Tag Archives: U.S. Army Pacific

NCO overcomes fear, lands ‘dream gig’ at NFL

By MASTER SGT. GARY QUALLS JR.
NCO Journal

Most Soldiers don’t imagine they will be in a dream job, working in a big-time environment, planning and setting up exciting events, bumping into famous personalities, enjoying every minute of the journey along the way.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson knows that feeling. He is living that seemingly distant dream — in an internship with the National Football League at NFL Headquarters in New York.

“To actually be here, it is almost like a dream,” Richardson said of his high-profile temporary position. “I’ll be walking down the hall and see one of my childhood heroes.”

Training With Industry

Richardson wasn’t going to apply for the internship, thinking he would never be selected, but Sgt. Maj. Kanessa Trent, then the U. S. Army Pacific Public Affairs sergeant major, encouraged him to apply. Now his place of duty is NFL Headquarters through the Army’s Training With Industry program.

The TWI program offers selected NCOs and officers the chance to don civilian attire for a year and work in private industry, observing industry practices, communication tactics and work flow. NCOs who participate in the program say the year not only helps them gain knowledge they will need when they eventually retire from the Army, but also helps them learn tactics that can help the Army. After their year in private industry, NCOs who participate in the TWI program serve in utilization assignments in the Army, using and sharing the knowledge they gained.

Living the dream

NFL headquarters is definitely the “big time,” said Richardson, who works in the NFL’s communication department writing news releases and media advisories, promoting events through social media platforms and ensuring NFL executives have talking points for various public occasions.

“You know what you’re capable of, but so does everyone else there,” he said, adding that many of his coworkers were NFL players for “years and years.”

NFL headquarters is a bustling work environment where crises arise occasionally, and the pressure mounts.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson stands with Green Bay Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush during the Pro Football League Hall of Fame Game in August in Canton, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson)
Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson stands with Green Bay Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush during the Pro Football League Hall of Fame Game in August in Canton, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson)

“It’s not national security or life and limb, but you’re involved in projects that entail millions of dollars,” Richardson said.

The closest to NFL greatness Richardson thought he would get was collecting grass stains on his clothing while calling out the names of NFL legends. He said walking into the NFL headquarters for the first time left him speechless. He said there were few feelings greater than walking in the same footsteps as some of his boyhood idols.

“It’s not the building, decor or people that will leave you breathless,” he said. “It’s that single, personal thought of ‘you’ve made it.’”

The sports-laden and inspiring facilities at the NFL headquarters made an impression. Richardson recalled walking into a part of the building where Super Bowl rings were displayed. He marveled at the long line of history, tradition and the amount of sweat that it took to earn each one.

“That’s a lot of greatness in this spot,” he said, as he described the display case. “Each diamond resembled some Sunday-night lights from some game that millions watched and dreamed to be a part of. And just think about it, I’m here now — where millions want to be, and at the end of my year, I will be a part of the NFL’s coveted history.”

NFL experiences

Richardson has had some uncommon experiences outside of the headquarters as well, such as meeting and talking with NFL stars. On one occasion, he worked at a free concert the NFL sponsored for fans, and Steve Atwater, who earned eight Pro Bowl selections and two Super Bowl rings during his NFL playing days, called out, “C’mon over!” to Richardson. They talked for quite a while.

“He’s a real laid back guy,” Richardson said of Atwater.

The Michigan City, Indiana, native also met and took a photo with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time — Payton Manning. Manning led Richardson’s favorite team, the Indianapolis Colts, to a Super Bowl Championship.

In addition, Roman Oben — who played in the NFL for 12 years, including on a Super Bowl championship team, and is now the league’s director of Youth and High School Football — often pulls Richardson aside and talks to him.

Most NFL players and former players are approachable, Richardson said.

Changed perspective

The internship has changed Richardson’s perspective on the league from that of a fan to that of an employee who can see all the moving parts of the grand production. For example, Richardson said, there’s a lot more to working a game than merely watching it, such as ensuring the clubs are following league policies and standards, assessing extracurricular activities both in and out of the stadium, providing feedback on stadium traffic and ease of entering and exiting, and even evaluating the concession stands and staff.

“There’s a lot more than glamour and lights when it comes to football,” he said.

Although the corporate world seems far distant from military life, there are some similarities, Richardson said.

For example, being at the right place at the right time is important in both fields. However, corporate employees’ day-to-day schedules are largely their own, as long as they get their projects completed, but they are expected to be on time for meetings, he said.

“In the Army, though, on time is late. Some of the corporate guys show up at the exact time of the meeting,” he noted.

As far as the players in the NFL, they often don’t admit it when they get injured, just as rugged troops from line units will “soldier on,” despite being hurt.

Richardson also noted that NFL rookies and Army privates are treated similarly.

“Both rookies and privates come straight out of high school or college and join a larger organization that helps them prepare,” he said. “The league helps rookies with managing finances, staying out of trouble, health and safety, dealing with the media, planning for their future and just through the whole transition. Army leaders help privates in many of the same areas.”

Lessons Learned

Richardson admitted to making a rookie mistake at NFL headquarters. He wore a pullover with the logo of his beloved Indianapolis Colts to work one day. He was quickly and emphatically told to change his shirt.

“You have to be very neutral here,” he explained.

Richardson has also noticed some differences between corporate America and the Army.

“Here, they operate by ‘big boy rules,’” he said. “They won’t follow behind you, whereas the Army is more directed. You don’t need permission to take off here.”

Another difference is that the work load is spread out more in the corporate world.

“You’re not in anything alone,” he explained. “Projects are really broken down into teams. You rarely do something from beginning to end on your own. In the Army, though, you take on so much sometimes you are overwhelmed.”

Finally, Richardson acknowledged the difference he sees in camaraderie and teamwork between corporate life and the Army.

“Our department is a little better, but a lot of times in the corporate world they don’t have time to get to know each other,” he said. “They don’t have the same kind of camaraderie as we do in the Army.”

NFL’s perspective

The internship through the TWI program has proved to be a valuable experience in which Richardson has learned a great deal, while contributing to the betterment of the NFL.

“He brings a new perspective, based on his Army experience, to the team,” said his supervisor at NFL Headquarters, Community Relations Manager Melissa Schiller.

“He is very on top of everything he’s given, and he has a great deal of discipline,” she said. “He’s very diligent and very adaptable in a job that’s a new experience for him — and different every day.”

Richardson helps the team at NFL Headquarters in building a better relationship with the military, often asking if the military can be invited to events sponsored by the NFL, Schiller said.

“This is a great experience for us as well as for Kyle,” Schiller said.

Maj. Earl Brown, who also participates in the program as an active-duty Soldier, agreed with Schiller’s assessment of Richardson.

“He’s not only willing to jump in with everyone else on projects, learn and continue to fight, but he seeks out projects,” he said.

Brown, who looks at Richardson as his “battle buddy,” says he and Richardson speak a “different language” than their co-workers at NFL Headquarters.

“We can look at each other, and we know what’s going on,” he said.

Brown pointed out that, “what we bring to the table is a sense of duty,” citing how the leadership at NFL Headquarters didn’t have to worry about Richardson reporting for duty at 4 a.m. for his media team responsibilities associated with the NFL season kickoff in Denver.

He said he and Richardson conduct “backward planning” to the “SP” (start point) on media team projects, and he agreed with Richardson that oftentimes the corporate world doesn’t enjoy the tight-knit quality of the Army.

“We communicate,” Brown said. “We’re definitely a ‘fire team.’”

Family perspective          

When asked to compare the NFL experience with Army life, Richardson’s wife, Nancy Richardson, a former NCO herself, quipped, “The TDYs are shorter!”

On a more serious note, Nancy Richardson said another big difference between Army and corporate life is there is really no tie-in to families from the business world.

“At NFL headquarters, there are a lot of single players and employees, and family activities are the last thing they want to be involved with,” she said.

However, Nancy Richardson and other military spouses have tried to start some corporate involvement with families and are hoping those efforts bear fruit soon.

“Sometimes corporate America doesn’t expect NCOs to be that intelligent, so when someone like Kyle shows what he can do, the corporate employees really appreciate seeing that,” she said. “This temporary transition back into civilian life gives him an idea, not just of the work load, but how to look sharp in business attire, how to present himself in meetings, as well as how to network in the corporate world,” adding that it’s reassuring for him to see he can make it in that environment.

“It gives us that spark of hope,” she said.

It also gives him an opportunity to highlight the need to support Soldiers, she said.

Nancy Richardson said her husband was fortunate because he had a good leader in Trent who steered him to the opportunity, but she pointed to a need for wider exposure by the Army of the TWI program.

“We need this program to really help our troops for the future,” she said. “There are incentives for hiring veterans, but not for bringing active-duty Soldiers into these valuable programs.”

Some think TWI leads directly to Soldiers transitioning into civilian life after their training is complete, but — as a former Transition Assistance/Soldier for Life counselor — Kyle Richardson said that is not true. For instance, Richardson’s training with the NFL entailed a commitment of three additional years to the Army.

To Soldiers thinking about applying for a temporary position with the NFL or another industry, Richardson said, “Don’t be afraid. You’ll never know if you can make it until you try.”

“I know that, with this experience, if I were to do something after the military, I would be successful,” he said. “It gives you extra experience and extra knowledge. It’s a resume builder. And they’re not going to allow you to fail.”

Richardson added his Army experience and knowledge has helped his present duty with the NFL.

“I’ve applied what the Army has taught me and, with the skills I’ve learned, it has really set me up for success,” he said. “Now, I don’t fear trying new experiences.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, center, stands with, from left, Sean Estrada, former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman; Jaime Martinez, security officer and Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson, Training With Industry Military Fellow as they watch Marquil Guice, a recruiter assigned to the United States Military Academy, play a game of Madden 17 against David Romero, a future Soldier, during the first Pro vs. GI Joes video game competition at the National Football League's Headquarters building, Nov. 2. The event kicked off the NFL’s annual Salute-to-Service campaign that recognizes and honor the servicemen and women around the world. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, center, stands with, from left, Sean Estrada, former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman; Jaime Martinez, security officer and Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson, Training With Industry Military Fellow as they watch Marquil Guice, a recruiter assigned to the United States Military Academy, play a game of Madden 17 against David Romero, a future Soldier, during the first Pro vs. GI Joes video game competition at the National Football League’s Headquarters building, Nov. 2. The event kicked off the NFL’s annual Salute-to-Service campaign that recognizes and honor the servicemen and women around the world. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson)

NCOs forge pathway toward partnership in the Pacific

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

With deployments to the Middle East slowing, finding ways to give realistic training to Soldiers has become increasingly important. Leaders of the U.S. Army Pacific have come up with a system that allows Soldiers to experience a deployment atmosphere, securing needed training while also cementing bonds with our allies.

As part of the Pacific Pathways system, noncommissioned officers lead Soldiers on monthslong exercises throughout the Pacific area of responsibility. While on the exercises, the Soldiers travel to several countries, spending four to six weeks or more in countries such as South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia, working and training with those nations’ armed forces.

Command Sgt. Maj. Bryant Lambert, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Pacific, said Pacific Pathways exercises are inspiring NCOs at USARPAC because the exercises allow NCOs to do what they do best: train Soldiers.

“Right now, NCOs are ecstatic about Pacific Pathways,” Lambert said. “The noncommissioned officers came into the Army to do exactly what we are doing in Pathways. Pathways is definitely inspiring them, building confidence, the whole nine yards with our noncommissioned officers. Pathways broadens their aperture on how to train with another army without being at war. Our NCOs tell me they are gaining confidence and getting a better perspective on these other countries.

“The important thing about Pathways is that your operational level and your tactical level is exercising mission command,” Lambert continued. “There is no other place you can do that. You can’t replicate that at a Joint Readiness Training Center. This is real world, volatile, efforts and actions taking place at the operational and tactical level of command.”

Staff Sgt. Luis Zayas of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, was part of a Pacific Pathways exercise earlier this year. During the exercise, the division trained with the armies of Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines. Zayas said the exercise was especially useful for the young Soldiers and NCOs who hadn’t been deployed before, allowing them to see what it takes to move their equipment from place to place.

“The NCO should always be leading training,” Zayas said. “That’s what we do as NCOs. But it went even further with some of our younger Soldiers, who aren’t even NCOs, taking charge of training the other armies. Something as simple as teaching their specific job, whether it be how to stack the ammo that we use, how to prep the ammo, and the gunners showing the things that work for them that make them faster at what they do. The teaching went all the way down to the lowest level. They were able to show their counterpart exactly what they do at their level. So it went from the top, all the way down, then back up. It was good.

“Our job is to lead and train Soldiers, and we were not only doing it for our Soldiers, but we were also leading, training and mentoring other countries’ NCOs on how to lead, train and mentor their own soldiers,” Zayas said. “So the biggest takeaway is that we became more proficient as NCOs.”

Rebalance to the Pacific

Pacific Pathways is an important part of the Army’s overall rebalance into the Pacific region. The exercises allow the Army to become more expeditionary and demonstrate our commitment to our allies in the region, Lambert said.

Royal Thai Army soldiers assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment, Rapid Deployment Force, Kings Guard, demonstrate how to hypnotize then humanely kill and consume a chicken in order to survive to U.S. Army Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division during a jungle training exercise in February in Lopburi, Thailand. The training was part of a Pacific Pathways joint training exercise. (Photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock)
Royal Thai Army soldiers assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment, Rapid Deployment Force, Kings Guard, demonstrate how to hypnotize then humanely kill and consume a chicken in order to survive to U.S. Army Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division during a jungle training exercise in February in Lopburi, Thailand. The training was part of a Pacific Pathways joint training exercise. (Photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock)

“It has everything to do with the importance of future engagements and future opportunities with other countries,” Lambert said. “We have established a regional partner engagement with all of these countries, and through that we are going to build defense relationships, we are going to have interoperability, and we’re going to help develop our partners’ military capacity. We are doing that through Pathways.

“When you really look at Pathways, we are interoperable with other countries, and it gives us an opportunity to exercise readiness and exercise our mission command, our capabilities. We build multinational relationships. It really complements the Army Operating Concept, which enforces the Joint Operating Concept. It’s to a point that, if we stay engaged, we can get ahead of any crisis.”

During a May visit to USARPAC headquarters at Fort Shafter, Oahu, Hawaii, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey got a close-up look at how USARPAC’s efforts to engage with our partners in the Pacific is paying dividends. Dailey said he came away impressed with how NCOs are building relationships in the Pacific.

“First and foremost, we need to maintain partnerships,” Dailey said. “The world is complex. We see that every single day, and it’s not good to show up when there’s a problem. It’s better if you have formed a relationship, built a strong bond with an organization, a foreign nation, and there’s a level of trust that exists there. When that level of trust exists, and that interoperability exists, it’s much easier for us. We’re an Army in preparation. We must not forget, our main mission is to deter war, and when we’re globally engaged like we are now, it helps us in accomplishing that mission.”

Communication and interoperability

One of the first roadblocks to successfully training with a foreign army is communication. But during their Pacific Pathways exercise in early 2015, NCOs and Soldiers quickly learned how to adapt and overcome language differences, said Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Anderson, infantry sergeant major for the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.

“To get through the language barrier, well, soldiers are soldiers,” Anderson said. “You put them together in an environment, they’ll figure it out, and they did every time.

“We went in with the understanding that other armies aren’t built exactly like ours,” Anderson said. “But interestingly enough, all three of those countries worked off our doctrine. So they were built similar, just the roles were sometimes a little different. We’d show them our way. They showed us their way. Sometimes we met in the middle, sometimes we just stayed in our two separate ways.”

While in South Korea, the Soldiers often had KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the United States Army) soldiers available to help them translate, and in the Philippines, many of the foreign soldiers spoke English. While in Thailand, however, NCOs and Soldiers used phone apps, technology and other means to communicate. Zayas said he and his Soldiers found some unorthodox ways to make themselves understood by the Thai soldiers.

U.S. Soldiers assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, move a casualty toward a designated casualty collection point with their Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Soldier counterparts during a platoon live fire training in March near the demilitarized zone in South Korea. (Photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock)
U.S. Soldiers assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, move a casualty toward a designated casualty collection point with their Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Soldier counterparts during a platoon live fire training in March near the demilitarized zone in South Korea. (Photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock)

“In my job, mortars, it’s a lot of math involved,” Zayas said. “Math is a universal language, so when it came down to it we would just kind of write what we were trying to say on paper. They would look at it, and say, ‘Yeah, we’ve got the same thing.’ There would be no actual speaking going on, but we would all understand what was being said.

“The biggest thing that I learned during Pathways was about how to communicate with the other nations’ soldiers,” Zayas said. “We also had to learn about interoperability. With us not having our equipment there, we had to be able to get on their equipment and learn their systems.”

Learning how to operate another country’s equipment while finding ways to communicate helps grow the NCOs from both countries, said Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Jones, command sergeant major of the 25th Infantry Division.

“They had a unique opportunity to engage with all of these countries,” Jones said. “As folks continue to be assigned to the Pacific Pathways, this allows them the amazing opportunity to engage. Because in Pacific Pathways you’re dealing with real problems; you’re dealing with real people; you’re dealing with partnership, interoperability. You’re really, truly getting after what defines an organization in action. You’re a unit in motion with real people, real equipment, building relationships in the Pacific.”

Exporting professionalism

As U.S. Army NCOs travel to countries around the Pacific, it’s always important for them to remember that they are exporting professionalism, Lambert said.

“When you come to the Pathways, it’s not associated with a combat environment, so our noncommissioned officers have to think through the scenarios, have to truly look at what ‘partner’ actually means,” Lambert said. “When you are partnering with other countries, and working with the interoperability piece, our noncommissioned officer is really learning and being developed.

“We are dealing with trained, uniformed armies,” Lambert said. “What we are doing is partnering with them. You respect me like I respect you. Their leadership and culture are totally different from ours, and we’re not trying to make them like us. We are trying to establish a bond and maintain a relationship. Our NCOs are exporting professionalism when we train with these other countries. It builds confidence in our noncommissioned officers.”

U.S. Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division and soldiers from the Republic of Korea army participate in demolitions training during a joint exercise in March near the demilitarized zone in South Korea. (Photo by Sgt. Christopher R. Baker)
U.S. Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division and soldiers from the Republic of Korea army participate in demolitions training during a joint exercise in March near the demilitarized zone in South Korea. (Photo by Sgt. Christopher R. Baker)

Other nations’ armies look at the U.S. Army’s NCO Corps and ask, “How can we get our NCO corps to that level,” Lambert said. They want to know how to integrate women into their armed forces and how to improve their NCO academies. The U.S. Army NCO Corps shows them the way forward.

“The (Bangladesh Army) noncommissioned officer academy is run by a one-star general, and all of the instructors are officers,” Lambert said. “We are going to bring them here to Hawaii, and we want them to see our academies and get a perspective, because they couldn’t visualize it. I was in a room with them for about two hours, and they couldn’t visualize noncommissioned officers being empowered to actually run the academy. And they will see that there are no officers in our NCO Academy.

“I told them when you empower your noncommissioned officers, your officers are going to have to learn to lead in that type of environment,” Lambert said. “It’s no longer where the NCOs are not critical thinkers. They are critical thinkers and you empower them to make decisions.”

Zayas said he saw that principle in action on the ground during his Pacific Pathways tour. The foreign armies were able to grow and improve just by watching how U.S. Army NCOs operated.

“Every army, the biggest thing they want is our NCO Corps,” Zayas said. “They wanted to be what our NCOs are. They stood back and watched a lot what we did. From my perspective, we weren’t doing anything outside of what we do as NCOs, but I think they were impressed with how we conducted ourselves and how very little management is needed when Soldiers know the right direction to go.”

Keeping connections

During a senior enlisted panel in May at the Association of the United States Army Institute of Land Warfare (LANPAC) Symposium and Exposition in Oahu, Hawaii, senior enlisted leaders from around the Pacific got together to discuss the hurdles of interoperability and working together.

Warrant Officer David Galloway, senior enlisted advisor for the Australian Army, warned that — without follow-up — all those connections made during joint training will be lost.

“When you finished your Pathways, and you moved out of those areas of the Pacific, what have you left behind?” Galloway said. “That’s what you need to ask your NCOs. What connections have you left behind?”

NCOs who were part of the Pathways rotation said, so far, they have been able to keep those connections alive, often through the modern tool many use to stay in touch in 2015: Facebook.

Sgt. Stephen Waller, 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, said he experienced a lot of culture shock when he first started the exercise, but he jumped into the opportunity to learn and has stayed in touch with some of the soldiers he met from other countries.

“We’ve stayed in touch with some of the guys on Facebook,” Waller said. “From time to time, they say hello and post stuff, and we post stuff. We met a lot of good people. It was a fun experience.”

Lancer Brigade Soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., take a break during a foot march with their counterparts from the Indonesian army during a Pacific Pathways exercise in September 2014.
Lancer Brigade Soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., take a break during a foot march with their counterparts from the Indonesian army during a Pacific Pathways exercise in September 2014 in Indonesia.

Zayas said his experience was similar.

“I’m Facebook friends with at least five or six people from throughout Pathways,” Zayas said. “One major from the Philippines has the same last name as me. We’re in about 100 pictures together on Facebook. We did make good partnerships.

“The thing is, if I come back here later in my career and we do another Pacific Pathways, and, say, the platoon sergeant who I was working with is now the battalion sergeant major or brigade sergeant major, I can send a quick Facebook message to see if they are going to be involved in what we are about to do,” Zayas said.

Building readiness

With Pacific Pathways, USARPAC leaders have hit upon a way to build relationships with our partners in the Pacific, while also offering NCOs and Soldiers a great training tool for their own development. Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Sweezer, command sergeant major of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, said Pathways helped his team in many ways.

“You talk about building adaptive leaders, and Pacific Pathways did that,” Sweezer said. “It built the capability to respond to things in the Pacific. We got partnerships, we got combined arms maneuver in, which is good training. We can build on our readiness, whether it’s maintenance, our personnel readiness, family readiness; it just tied into everything we do.”

SMA Dailey said during his visit to USARPAC headquarters that Pacific Pathways was an important part of the Army’s mission to be regionally aligned, plus offered excellent training opportunities.

“Pathways is really the way to get at, not just building readiness, but extending readiness,” Dailey said. “It does a couple of things. We’re regionally aligned and globally aligned with our Pacific partners out there. It also gives our noncommissioned officers at the unit level the experience they need prior to ever having to serve in that theater of operation, and it extends the readiness from the training plan. So when we train in our units and train up to the National Training Center, by sending those organizations out on our Pathways, they’re getting real, live training every single day, working in their jobs, in real, live scenarios, building partnerships with our partner nations. That’s the success of Pathways.”

Special Forces NCO, U.S. Army Pacific Soldier named winners of 2014 Best Warrior Competition

Related:

By MICHAEL L. LEWIS
NCO Journal

After four days of grueling physical, mental and emotional challenges that included a 12-mile ruck march followed by a written exam, reacting to man-to-man contact in the midst of a near-riot, evacuating a casualty while wearing the most restrictive chemical-protection gear and appearing before a board that included the sergeant major of the Army, two competitors outshone the rest at the 2014 U.S. Army Best Warrior Competition at Fort Lee, Va.: Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Carpenter, the 2014 U.S. Army NCO of the Year, and Spc. Thomas Boyd, the 2014 U.S. Army Soldier of the Year.

Spc. Ryan Montgomery, the National Guard Bureau's Soldier of the Year, navigates a portion of the Leadership Reaction Course on Wednesday during the 2014 U.S. Army Best Warrior Competition at Fort Lee, Va. The NCO of the Year competitors tackled the course on Thursday. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Fischman)
Spc. Ryan Montgomery, the National Guard Bureau’s Soldier of the Year, navigates a portion of the Leadership Reaction Course on Wednesday during the 2014 U.S. Army Best Warrior Competition at Fort Lee, Va. The NCO of the Year competitors tackled the course on Thursday. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Fischman)

Carpenter, an 18C Special Forces engineer sergeant with the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colo., represented U.S. Army Special Operations Command and ended the competition with the highest score among the 14 NCO competitors. Boyd, a 35P cryptologic linguist with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 500th Military Intelligence Brigade, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, represented U.S. Army Pacific and also bested 13 other Soldier competitors.

“It was kind of overwhelming to realize that, essentially since I started competing in April, it has all come to this point,” Carpenter said. “I’ve done three competitions to get to this one, and now that the final one is over, and to realize I’ve won, it’s pretty amazing”

“It’s a great relief to win, but it wasn’t easy,” Boyd said. “The competition was difficult and the other competitors were tough.”

 

An eventful last day

The winners were announced at an awards banquet Thursday evening that followed the last day of competition. Swapping what they did on Wednesday, the Soldier of the Year competitors made their board appearances as their NCO of the Year counterparts faced a handful of mystery events: four physical brain teasers at the Leadership Reaction Course, land navigation, inspecting Soldier uniforms and assembling weapons.

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Carpenter, the 2014 U.S. Army NCO of the Year
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Carpenter, the 2014 U.S. Army NCO of the Year

As the NCOs worked to figure out the Leadership Reaction Course’s puzzlers, they were visited by Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the chief of staff of the Army; retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins, who was awarded the Medal of Honor last month and who spoke at the awards dinner later that night; as well as other dignitaries curious how the Army’s best were faring in the Army’s pinnacle competition. They found NCOs leading fire teams of three Soldiers through tasks that married brains and brawn.

“The way we put them together, competitors said it was in ways they’d never seen before,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Morris, the NCO in charge of the team organizing the competition at Fort Lee. “I think we put together an event that was original, creative and innovative, and forced competitors to be adaptable.”

Carpenter had no problem maneuvering his Soldiers through each obstacle.

“I just remembered back to when I actually worked with privates and I had privates as subordinates,” he said. “Young Soldiers in the Army — I don’t know if it’s fear or just lack of initiative — but a lot of times, it takes clear, concise and correct direction to get them to do what they need to do. So it came down to me realizing that I had to tell them exactly what I wanted them to do. If you tell them correctly, they’ll learn from that.”

Spc. Thomas Boyd, the 2014 U.S. Army Soldier of the Year
Spc. Thomas Boyd, the 2014 U.S. Army Soldier of the Year

Afterward, the NCOs ventured into Fort Lee’s woods without their customary electronic aids during the land navigation event.

“We’ve relied on GPS technology — whether that’s a mobile phone, Blue Force Tracker, or some of the other stuff we have — and we’ve probably relied on it a little bit too much,” Morris said. “It’s been a while since we’ve sat down with a map, protractor and compass, and done land nav old-school style. Batteries fail, satellites go down and if you don’t keep yourself up-to-date on the basics, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”

Tasked with locating four points in three hours, the competitors had to traverse swamps, thick brush and downed trees. But compared to what they had to endure on Tuesday — eight events spread out over a 12-mile course — the land nav event was downright peaceful, Carpenter said.

“It was nice to get out there and just go for a stroll through the woods,” he said.

Boyd agreed, recalling the more difficult moments of the week.

“It was very intense physically and a little bit emotionally. It required a lot of mental strength to get through it. I’m used to working in an office, so having to run around doing ruck marches in between events, then completing tasks was intense. We did a lot of physical exercise, then we had to do complex tasks that required thinking clearly, though you’re completely exhausted.”

Boyd maneuvers a tire at the Leadership Reaction Course on Wednesday during the 2014 Best Warrior Competition. (Sgt. Arthur Ruepong)
Boyd maneuvers a tire at the Leadership Reaction Course on Wednesday during the 2014 Best Warrior Competition. (Sgt. Arthur Ruepong)

Thursday afternoon, the NCO competitors encountered four Soldiers in various Army uniforms, each with up to five deficiencies, said Sgt. 1st Class Elita Haupt, NCOIC of the event.

“We heard from the Soldier competitors yesterday that they really liked the uniform inspection event,” she said. “They liked having a real Soldier in front of them and being able to look at the complete picture — hairstyles, fingernails, makeup. In the course of a regular day being a leader, this is what they’d see in the field or at home.”

To ensure competitors were up-to-date on their doctrine, they included deficiencies based on uniform regulations that aren’t even a month old, Haupt said.

“The main thing is staying proficient in the changes in regulations,” she said. “We just had changes on Sept. 15, and we made sure to include those.”

The event didn’t faze Carpenter, who said he’s been studying for months all the doctrine and regulations he expected would be covered during the competition.

“You learn from your mistakes in previous competitions and apply them to the next competition, hoping you’ll do better, because as the competitions progress, each one gets tougher,” he said. “At this level, you have to be your best in order to beat the best.”

NCOs ended the day in front of a table filled with various weapons parts, tasked with assembling and performing a function check with an M-9 semiautomatic pistol, M-4 carbine, M-249 squad automatic weapon and M-240B machine gun. Though he rarely trains with any of them, Boyd said he practiced with each before the final competition.

“The Army focuses on the total Soldier concept. To win the competition you have to embody that,” Boyd said. “Though you may have your individual strengths, unless you work on everything, you’re not going to be successful. So being a well-rounded Soldier is the key, and that’s what my training was focused on — all the things I don’t normally do, so I could cover those gaps.”

 

A favorite ‘last time’

At the award banquet, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III grew wistful as he shared that the competition would be his last before his retirement in January.

Carpenter assembles a weapon Thursday during the 2014 Best Warrior Competition. (Photo by Pvt. Rowan Anderson)
Carpenter assembles a weapon Thursday during the 2014 Best Warrior Competition. (Photo by Pvt. Rowan Anderson)

“As you get close to retirement, there’s a series of ‘last times.’ But for me, this is one of those things that, as sergeant major of the Army, I will miss the most,” Chandler said. “That’s because it has to do with what we do as noncommissioned officers and leaders every day: being with Soldiers, training Soldiers, recognizing excellence, and helping those who may not be achieving the standard.”

Though the England-born Boyd has a master’s degree from King’s College London, he said he still learned much during the competition.

“I’ve learned so much here about effective leadership,” he said. “That’s the key thing I want to bring back and apply at my unit to help Soldiers under my charge.”

And though he was just named the Army’s best Soldier, Boyd said the title comes with an important qualification.

“It’s a great accomplishment. But I’m very much aware of all the Soldiers who couldn’t compete because they’re currently deployed or working on missions that they couldn’t be released from because their work is too important,” he said. “It’s great to win this, but I know there are other Soldiers out there who could do even better than me.”

Carpenter said he appreciated the opportunity to compete alongside the best of each command from across the Army.

“I liked being able to talk to to the other competitors,” he said. “You may be in the Army for a long time and not realize what other Soldiers do. So it’s good to be able to put a face and name behind each command and what others do. That interaction makes you even more knowledgeable. There are things I learned from other competitors in this competition that I really had no idea about. Now I can take that back, and if I have a problem [in those fields], I have contacts now — ‘Remember me from the competition? I need some help with this.’ Together we’ll accomplish the mission.”

Also placing high in the competition were the following runners-up:

  • 1st Runner-up NCO of the Year: Staff Sgt. Adam White, an 11B infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, who represented U.S. Army Pacific.
  • 1st Runner-up Soldier of the Year: Spc. Ryan Montgomery, an 11B infantryman with D Company, 2nd Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Arkansas National Guard, at Newport, Ark., who represented the National Guard Bureau.
  • 2nd Runner-up NCO of the Year: Sgt. 1st Class David Smith, a 19K armor crewman with 1st Brigade, U.S. Army Cadet Command, who teaches ROTC classes at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, Ga., and who represented U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
  • 2nd Runner-up Soldier of the Year: Spc. Chase Teats, a 25S satellite systems operator/maintainer with B Company, 53rd Signal Battalion, 1st Space Brigade, at Fort Meade, Md., who represented U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

Related:

Inaugural Senior Enlisted Leader program included at Pacific Armies Management Seminar

Related NCO Journal stories

By SGT. MAJ. KANESSA TRENT
USARPAC Public Affairs

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — The largest annual gathering of land power senior military leadership in the Asia-Pacific region — Pacific Armies Management Seminar, known as PAMS, and the concurrent Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference — introduced a Senior Enlisted Leader program to this year’s events.

Thirteen senior enlisted leaders representing nine different nations came together providing a unique opportunity to build relationships among the most experienced enlisted professionals leading their respective Army’s noncommissioned officer corps.

This integrated Senior Enlisted Leader, or SEL, program enables senior noncommissioned officers and warrant officers from throughout the Asia-Pacific region to foster relationships, while engaging in the exchange of ideas and concepts addressing contemporary regional security challenges.

The SEL spent the day discussing “duty of care,” a term that collectively captures the responsibilities to take care of Soldiers and their families. The day-long event started with emotional testimony from the parents of a Soldier who died while serving in the New Zealand Army and shaped the group’s discussion throughout the day.

The collective group of sergeants major and warrant officers talked candidly about a series of topics including how best to care for troops, both in theater and at home, the challenges of post-traumatic stress, methods and programs to support survivor families and lessons learned throughout the years.

Sgt. Maj. of the New Zealand Army W01 Danny Broughton said co-hosting this SEL forum “is an amazing opportunity to add to the international stage to discuss many of the issues that we have in common. I feel very privileged and honored to co-host this first senior enlisted portion. We’re able to identify issues and share ideas and solutions.”

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III said it’s important to remember and understand that the role of the noncommissioned officer within the U.S. Army has expanded greatly since 2001, and though America’s efforts in the Pacific were limited as the U.S. was fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the commitment to the alliances and partnerships in the region never wavered.

“That continued presence to try and build partner nation capacity and stronger NCO corps is finally being codified today and during this week with this first senior enlisted conference for [Pacific Armies Management Seminar/Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference],” Chandler said.

The effect of the SEL program is that it fosters an environment where colleagues can network, develop trusted, cooperative and collaborative relationships while also creating respect and understanding across cultures.

“We get to share more ideas on how to train and develop the NCOs across the different countries,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Leota, U.S. Army Pacific’s senior enlisted advisor. The SEL program is another step toward reinforcing these skills and attributes so critical to strengthening armies across the Asia-Pacific.

USARPAC becomes 4-star headquarters during change of command

By STAFF SGT. AMBER ROBINSON
Army News Service

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno presided over the U.S. Army Pacific change-of-command Flying V ceremony from Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski to Gen. Vincent K. Brooks on July 2 at Historic Palm Circle, Fort Shafter, Hawaii.

The event was a historical moment for U.S. Army Pacific, known as USARPAC, which formally transitioned to a four-star command July 2, symbolizing the continued rebalance for the United States in the Asia Pacific region.

Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno passes the unit's colors to Gen. Vincent Brooks, incoming commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific, during a change of command ceremony at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, on July 2, 2013. (U.S. Army photo)
Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno passes the unit’s colors to Gen. Vincent Brooks, incoming commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific, during a change of command ceremony at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, on July 2, 2013. (U.S. Army photo)

“Ladies and gentlemen, the significance of today’s ceremony and the message of
our commitment here is a clear message. It’s a clear message to the region, and we’re honored to be a part of it,” Brooks said.

In addition to the traditional military pomp and circumstance of the ceremony was a special honor presented to USARPAC by Irene Inouye, the widow of the late Hawaiian Senator Daniel K. Inouye. Mrs. Inouye attended the ceremony and presented the new commanding general the Inouye Star, a crystal Eagle statue, which will be displayed at USARPAC headquarters as a lasting tribute and reminder of her husband’s role in making USARPAC a four-star theater Army headquarters.

“My late husband felt that this fourth star was critical to our position in the Pacific,” said Mrs. Inouye.

“What an honor it is to be on this historic field, where the U.S. Army’s presence in the Pacific has been evident every day for over a century,” Brooks said.

“And while the challenges before us are numerous, I think the opportunities for us to make a difference for the Army and for this joint team are even more plentiful,” Brooks added. “I’m honored to lead this command, keeping it available and responsive to the requirements that each of you set and the directives that each of you give.”

Weircinski, who is retiring after 34 years of service and plans to make Hawaii his home, served as the USARPAC commander since March 2011, and told the audience his time served here “was a dream come true.”

“Today is a great day for Pacific Command, the Army and for U.S. Army Pacific,” said Weircinski. “Commanding this unit has truly been an honor and something I will never forget.”

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