This is the last article I will be writing as your CSM and as the CSM of the 108th Training Command, the greatest command in the US Army. My tenure and military career will end on 15 July 2018. I will be retiring after forty years of continuous service and I’m proud to say, I enjoyed every bit of it and would do anything to do it all over again. I’m constantly asked if I’m happy to be retiring and I can honestly say “No”! I will definitely miss the outstanding, professional and courageous men and women I had the honor and privilege to serve with over the last four decades. The men and women who stood ready to answer the nation’s call at a moment’s notice and without question or compromise. There is no question about it that we have the greatest and most incredible NCO corps in the world. We have amazing officers that truly understand the meaning of leading from the front and our formations are filled with the bravest Soldiers out of any one of the armed forces or any country around the world. But with that said, there is always room for improvement.
There is so much chaos in the world today that we have to constantly be completely ready and that means trained and ready to move out if and when that call comes. We’ve come a long way but still have a long way to go. In my career I’ve seen so many changes in our Army, but the one thing that will never change is our values. Our Army Values are the foundation of everything we stand for. I’ve said it over and over that if you live by the Army Values, everything else will fall into place. At the Drill SGT of the Year board I presided over last week, I asked the competitors what they felt the strongest value was and each replied Integrity; always doing what’s right.
One thing I feel very strongly about is mentorship. I truly feel our Soldiers today are not mentored the way we were years ago. As a young PFC, an outstanding NCO by the name of SSG William Adkins took me under his wing and constantly taught me everything I needed to know about being a professional Soldier. And it wasn’t just me, it was every member of the squad. Some listened and some did not. As you can guess, the ones who listened to his guidance, his experience and his expertise were the ones who always prospered and never had problems. We need to get back to good old fashion mentoring of our Soldiers. I’m not talking about through emails, but good old fashion eyeball to eyeball counseling and mentoring. Teaching our Soldiers what ‘right looks like’.
I also believe that our Soldiers today are starving for engaged leadership. Some of our first line leaders think that their Soldiering duties are over at the final formation of a Battle Assembly weekend. They couldn’t be more wrong. Effective leaders, first line leaders and in fact all leaders need to take extreme ownership of the Soldiers they are responsible for. Ensuring their Soldiers know everything there is to know about being proficient in their Warrior tasks and skills. I wish that those first line leaders would be more proactive in teaching their Soldiers about the Army Values and especially Integrity. Think about it, if we spent more time with our Soldiers sharing our own experiences and expertise with them about what right looks like, we could probably eliminate half of the issues that cause Soldiers to fail or get themselves into trouble. So I ask every Green Tab Leader, to take stock in your Soldiers and train them, counsel them, mentor them and get them on that road to success. I’m tired of hearing ‘leaders’ at every level say “with everything going on we have no time for this or no time for that”. To be perfectly honest, that’s a lame excuse. Leaders make things happen. They find time to get their Soldiers ready. They find time to train and develop their Soldiers and make them ‘All they can Be’. And here’s something I’ll say again because it’s worth repeating, Readiness is an NCO’s responsibility. The third paragraph of our NCO creed states that ‘Officers should have maximum time to complete their jobs, they should not have to do mine’! So NCOs, take ownership of Soldier Readiness, they are our future! I can’t even begin to count how many Soldiers I’ve observed over the years that were the epitome of a true Warrior. Soldiers that will do anything asked of them and do it with pride. Let’s keep them motivated and develop them into becoming the Ultimate Weapon. Good meaningful training and good leadership equals success.
Well, I’ll never be able to thank each of you personally for everything you do but I do appreciate the hard work you’ve put into making our Army the greatest Army on earth. I am confident that because of the outstanding men and women we have in our formations, the Army will continue to keep rolling along. At this point I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize a few great leaders who really had an enormous effect on my career. First, SSG William Atkins who took a personal interest in me as a young PFC and developed me into an NCO. I will always be grateful to him for what he’s done for me. May he rest in peace. CSM James Mello, a great mentor who taught me what a CSM is responsible for and held me accountable for everything that happened in my battalion. MG Robert Catalonotti, who selected me to serve as his CSM in the 1st BDE of the 98th Division. COL Joseph Bartasius, who I also served with at both Battalion and Brigade level. BG John Hussey, a hard core leader who used every opportunity to mentor me and always valued my suggestions. MG Leslie Purser, who I’ll forever be grateful to for selecting me as her CSM of the 108th Training Command. She was an incredible role model to not only female Soldiers and young officers, but to every Soldier in the command. CSM Rocci Derezza who recommended me for this position and was a great warrior that I had the pleasure of serving with in Iraq. And last but not lease, my battle buddy and one of the greatest leaders in the history of the US Army, MG Mark McQueen.
MG McQueen is the epitome of what a General Officer should be. At the 108th Training Command’s 2018 DSOY and BWC, I handed over the guest speaker honors to him because of his unique concern of enlisted Soldiers and the NCO corps. MG McQueen found a way to put thirty hours in a twenty-four hour day and made it happen because, he took extreme ownership of everything that was happening with every Soldier in the 108th Training Command. I can never thank him enough for being not only a battle buddy but a true friend. And I will never ever forget, my enlisted assistant, one of the best NCOs the Army has ever known, SFC Denver Scaggs. SFC Scaggs is without question a true Warrior, an incredible mentor, and an NCO that the Army cannot afford to let go. He has done so many things for so many Soldiers that has truly impacted their decision to stay in the Army. Thank you SFC Scaggs for being a terrific friend, a great battle buddy and most of all, for being someone who truly cares about Soldiers. I wish I could mention every NCO and Officer that I’ve served with who mentored me along my career but I would feel terrible if I missed one or two of you so all I can do is say Thank You for being part of my life and my career. Thank you for the good times and being there with me for the difficult times. I will never forget any of you. I wish you all the best and ask that you never let anything get between you and your goals. Because again, the only thing that stands between you and your goals are excuses.
Until we meet again,
This we’ll Defend
First in Training