the Army in 1998.
“I served for six years with the North Carolina Army National Guard and was a Helicopter Crew Chief,” said Neill. “I served in Afghanistan from 2003- 2004.”
Serving in Afghanistan has given Neill a great appreciation for what we have in North Carolina.
“It was eye-opening to be in a third world country that has been in war for generations. They lack so much and the need is great,” said Neill. “Being there makes you really appreciate what you have here…a lot more.”
After leaving service, it wasn’t long before Ray’s career path intersected with his father’s path. Just like his father, Neill knew he wanted to work for NRCS.
“My dad, John Ray, is a retired District Conservationist from NRCS who retired in 2008 after 38 years of service. It is nice to be able to work with the people that speak highly of him and he speaks highly of.”
Neill joined NRCS in 2010 and hit the grown running in his current role as a Soil Conservation Technician.
“I enjoy working for NRCS because it gives me the opportunity to give back to my country, you get to work to make the land better and to protect it.” said Neill. “I get to work with a great bunch of people in NRCS and I really love working with the farmers and putting conservation on the ground…getting outcomes.”
What’s next for Neill? He is currently finishing his Business Administration degree at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and has hopes to move up in the agency.
“I just want to keep growing with the agency and focus on helping the agency and farmers with positive outcomes.”
NRCS wants to thank Mr. Neill Ray for his service to our country and his commitment towards helping farmers and landowners conserve our nation’s valuable natural resources.