02/07/2017 | Story and photo by Sgt. Javier Amador 108th Training Command (IET) Print Journalist NCO
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Berlyn Sutton (center) a previous commander of the 108th Training Command (Initial Entry Training) listens as Maj. Gen. Mark McQueen, (center right) the unit’s current commander speaks during the leadership summit held at the unit’s headquarters in Charlotte N.C on Sep. 17 during a leadership summit hosted by Maj. Gen. Mark McQueen and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Ritti, the current command team of the 108th Training Command (IET). The current command team held the summit in order to get their feedback on the issues and challenges facing their unit as they implement mandated restructuring.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Maj. Gen. Mark McQueen the Commander of the 108th Training Command (Initial Entry Training) and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Ritti hosted a leadership summit at their unit’s headquarters Sept. 17. Attending the leadership summit were the previous command teams of the 108th Training Command (IET), some of which led the unit when it was still a division.
Major organizational changes have been mandated for the Army Reserve, affecting command teams at every level and the thousands of Soldiers and civilian employees they lead. While the Army and the Army Reserve remain involved in critical missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan, new missions requiring their unique capabilities are always evolving, requiring Soldiers with the dynamic skill sets to accomplish those missions. More importantly, they require the drill sergeants capable of training those Soldiers to accomplish those new missions while simultaneously ensuring their mastery of the basics.
Maj. Gen. James Mallory (Ret.), a former Commanding General of the 108th Training Command (IET) who led the unit from 2007 to 2010 was among the previous commanding generals attending the leadership summit. He describes the purposes of the summit and in what way he hopes the past command teams can help the current command team by sharing their experiences with change.
“There’s two reasons we’re having this meeting. The commanding general, Maj. Gen. McQueen is amid a major reformation. Changes in unit structure, locations, missions, so it’s helpful for him to get some feedback from prior commanders who have likewise gone through the same process,” said Mallory. “The second reason is that there continues to be systemic challenges out there making it difficult to recruit, train and retain drill sergeants, the primary weapons system of this command.”
In contrast, another former commander of the unit who attended the summit, Maj. Gen. Berlyn Sutton (Ret.), who commanded the 108th Training Command (IET) from 1980 to 1983, described how much easier the recruiting and training of drill sergeants was like during his time in command.
Finding enough Soldiers wanting to become drill sergeants was somewhat easier in those days. It was looked upon as quite a perk to be able to go to drill sergeant school and the requirements were not as stringent, so it wasn’t very difficult to find Soldiers wanting to go. We were at the beginning of the (Army) Reserve drill sergeant training program, so of course we ran our own school here at the division. Battalion commanders were responsible for seeing that they got the required 60 drill sergeants from each of their companies, so within those battalions we would encourage and recruit Soldiers to go to drill sergeant school, said Sutton.
Matters changed for the worse as the unit entered the nineties, requiring a creative solutions to two key problems. Finding the right kind of Soldiers qualified to become drill sergeants and finding enough of them to meet the demand for the eventual growth that was to come.
A large drawdown in the early nineties reduced our structure by 40 percent. We went from four brigades to two brigades, 16 battalions of drill sergeants to around 12. This created a recruiting pool too small, followed by a decline in the propensity to serve. To fix this, we had to get close to the units producing the right Soldier. The noncommissioned officers we needed weren’t just in North or South Carolina. So we went to places where we didn’t have a presence like Georgia, Florida and Puerto Rico. We also incorporated the one-army school system as well. Together, it helped us achieve an 85 to 90 percent growth rate, said Mallory.
While the focus of the summit was to provide feedback to the latest command team to expedite the restructuring, the opportunity to be with their past peers to do what they’ve done so well for so many years brought with it a certain amount of enjoyment and a desire to continue to serve.
“It’s difficult for a person who has been away as long as I have to believe that I could contribute anything other than some of the things that I have done that may or may not be pertinent now, but I would enjoy coming back at any time,” said Sutton.