Tag Archives: Fort Eustis

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.”

Third TRADOC town hall focuses on talent management

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

In the early days of Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport’s 30-plus year career, the young staff sergeant who was on drill sergeant duty was already weighing the merits of impressing his promotion board by getting an associate’s degree. It took hours of hard work as well as a lot of peer support, but the command sergeant major of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command made it to sergeant first class. He never looked back.

Talent management was the focus of TRADOC’s third town hall Thursday, Nov. 3, at Fort Eustis, Virginia, where panelists including Davenport addressed how noncommissioned officers can get ahead in today’s Army.

“It’s about how you identify the very best noncommissioned officer to do these other things to make them a more well-rounded, experienced NCO, and expose them to different things as well,” Davenport said.

Before the start of the third TRADOC virtual town hall, TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport invites Soldiers to engage with panelists via Twitter. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Before the start of the third TRADOC virtual town hall, TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport invited Soldiers to engage with panelists via Twitter. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

With the Army still in the middle of downsizing its ranks, the Noncommissioned Officer 2020 Strategy aims to prepare and mold NCOs into fully developed leaders. The NCO Professional Development System, which is part of NCO 2020, calls for managing talent to better benefit the Army institution and the individual.

“I think everyone has unique abilities, knowledge and skills,” Davenport told the NCO Journal before taking his seat at the virtual town hall. “What we are trying to figure out is how to maximize that, get the right Soldiers in the right job. Not only a job but also in broadening opportunities, and there are many of them. No longer can NCOs be just drill sergeants and recruiters. They can go work with industry, and they can do academic fellowships. We are really trying to open up the aperture to develop NCOs.”

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey warned NCOs that promotions will be based on talent management during the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C., last month.

“We are going to promote people based upon talent, and we will slot people for advancement in the United States Army based upon talent,” Dailey said.

Davenport acknowledged that NCOs have had a lot of information thrown at them about NCO 2020, but he said that’s why the series of TRADOC town halls were developed. They offer an opportunity for Soldiers to get their questions answered from senior NCOs and to have issues placed into context for them.

“Their voice and their opinion matters,” Davenport said. “After all, there’s 391,000 of us Soldiers (that’s across the active component, Guard and Reserve) and I happen to be one. [With the other panel members,] we are a very small percentile of this group of NCOs who are trying to set the course for the next 20 or 30 years for our NCO Corps, and acknowledge all the great gains and all the sacrifices and the great work that NCOs have done, build upon the success.”

Moderator Master Sgt. Michael Lavigne, from left; TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport; Sgt. Maj. Derek Johnson, deputy chief of staff G1 sergeant major at Headquarters Department of the Army; and Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson, command sergeant major of Human Resources Command, prepare for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's third town hall on talent management on Thursday, Nov. 3, at Fort Eustis, Virginia. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Moderator Master Sgt. Michael Lavigne, from left; TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport; Sgt. Maj. Derek Johnson, deputy chief of staff G1 sergeant major at Headquarters Department of the Army; and Command Sgt. Maj. Wardell Jefferson, command sergeant major of Human Resources Command, prepare for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s third town hall on talent management on Thursday, Nov. 3, at Fort Eustis, Virginia. (Photo by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

At a time when staying relevant in today’s Army is crucial, Davenport had some advice for NCOs pondering their futures in the Army.

“Stay current, read and ask questions of those who can make the decisions or give you the proper answer,” he said. “Don’t hesitate to engage senior leaders. Don’t hesitate to engage the branch managers, and take advantage of all this stuff. In this day and age of social media and virtual town halls, leaders are very accessible. You need to take advantage of that.”

The NCO Journal will have more news from the town hall in the coming weeks. Until then, you can watch the entire broadcast at: https://youtu.be/xdXGuYSv7Fc

Camaraderie grows among drill sergeant, AIT platoon sergeant competitors

Previously in The NCO Journal:

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

With the heat and humidity soaring at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, on Thursday, the 15 NCOs competing to be named the top drill sergeant and AIT platoon sergeant had to survive on the small pleasures, like running through some cool mud on the obstacle course, or getting five minutes of shade while talking to a journalist.

Besides those moments, it was just one test after another, whether it was running and marching, training new recruits on the Army Physical Fitness Test or how to clear a room, combatives, a medical situational training exercise and more.

Sgt. 1st Class Jason Scott puts junior Soldiers through the Army Physical Fitness Test on Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, while competing for the title of Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year. (Photos by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Scott does pushups during an obstacle relay Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, while competing for the title of Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year. (Photos by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)

Staff Sgt. Emanuel Olivencia of Company D, 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, California, was one of the nine competing for 2016 Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year. He was impressed by his fellow competitors.

“It’s been a challenge, in a very positive way,” Olivencia said. “I’m learning a lot about myself, trying to measure up to the best NCOs out there. I can tell from their performance that we are striving and improving our force.”

Staff Sgt. Jacob Meyers of Company D, 344th Military Intelligence Battalion in Pensacola, Florida, said he prepared for the heat and humidity by doing his training under the noontime sun in Florida. Meyers was also competing for AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.

Staff Sgt. Jacob Meyers works his way over an obstacle during the AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition Sept. 8 at Fort Jackson.
Staff Sgt. Jacob Meyers works his way over an obstacle during the AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition Thursday at Fort Jackson.

“It’s going pretty well,” he said. “They don’t tell us our scores, so as far as we know, we’re all in the lead. I went to school with one of the competitors, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Sisk. He impressed me in school, and he’s doing the same thing here. My roommate, Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe, is an incredible competitor. Everybody out here is just giving it everything they’ve got.”

The camaraderie was clearly growing as competitors got to know each other. Because it’s a competition, that camaraderie included some trash talk as the NCOs took on the obstacle course Thursday.

After his turn on the course, Staff Sgt. Dominique Curry of Company C, 1-81 Armor Battalion, Fort Benning, Georgia, spent some time letting Staff Sgt. Christopher Johnson of Company E, 369th Signal Battalion, 15th Regimental Signal Brigade, Fort Gordon, Georgia, know that he might as well not waste his time trying to beat him. Both were competing to be AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.

“I almost set a new course record,” Curry told Johnson. “You might as well skip it. I would have set the record, but Usain Bolt was just a little bit ahead of me.”

Staff Sgt. Tyler Cushing, competing to be 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year, goes through a graded on-camera media interview Sept. 8 at Fort Jackson.
Staff Sgt. Tyler Cushing, competing for 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year, goes through a graded, on-camera media interview Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Johnson wasn’t having it, though he admitted there were some strong competitors.

“I’ve been very impressed, both on the drill sergeant side and the platoon sergeant side,” Johnson said. “I hope I win, first and foremost. But if I don’t, it goes to show that [even as] a seasoned staff sergeant, I still have the grit and get-up about me to go and compete for these things. It shows I want to get better, do better and push my peers to get better as well.”

Part of what makes the Drill Sergeant and AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competitions so special is that the winners don’t just go back to their units. Instead, they spend a year working at the strategic level with Training and Doctrine Command.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe, competing to be AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, works his way through an obstacle course Sept. 8 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe, competing to be named AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, works his way through an obstacle course Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Previously, they spent that year at the Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia. But this year the winners will do the same job out of Fort Jackson, said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, command sergeant major of the CIMT. That way, necessary changes can more quickly reach the force.

“When they go out on the staff assistance visits with us, they can bring the lessons back to the schoolhouse and be like an adjunct professor to teach into the course the habits and trends that are in the field,” Gragg said. “They can bring that right back into the schoolhouse to stop bad habits from happening.”

Sgt. 1st Class Samuel Enriquez is one of the organizers of this year’s competition after winning the title of 2015 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year. Now finishing up his year of working at the TRADOC strategic level, he said the experience made him understand the Army better.

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings trains junior Soldiers on the Army Physical Fitness Test on Sept. 8 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Cummings was competing to be named 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings trains junior Soldiers on the Army Physical Fitness Test on Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Cummings was competing for 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year.

“It was a eye-opening experience,” Enriquez said. “I was glad to experience the Army at a strategic level. Instead of seeing what other people have dictated down in policy, I got to actually see the decision-making process that affects the Army. I got to understand why the Army makes these crazy decisions that they make. Turns out they are not so crazy.”

And last year’s winners will be there to help the new champions find their way, said Staff Sgt. Jacob Miller, the 2015 Drill Sergeant of the Year.

“Once the winners are announced, they will have a crash course with me and the others about what to expect, and they’ll have my number if they have any questions,” Miller said. “Because there is going to be a lot thrown at them all at once. It’s a very rewarding job, being able to represent the drill sergeants in the Army.”

But a high-speed job for the winners is only part of what makes this particular Army competition special, Gragg said.

Sgt. 1st Class Jason Scott enters the Multiple Simulation Training Facility to find a wounded soldier during the Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year competition Sept. 8 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Scott must determine the status of the soldier's injuries and well being, and administer first-aid while gunfire blasts in the background.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Scott enters the Multiple Simulation Training Facility to find a wounded Soldier during the Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year competition Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Scott must determine the status of the Soldier’s injuries and well being, and administer first aid while gunfire blasts in the background.

“The uniqueness of this competition is that these individuals, their sole mission, day in and day out, is to transform civilians into Soldiers,” he said. “Unlike other Army jobs, the mission that these Soldiers do every day affects the defense of the constitution and the nation for the next 20 to 30 years. Because the Soldier they are training today could possibly have a 20- or 30-year career. They are possibly training the future Sergeant Major of the Army or Chief of Staff for the Army.”

All 15 competitors made it through a lot to be here, but on Friday the best of the best will be chosen. Check the NCO Journal on Friday night to learn who came out on top.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe, competing to be AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, works his way through an obstacle course Sept. 8 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe, competing for AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, works his way through an obstacle course Thursday at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

‘If you’re not bleeding, sweating and pushed to your brink … then you didn’t do enough’

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

After a formal board interview and written test Tuesday night, the 2016 Drill Sergeant and AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competitions kicked into high gear Wednesday, with the 15 competitors taking on challenges like a physical training test, day and night land navigation, basic rifle marksmanship and teaching new recruits.

Sgt. Maj. Kevin Artis, the G3/5/7 (operations/plans/training) sergeant major for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia, said he told the competitors their days and nights would be challenging through Friday, but he hoped they would stay motivated.

Staff Sgt. Martin Delaney, competing to be 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year, reaches the last part of the hand grenade course, in which he had to name each grenade in the case and their function. (Photos by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class Martin Delaney, competing for 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year, reaches the last part of the hand grenade course, in which he had to name each grenade in the case and its function. (Photos by Spc. James Seals / NCO Journal)

“I expect the Soldiers here to do their best and strive to be the best they can be,” Artis said. “I expect them to show that they are top professionals, not only in the NCO Corps, but in their respective jobs.

“These are the top trainers in the Army, so we expect them to adhere to that standard,” Artis continued. “We expect them to be very professional and to execute all the tasks and requirements that we have laid out for them. Most of the tasks will be surprises to them. They don’t know what they are going to run into when they get here.”

Staff Sgt. Dominique Curry of C Company, 1-81 Armor Battalion, at Fort Benning, Georgia, is one of the nine NCOs competing to be named 2016 Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year. As Artis predicted, Curry said the unforeseeable nature of the tasks he was being put through made the competition difficult.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Barsi, competing to be 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year, instructs Basic Combat Training Soldiers in changing the direction of a column, column left, Sept. 7 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Barsi, competing for 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year, instructs Basic Combat Training Soldiers in changing the direction of a column, column left, Sept. 7 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Curry said. “Every day is a surprise. You really don’t know what to expect, so you are definitely on edge all the time. It’s a huge opportunity, not only for myself, but to represent Fort Benning. I’m definitely humbled. I’m out here to do my best and see where that takes me.”

Staff Sgt. Keith Lovely of D Company, 1-222 Aviation Regiment, 128th Aviation Brigade, at Fort Eustis, Virginia, is also competing to be AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year. Despite the surprises, he said he could predict one thing about the coming days: The events were only going to get more difficult.

“It’s going great so far,” Lovely said. “A lot of good NCOs out here competing against each other. It’s a lot of fun. I foresee it getting more difficult. I’m not saying it’s not already difficult, but we still have two-and-a-half more days ahead of us, so I think it’s going to get rougher.”

Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe, competing to be 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, puts on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense gear on during a station Sept. 7 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe dons nuclear, biological and chemical protective gear during the 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition Sept. 7 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

 

Maj. Gen. Anthony Funkhouser, commanding general of the Center for Initial Military Training, was at the Hand Grenade Assault Course on Wednesday, watching as the competitors went through different stations demonstrating their knowledge of their craft, as well as their ability to pass that knowledge down to new Soldiers.

“It’s amazing the level of effort the sergeants put into this, to be very technically and tactically competent,” Funkhouser said. “You walk around here and you see them assemble and disassemble weapons, all the knowledge that we ask of them, the physical ability to do their mission, warrior tasks and battle drills. They are great role models. What’s really neat is that we have some trainees here from reception station — who haven’t even received basic training yet — learning from these guys as their role models.”

Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wood, competing to be 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, conducts an in-ranks inspection Sept. 7 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wood, competing for 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, conducts an in-ranks inspection Sept. 7 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Staff Sgt. Tyler Cushing of C Company, 1-46 Infantry Battalion, 194th Armor Brigade, at Fort Benning, was one of the four NCOs competing for the title of 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year. He talked about the preparation necessary for the difficult days ahead.

“I spent months preparing once I was selected as post drill sergeant of the year,” Cushing said. “Preparation was pretty grueling. A lot of physical training, a lot of mental training and a lot of studying. I feel very fortunate being able to compete against all these great drill sergeants.”

Sgt. Ryan Moldovan, E Company, 1-390th Infantry Regiment, 98th Training Division, 108th Training Command, is one of the two NCOs competing to be the 2016 Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year. He also spoke about his preparation in the past few months.

Staff Sgt. Emanuel Olivencia, competing to be 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year, works to camouflage his helmet during a station Sept. 7 at the Hand Grenade Assault Course on Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Staff Sgt. Emanuel Olivencia camouflages his helmet during the 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition Sept. 7 at the Hand Grenade Assault Course on Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

 

“I did a lot of studying, a lot of reading, reading deep into the regulations, looking paragraph by paragraph, looking into the weapons regulations and seeing what every little piece is called,” Moldovan said. “I did lots of running, lots of foot marching. I try to get to the range as much as I can, but it’s hard to because of my civilian job” as a UPS delivery driver in Canton, Ohio.

“I’m just glad to be here, glad to be competing, happy to represent the Reserves,” he said. “All of the NCOs who are here are great. They’re the best of the best; I’m proud to be counted among them.”

Staff Sgt. Mark Mercer, 2015 Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year, helped organize this year’s competition. He said his message to this year’s group was to give “110 percent” during each event.

“Don’t let Friday come and you say, ‘I didn’t leave it all out there at Fort Jackson,’” Mercer said. “Because if you’re not bleeding, sweating and pushed to your brink after the last event, then you didn’t do enough. You need to come out here and give it your all.”

As Major General Anthony Funkhouser, commanding general for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training (from left); Sgt. Maj. Kevin Artis, the G3/5/7 (operations/plans/training) sergeant major for the CIMT; and Staff Sgt. Jacob Miller, 2015 Drill Sergeant of the Year, look on, Staff Sgt. Tyler Cushing conducts a disassemble/assemble/functions check on a weapon. Cushing is competing to be 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Maj. Gen. Anthony Funkhouser, commanding general of the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training (from left); Sgt. Maj. Kevin Artis, the G3/5/7 (operations/plans/training) sergeant major for the CIMT; and Staff Sgt. Jacob Miller, 2015 Drill Sergeant of the Year, look on as Staff Sgt. Tyler Cushing conducts a disassemble/assemble/functions check on a weapon. Cushing is competing to be the 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year.

Competing for the title of 2016 Drill Sergeant of the Year are:

• Sgt. 1st Class Martin Delaney

• Staff Sgt. Tyler Cushing

• Staff Sgt. Dustin Randall

• Staff Sgt. Daniel Barsi

Competing for the title of 2016 Army Reserve Drill Sergeant of the Year are:

• Sgt. 1st Class Jason Scott

• Sgt. Ryan Moldovan

Competing for the title of 2016 AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year are:

• Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Wood

• Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings

• Staff Sgt. Keith Lovely

• Staff Sgt. Jacob Meyers

• Staff Sgt. Dominique Curry

• Staff Sgt. Christopher Johnson

• Staff Sgt. Brandon Laspe

• Staff Sgt. Emanuel Olivencia

• Staff Sgt. Jonathan Sisk

Town hall sparks online discussion; Davenport urges #Talk2TRADOC talks continue

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

Out of sight of the cameras, a team of more than 30 people had just spent two hours quickly and professionally answering questions from noncommissioned officers on Facebook, Twitter and a chat room as part of an NCO Professional Development Town Hall on Thursday at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

The team fielded many questions during the night, calling in experts when they could, and passing other questions to the six people filming live in the studio. It was late, and the team was tired, but Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, wanted to let them know their efforts, however appreciated, weren’t finished. Davenport had asked NCOs to continue to use the #Talk2TRADOC to provide feedback and ask questions on social media channels, and he wanted to make sure those questions received answers.

With the chat room questions displayed at the front of the room, a group of NCOs and experts answer questions during the town hall. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester)
With the chat room questions displayed at the front of the room, a group of NCOs and experts answer questions during the town hall. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

“I know a lot of effort went into this, but our work doesn’t stop here,” Davenport told the team at the end of the night. “We can go high-five one another and have fun tonight, but tomorrow we have to get right back in there and start rowing the boat. We need to answer those questions, because our word is our bond to the Soldiers. If we say we are going to answer and we don’t, they will immediately point the fingers at us and say, ‘See, I told you they don’t care; they’re not listening.’”

Building a foundation

Hundreds of NCOs filled the chat room during the town hall, and questions flooded in on social media. Davenport said he felt the event built a good foundation for continued discussions.

“I think when you’re open and honest with Soldiers, and you sincerely want the best for them, that’s when you build trust,” Davenport said. “Hopefully, I built some trust with the force tonight, and they know I’m trying to think through this as we build toward the future.”

One of the behind-the-scenes experts answering questions on social media was Liston Bailey, chief of the Learning Innovations and Initiatives Division of the Institute for NCO Professional Development. Bailey said he thought the forum provided some short, credible answers to NCOs, which they could use to follow up with their chain of command or other sources.

A group of NCOs and policy experts quickly answer questions posed during the town hall. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)
A group of NCOs and policy experts quickly answer questions posed during the town hall. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

“We received a lot of questions about how Soldiers are going to manage their careers, and their concerns about the feasibility of being successful as they move from grade to grade,” Bailey said. “Questions about opportunities for broadening assignments were another big topic. Soldiers are interested in their growth and development and their access to information.”

Panel teams together

Charles Guyette, director of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy’s Directorate of Training, participated by answering questions in the live chat room during the town hall broadcast. He said there were many questions concerning professional military education.

“The questions were very thought-provoking and relevant to the force,” Guyette said. “You can tell there is a need for information out there because there are a lot of things they are not aware of. There’s some misinformation. There are misconceptions about NCO PME and the NCO professional development system. This helped better inform the Soldiers out there, especially related to their professional military education. We want to get this right, make sure they understand what they need to do to get to those courses.”

Liston Bailey, chief of the Learning Innovations and Initiatives Division of the Institute for NCO Professional Development, left, and Amy Haviland of U.S. Army Public Affairs, respond to NCO questions on social media while the town hall plays on the screen. (photo by Jonathan Jay Koester / NCO Journal)
Liston Bailey, chief of the Learning Innovations and Initiatives Division of the Institute for NCO Professional Development, left, and Amy Robinson of U.S. Army Public Affairs, respond to NCOs’ questions on social media while the town hall plays on the screen. (Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

Both Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Wills, the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Reserve, and Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk Conley, the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army National Guard, were part of the on-camera panel taking questions from the force.

“It shows that we are one Army team,” Conley said. “When Sgt. Maj. Davenport asked both me and Sgt. Maj. Wills to attend, it showed that we’re all in this together and we’re one team, one fight. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here.

“We’re going through a lot of changes right now, and the Soldiers are concerned,” Conley said. “They have a lot of good questions about how this affects them and what they need to do to be successful. They want to hear senior leaders’ thoughts on how this is going to affect the Army, the Guard and the Reserve.”

The two-hour town hall has been posted to TRADOC’s YouTube page for those NCOs who couldn’t watch it live. It may be found at: https://youtu.be/5z1QDL2qWts. Also, check the NCO Journal at http://ncojournal.dodlive.mil/ next week for a complete report on the questions and answers from the town hall.

The event is over, but the conversation continues, Davenport said.

“This is not just a one-time event soliciting feedback from our Soldiers,” Davenport said. “If they want to continue the dialogue, we have all the social media outlets, we will answer all the questions. But more importantly, they can follow me on the blog that I do. It’s tradocnews.org. You go on that page and you see Straight from the CSM, and that’s my blog site. I solicit feedback on there to things that we are talking about. That feedback has really made a change in our Army in everything from structured self-development to the STEP policy.”