Tag Archives: Fort Bliss

HRC leaders reach out to Fort Bliss NCOs at town hall

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By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

Is it true that assignment officers at U.S. Army Human Resources Command save the great jobs for their friends? Or, that assignment officers sit on the promotion boards?

HRC’s Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson has heard many of the fallacies about HRC and urges Soldiers to reject the myths.

“A lot of [the negativity] is [because of a] lack of education,” Jefferson said before a town hall for senior noncommissioned officers in December at Fort Bliss, Texas. “What we try to do is inform the field of what we are doing and why we do it …

Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson of U.S. Army Human Resources Command (right), with Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (left) and Sgt. Maj. Derek Johnson, deputy chief of staff G1 sergeant major at Headquarters Department of the Army, take on talent management during the third town hall in November at Fort Eustis, Virginia. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson of U.S. Army Human Resources Command (right), with Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (left) and Sgt. Maj. Derek Johnson, deputy chief of staff G1 sergeant major at Headquarters Department of the Army, take on talent management during the third town hall in November at Fort Eustis, Virginia. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

If a Soldier doesn’t get a promotion or assignment he or she wants, “it’s not because the assignment manager doesn’t like you or doesn’t want to send you to those locations,” he said. “It’s because you have to meet certain criteria. The way we dispel those myths is to talk Soldiers through it and educate the leaders. The leaders can help us to educate the Soldier on how the assignment process works.”

Jefferson and Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands, HRC commander, visited Fort Bliss on Dec. 14 to reach out to both noncommissioned and commissioned service members. For Jefferson and Seamands, the advantages of doing these HRC road shows are twofold.

“There’s a benefit for us at HRC because we get to come out here and listen to the Soldiers in the field, to find out what’s on their minds and how we can make things better for them and their organizations,” Jefferson said. “The other part is for us to show transparency. We inform the Soldiers of what’s going on and what kinds of changes are taking place within their career management fields. That way, they are aware of what’s taking place and how it affects them and their families.”

As the Army downsizes, Jefferson said talent management is not just HRC’s responsibility.

U.S. Army Human Resources Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson (right), with Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands, HRC Commander, discusses professional development with noncommissioned officers Dec. 14 at Fort Bliss, Texas. Jefferson says road shows are part of HRC’s efforts to show transparency. (Photo by Mehgan Portillo, NCO Journal)
U.S. Army Human Resources Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson (right), with Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands, HRC commander, discusses professional development with noncommissioned officers Dec. 14 at Fort Bliss, Texas. Jefferson says road shows are part of HRC’s efforts to show transparency. (Photo by Meghan Portillo, NCO Journal)

“We [at HRC] identify the Soldiers that need to move to these different positions in our Army, but once we place Soldiers on assignment, then the unit has the responsibility in managing that talent,” Jefferson said. “The leaders on the ground ensure that Soldiers get to the right schools they need in order to develop the talent and go forward.”

He also recently spoke about the issue during Army Training and Doctrine Command’s third town hall in November at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Many questions and complaints heard during HRC’s road shows are linked to recent revisions in Army policy.

“It’s just the fear of change,” Jefferson said. “When we decided to make the change to a new noncommissioned officer evaluation report, a lot of people were in an uproar about it. But now that we have been doing this NCOER for almost 12 months, not a lot of people are arguing about it. Now, it’s just learning how to write those evaluations. Same thing with STEP,” the Select, Train, Educate, Promote policy for promotion.

Jefferson often offers his assistance to Soldiers at the road shows. If, for example, a Soldier has an issue with his or her assignment and is not connecting with the assignment officer to discuss it, Jefferson will take the Soldier’s information and meet with the assignment officer in an effort to get both parties in touch. Also, if Soldiers continue to take issue with a certain policy or question its relevance, they may count on Jefferson to take up the debate with the deputy chief of staff, G-1.

“If it’s something we think we should look at, we’ll take that back to the Army G-1 and say, ‘We have got this feedback from the Soldiers out in the field. Maybe we could look at this policy, and see if it’s still relevant or if we need to adjust it,’” Jefferson said.

As for those NCOs looking for advice on how to get ahead in the Army, Jefferson said it’s all about self-improvement.

“The way you do that is by going to military schools, by taking the hard jobs and developing yourself and making sure that you are technically and tactically proficient in your career management field,” he said. “Also, reach out to your mentors and find out what else you need to be doing. But the most important thing to prepare yourself for promotion, regardless of what job you are in, is do the best you can and ensure that your evaluation says exactly how you did in that position. Along with going to the schools, that’s the major way to develop ourselves.”

The command sergeant major said he has grown a lot in his 18 months on the job and learns something new every day, especially in his interactions with Soldiers.

“I want to make an impact on the Soldiers and families because that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “Our job is to ensure that Soldiers and our families are taken care of, and I am very passionate about that. There are going to be some Soldiers saying, ‘It’s just HRC again,’ but there is another Soldier out here who I am going to have an impact on ─ something that I am going to say today is going to impact him and his family, or I am going to be able to assist them with something and they are going to put that trust back in HRC and think, ‘Well, maybe they are not the bad guys.’”

Jefferson often leaves NCOs with the same bit of advice ─ develop a passion for what they do, and success will come.

“If you are passionate about something, you are going to be successful in doing that,” he said. “Remain competent and relevant. If you are a leader, all these changes affect all of our Soldiers and their families. You have to know what’s going on in our Army today in order for you to be an effective leader.”

204th Military Intelligence Battalion welcomes new NCOs

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

Surrounded by exhibits depicting the greatness of the NCO Corps through the ages, nine new leaders were welcomed into the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion in an NCO induction ceremony Sept. 8 at the NCO Heritage and Education Center at Fort Bliss, Texas.

The inductees were addressed by guest speaker Sgt. Maj. Richard Tucker, who until his recent retirement was the director for the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
The inductees were addressed by guest speaker Sgt. Maj. Richard Tucker, who until his recent retirement was the director for the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“These Soldiers have shown they are no longer ‘worker bees.’ They have set themselves apart as professionals,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Ken Bean, command sergeant major of the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion, 470th Military Intelligence Brigade. “I’m very proud of the NCOs in our NCO Corps and where they are today. I see them stepping up in a time of turmoil to train and take care of our nation.”

At the start of the ceremony, the inductees were addressed by guest speaker Sgt. Maj. Richard Tucker, who until his recent retirement was the director for the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. He encouraged them to prioritize their education and to take their roles as Army leaders seriously.

Nine new NCOs were inducted into the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion on Thursday during a ceremony at the NCO Heritage Center at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Nine new NCOs were inducted into the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion during a ceremony Sept. 8 at the NCO Heritage and Education Center at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“People like me, I’m a dinosaur,” Tucker said. “It’s almost time for me to go. As a matter of fact, I walk the stage tomorrow for my retirement ceremony. And right now, I go to sleep every night nice and peaceful, because I know the greatest men and women of this country are protecting me. It’s you guys. You staff sergeants, sergeants first class: You are the future.”

Sgt. Davonte Winn walks under an archway, signifying his transition from junior enlisted Soldier to NCO. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Sgt. Davonte Winn walks under an archway, signifying his transition from junior enlisted Soldier to NCO. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

Following Tucker’s address, the audience joined the inductees in reciting the NCO Creed. Then, three NCOs representing the NCOs of the past, present and future lit three candles displayed behind wooden “N,” “C” and “O” letters. A red candle represented valor, a white candle honor and integrity, and a blue candle vigilance.

As their names were called, the young men and women each walked under a wooden archway signifying their transition from junior enlisted to NCO and then signed their name alongside their command sergeant major’s on their certificate – the “Charge to the Newly Promoted Noncommissioned Officer.” To end the ceremony, the group proudly sang the Army song.

Sgt. Luis Peluyera Rivera, one of the nine inducted during the ceremony, said he is proud of his and his comrades’ accomplishments.

“I feel like I’ve made it. We are the backbone of the Army, and it is great to finally be a part of it,” he said.

The charge to the newly promoted noncommissioned officer, signed by both the NCO and the command sergeant major, states, “I will discharge carefully and diligently the duties of the grade to which I have been promoted and uphold the traditions and standards of the Army. I understand that Soldiers of lesser rank are required to obey my lawful orders. Accordingly, I accept responsibility for their actions. As a noncommissioned officer, I accept the charge to observe and follow the orders and directions given by supervisors acting according to the laws, articles and rules governing the discipline of the Army, I will correct conditions detrimental to the readiness thereof. In so doing, I will fulfill my greatest obligation as a leader and thereby confirm my status as a noncommissioned officer.” (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
The charge to the newly promoted noncommissioned officer, signed by both the NCO and the command sergeant major, states, “I will discharge carefully and diligently the duties of the grade to which I have been promoted and uphold the traditions and standards of the Army. I understand that Soldiers of lesser rank are required to obey my lawful orders. Accordingly, I accept responsibility for their actions. As a noncommissioned officer, I accept the charge to observe and follow the orders and directions given by supervisors acting according to the laws, articles and rules governing the discipline of the Army, I will correct conditions detrimental to the readiness thereof. In so doing, I will fulfill my greatest obligation as a leader and thereby confirm my status as a noncommissioned officer.” (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Three NCOs acting on behalf of NCOs of the past, present and future light three candles. The red candle represents valor, the white honor and integrity, and the blue vigilance. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Three NCOs acting on behalf of NCOs of the past, present and future light three candles. The red candle represents valor, the white honor and integrity, and the blue vigilance. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

‘Share the knowledge,’ SMA Dailey urges fellowship program grads

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

Eager to share what they have learned with the next generation of senior noncommissioned officers, 19 sergeants major graduated in August from the pioneering U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program at Fort Bliss, Texas. The graduates, all newly armed with master’s degrees in adult education from Pennsylvania State University, will perform two- to three years as senior NCO instructors in the Sergeants Major Course.

Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of USASMA, congratulates Sgt. Maj. Christopher A. Roche. Defreese called the graduation a major milestone for the NCO Corps and NCO education. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of USASMA, congratulates Sgt. Maj. Christopher A. Roche. Defreese called the graduation a major milestone for the NCO Corps and NCO education. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

Dubbing it a major milestone for the NCO Corps and NCO education, Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, commandant of USASMA, said the distance-learning program was “specifically designed to further our NCO Professional Development System and this should indicate … the Army is committed to the education of our NCOs.”

Advancing the corps

Sylvester Smith, fellowship program manager, read a congratulatory letter to the graduates from Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey during the ceremony Aug. 22. Calling the graduating class an inspiration, Dailey wrote “information is a commodity” and urged graduates of the online program to share it.

“I firmly believe you will continue to advance the corps and the Army as you apply your newfound knowledge as instructors in our academy,” Dailey wrote. “Do not hold anything back. As NCOs, we are trained if we share the knowledge then we as a corps will be able to develop and train the most versatile and effective corpsmen our Army has ever seen.”

Sgt. Maj. Jason B. Johnson receives congratulations after graduating from the USASMA Fellowship Program at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. Maj. Jason B. Johnson receives congratulations after graduating from the USASMA Fellowship Program at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

Offering his own congratulations, Smith said the “graduates represent the best of the profession in the Army and set the standard” for others to follow.

“In your search for knowledge, collectively you have increased your value to service and country,” Smith told the graduates.

Though no specific military occupational specialty is sought, the cross-section of students face an advanced curriculum to better professionalize senior NCO instructors in the classroom. Under the fellowship program, fellows have one year to focus exclusively on completing a master’s degree in adult education.

Guest speaker Renata S. Engel, associate vice provost for online programs at Penn State, told the crowd she was very pleased that two historic organizations such as the university and the U.S. Army came together in a special program and praised the graduates as “risk-takers.”

The 19 graduates are due to perform two- to three years as senior NCO instructors in the Sergeants Major Course. (Photo by David Crozier / U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy)
The 19 graduates, shown with William Diehl and Renate S. Engel from Pennsylvania State University, are due to perform two- to three years as senior NCO instructors in the Sergeants Major Course. (Photo by David Crozier / U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy)

“You were the first,” Engel said. “There was a risk involved, and I would like to think risk without preparation is folly. … But risk with preparation, along with the confidence that comes that you’re building on foundation … what you create is a path that is more accessible to those who follow. … It’s not just what you accomplish. It’s what you enable others to accomplish, and your degrees in education are actually going to elevate that even higher.”

‘Stick with learning’

In closing her address, Engel said she wouldn’t be giving the graduates any advice as graduation guest speakers often do. Instead, she offered them two wishes.

Graduates from the pioneering U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program at Fort Bliss, Texas, take their seats during a ceremony. Nineteen sergeants major graduated Aug. 22 with master's degrees in adult education from Pennsylvania State University. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Graduates from the pioneering U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program at Fort Bliss, Texas, take their seats during a ceremony. Nineteen sergeants major graduated Aug. 22 with master’s degrees in adult education from Pennsylvania State University. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“I wish that at some point in your life as an educator you have the joy that comes from a student, a learner, someone who’s following you, tell you about the impact that you have made on them,” Engel said. “It’s going to happen, and it’s going to be amazing when it does. … The second wish I have for you is a wish that you will always want, and I don’t just mean in your profession but … throughout life ─ that you love learning and find so much appreciation for it that you stick with learning.”

The fellowship program offers an opportunity for qualified active-duty senior NCOs to become ambassadors of the Army in the classroom who will help develop agile, adaptive and innovative leaders of the future.

After the past year, Sgt. Maj. Timothy W. Magee and Sgt. Maj. Manuel D. Atencio said they are ready to take their talents into the classroom.

“I am hoping to impress what I have learned in school with the students, and partly the information that I have learned in school is going to help us empathize with what the students are going to be going through,” Magee said. “We know from first-hand experience the pressure we felt going through a new program that we didn’t know anything about. That’s exactly how these students coming through the Sergeant Major Course feel. We’ve got recent education experience with the same anxieties that they are getting ready to experience, so I think that’s going to help us [in the classroom].”

“It was a transformational process, not having been in school for a while to taking four classes at one time,” Atencio said. “It was a great learning experience.”

Both graduates said they would recommend the fellowship program to senior NCOs and encourage them to continue their education.

“I think it’s a very worthwhile program,” Magee said. “One of the amazing parts was when we all got together at Christmas time and we had just completed four classes. … I didn’t realize I had learned anything until we sat around and talked. Just listening to everybody say, ‘Well we talked about this, and we learned this and we learned that,’ and I’m like ‘Holy cow, we actually did learn something.’ It was amazing and pretty fun, too.”

 

Fellowship program graduates
  • Sgt. Maj. James J. Adcock
  • Sgt. Maj. Manuel D. Atencio
  • Sgt. Maj. Scot D. Cates
  • Sgt. Maj. Carl B. Dwyer Jr.
  • Sgt. Maj. John O. Garrison
  • Sgt. Maj. Reginald R. Gooden
  • Sgt. Maj. Jason B. Johnson
  • Sgt. Maj. David J. Lee Jr.
  • Sgt. Maj. Jason F. Leeworthy
  • Sgt. Maj. Timothy W. Magee
  • Sgt. Maj. Patrick D. Mason
  • Sgt. Maj. Feliece Y. Murrell
  • Sgt. Maj. Pedro F. Quiñones
  • Sgt. Maj. Dennis M. Reynolds
  • Sgt. Maj. Ryan C. Robert
  • Sgt. Maj. Christopher A. Roche
  • Sgt. Maj. Timothy C. Todd
  • Sgt. Maj. Steven M. Townsend
  • Sgt. Maj. Terry J. Wade

For more information on the program, contact Sgt. Maj. Joseph J. Hissong, director, USASMA Fellowship Program at 915-744-8827 or email him at joseph.j.hissong.mil@mail.mil

Director leads Battle Staff into new era

By MARTHA C. KOESTER 
NCO Journal 

Sgt. Maj. Richard L. Tucker, director of the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, credits many military leaders for an amiable leadership style he honed during his decades-long Army career. But it was a former platoon sergeant at then-Fort Lewis, Washington, who showed him what taking care of Soldiers was really about.

“Regard your Soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”

Staff Sgt. Timothy D. Hughes and Sgt. 1st Class Dillon review their notes during a Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course exercise in the spring at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Staff Sgt. Timothy D. Hughes and Sgt. 1st Class Tannia I. Dillon review their notes during a Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course exercise in the spring at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

That’s what this former platoon sergeant did, Tucker said. He embodied the ancient philosophy of Chinese military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu, which greatly influenced Tucker. It was the way each Soldier was welcomed into the fold and the little things Tucker saw his former platoon sergeant do that went a long way with Soldiers.

This philosophy would set the tone for Tucker’s leadership, whether as a platoon sergeant, first sergeant or later as director of USASMA’s Battle Staff NCO Course at Fort Bliss, Texas.

“I have been fortunate in my entire career as a leader,” Tucker said. “When I was a squad leader, I had great team leaders. As a platoon sergeant, I was really lucky. Down to the lowest private, they were outstanding platoons. The squad leaders, the team leaders, they made my life easy.”

Changing the formula

When Tucker first came to the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course after graduating Class 59 at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, he noticed the curriculum had not evolved along with the Army and suggested a revamp of lessons was in order.

“We developed a couple new classes,” Tucker said. “Some of the existing classes were updated, and some things were added to make the classes more relevant.

Students of the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course strategize during a class exercise in the spring. The military decision-making process is a culminating block of instruction in the course. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Students of the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course strategize during a class exercise in the spring. The military decision-making process is a culminating block of instruction in the course. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“We teach Army doctrine as a whole,” he said. “What you get is classroom discussion and  information-sharing. All students bring a unique plate to the table. One of the biggest things these NCOs learn when they come to our course is where to find the information if they don’t know the answer. Research is one of the biggest things.”

The military decision-making process became the culminating block of instruction within the course. Though some students may see it as overwhelming, Tucker said the military decision-making process is essential for NCOs.

“The role of the NCO has transformed over the past 15 years of war,” Tucker said. “Sergeants major are part of the planning process when the unit is planning the mission. Seventeen, 18 years ago that wasn’t necessarily so.”

Master Sgt. Andrea Thomas, BSNCOC Video Teletraining manager, could not agree more with Tucker.

Sgt. Maj. Richard L. Tucker, right, director of the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, with Master Sgt. Thomas D. Yaudas Jr., center, give representatives of the Israel Defense Forces an overview on the course in the spring at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. Maj. Richard L. Tucker, right, director of the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, with Master Sgt. Thomas D. Yaudas Jr., center, give representatives of the Israel Defense Forces an overview on the course in the spring at Fort Bliss, Texas. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“A lot of times I tell my students we are more than just NCOs who make sure chow is there, guard duty is happening or the sleep tents are up,” Thomas said. “We can be part of that thinking and brainstorming process to help make those military decisions. Trying to close that knowledge gap is important, because we are a valuable asset to the Army.”

VTT is also a large part of BSNCOC because it allows instructors to reach NCOs in distant locations, whether students are sitting in a classroom at Fort Dix, New Jersey, or Italy. The technology behind VTT allows for maximum interaction between the instructors and students, even though they may be separated by an ocean.

 A united front

Tucker said none of the improvements would have been possible without contributions from the many NCOs and civilians who worked as the course writers, developers and manager. They helped get the Battle Staff Course to what it is today – 159 academic hours over the course of four weeks. The NCOs on staff, whether deputy director or instructors, are instrumental to its success.

“I pull them in 10 different directions, but they are very flexible, very professional,” Tucker said. “I have been very fortunate.

“All of my instructors are sergeants first class and master sergeants,” he said. “They are senior NCOs. … Give them the task, and let them figure it out.”

Battle Staff instructors are equally as grateful to have Tucker at the helm.

“We have such camaraderie here in the Battle Staff,” Thomas said. “He trusts us, and that just speaks volumes.

“One team, one fight, and we truly believe that here,” Thomas said. “We want everybody to feel like they are a member of the team and that they can contribute and make this course a success. Tucker has done that. He has turned this course around. And the people, even though we are from all walks of life, we are still brothers and sisters in arms and that’s how we live every day when we come here.”

The BSNCOC touches more than 1,500 students a year, and Tucker sees to it that every resident course is filled to capacity.

“Usually what happens is that at a certain point during registration the staff will start looking to see how many students we have,” Tucker said. “I will start calling every brigade sergeant major. I call the division sergeant major. I start calling every sergeant major I can think of [to fill classes].”

BSNCOC is essential to every NCO’s career, Tucker said. The students come from all walks of Army life, including the aviation, legal and medical branches, as well as military police and cooks.

“I believe it allows an NCO to see another side of the Army,” Tucker said. “It allows you to see things on a bigger scale and look at things in a new light. When they get back to their units, they will start to ask, ‘What were they thinking when they planned this?’”

Students such as Staff Sgt. Craige A. Sears, a supply sergeant, said he couldn’t wait to immerse himself in BSNCOC after trying to get into the course for the past two years.

“I think it’s important to understand the overall staff aspect and what goes into an actual battle staff,” Sears said. “A lot of times you kind of get into a situation where you have the command team, you have leadership positions — you’re a sergeant, commander, platoon sergeant — but you don’t see the behind-the-scenes of what the staff does. Now you get to understand what actually drives the unit, where are all the tasks coming from, the observation post orders. I think that’s huge.

“What I’m learning here is actually going to be an addition to what I have already learned, so it’s just going to help mold me, to make me a better NCO leader,” Sears said.

In September, Tucker will wrap up a nearly 30-year career with the Army. He often tells the NCOs at BSNCOC that he’s glad he is able to end his career on an assignment with a group of quality NCOs like them.

“I look forward to coming to work every day because of the crew in Battle Staff,” Tucker said. “We have made an impact. We have made changes that will continue to make an impact. And at the same time, to have been able to work with a group of professionals like them, you really can’t ask for any more than that.”

Sergeants Major Course students, spouses spruce up Junior Enlisted Family Center as Class 66’s legacy project

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

Class 66 at the U.S. Sergeants Major Academy has chosen to revamp Fort Bliss’ Junior Enlisted Family Center as its legacy project, and the students’ spouses have been leading the way.

Mike Menold was elected by his Family Readiness Group to lead the project along with fellow spouse Darlene Carlan. Menold and Carlan attended the first Spouse Leadership Development Course offered this year at USASMA. The project has allowed them to put into use the networking and leadership skills they gained in the course, Menold said.

The JEFC, run by the Armed Services YMCA, is a place where Soldiers of sergeant rank and below and their families can come for free food, housewares, clothing, books and furniture. They are also welcome to borrow ballgowns for formal occasions.

Before, junior enlisted and their families had to pick through piles of donated clothing, such as the one above, in order to find what they needed. “That is not an image you want to see,” said Mike Menold, the project lead. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Before, junior enlisted and their families had to pick through piles of donated clothing, such as the one above, in order to find what they needed. “That is not an image you want to see,” said Mike Menold, the project lead. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“Our commitment was to make it a friendlier environment for the junior enlisted,” Menold said. “Before, they used to walk in through the back door past mounds and mounds of donated goods, and they would be literally picking through the piles to see what was there for them. That is not an image you want to see. By having the clothing sales store – we call it clothing sales even though everything is free – set up like a boutique with clothing racks that we keep refreshing from the back stock room, it makes them want to come back.”

The JEFC is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from noon to 4 p.m. Junior enlisted Soldiers and their families may choose up to 10 free items each day, or up to 30 each week. There is a waiting list for larger items such as couches, tables and appliances.

Mike Menold was elected, along with Darlene Carlan, by their Family Readiness Group to lead the project. Menold and Carlan attended the first Spouse Leadership Development Course offered this year at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Mike Menold was elected, along with Darlene Carlan, by their Family Readiness Group to lead the project. Menold and Carlan attended the first Spouse Leadership Development Course offered this year at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“It was a mess before,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Tedd Pritchard, the executive director of the ASYMCA at Fort Bliss. “The spouses and the Soldiers really did so much to make the place welcoming to the junior enlisted and their families when they come in. We are so grateful for their time and their hard work.”

A large part of an NCO’s life is dedicated to taking care of Soldiers and their families, and this legacy project reflects that dedication, said Pritchard, who was USASMA’s deputy commandant before retiring and taking his position at the ASYMCA.

“It helps them financially,” said Nicole Range, the JEFC program coordinator. “Some come in here for baby items or to get uniforms when their kids go back to school. I saw one little one come in here without shoes on – the mom said they had broken. There weren’t any that fit her son on the shelf, but I was able to find a pair in the back that were the right size. She was so happy. People really appreciate this. It helps. I hope more senior NCOs will take notice of this place and send their Soldiers our way when they see they are in need.”

Based on the amount of food available, the JEFC will help out families in need as much as possible. It is much better to move the food than to have it sitting on the shelf, Menold said.

 

The goal of the legacy project was to make the JEFC a welcoming place for junior enlisted Soldiers and their families to come and find what they need. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
The goal of the legacy project was to make the JEFC a welcoming place for junior enlisted Soldiers and their families to come and find what they need. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“Before, they didn’t have a process to handle their inventory or move the product out,” Menold said. “Some of the food was two years past the expiration date. We dumped about a ton and a half of food and outsourced almost two tons of food that was on short date that wouldn’t move through here quickly enough. So we got it out to soup kitchens, where it would be used right away. We started a network for them. We are not only giving them a nice new beautification of the building, we are giving them a whole new process of how to manage the system. I had USASMA students writing inventory programs for me, running the wires for the monitoring system. Students came in and painted all these walls.”

To make the JEFC a more family-friendly environment, the Soldiers and spouses set up a play area in the corner where kids can keep busy while mom and dad shop. They also built a changing room with a full-length mirror so visitors can try on clothes to see if they fit.

Before, junior enlisted Soldiers had to come through the back door or walk through the Fort Bliss Officer and Civilian Spouses’ thrift shop to access the JEFC. Now, they have their own entrance. They walk in to see housewares neatly displayed. Books and movies line the shelves, and in a larger room men’s, women’s and children’s clothing is organized and hung on racks donated by Under Armour and other stores on post.

The JEFC, run by the Armed Services YMCA, is a place where Soldiers of sergeant rank and below and their families can come for free food, housewares, clothing, books and furniture.  (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
The JEFC, run by the Armed Services YMCA, is a place where Soldiers of sergeant rank and below and their families can come for free food, housewares, clothing, books and furniture. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“As USASMA spouses, we are only here until graduation in June, and part of the continuity that we want to leave is more than just a legacy project,” Menold said. “We hope other spouses can get involved and volunteer here. The hardest part is turnover of volunteers and controlling the stock. There is always more for the spouses to do.

“When you think about who the junior enlisted Soldiers are — they are the lowest paid of all the armed service branches, and yet they are the very tip of our fighting force’s spear,” he said. “They are the ones dedicating the most, and we can give them more support through the ASYMCA. That’s why I am so passionate about being involved here.”

The JEFC, run by the Armed Services YMCA, is a place where Soldiers of sergeant rank and below and their families can come for free food, housewares, clothing, books and furniture.  (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Sergeants Major Course students and their spouses beautified Fort Bliss’ Junior Enlisted Family Center as the legacy project for Class 66. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)