USASMA to host grand opening for new NCO Heritage and Education Center

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

An original copy of the Blue Book, written by Baron Friedrich von Steuben and published in 1782, is one of the prized artifacts on display at the NCO Heritage and Education Center at Fort Bliss, Texas. The book was the first attempt to outline what NCOs’ duties and responsibilities were. (Photos by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)
An original copy of the Blue Book, written by Baron Friedrich von Steuben and published in 1782, is one of the prized artifacts on display at the NCO Heritage and Education Center at Fort Bliss, Texas. The book was the first attempt to outline what NCOs’ duties and responsibilities were. (Photos by Meghan Portillo/NCO Journal)

Veterans have been moved to tears as exhibits conjure memories of the battles of their past, and future leaders have been inspired during school field trips to the Museum of the Noncommissioned Officer at Fort Bliss, Texas. The nondescript building has preserved and displayed the grand history of the U.S. Army NCO Corps since the museum opened in 1981, and it has recently been transformed into something greater. Now reflagged as the NCO Heritage and Education Center, it has been revitalized and will be used as an extension of the classroom for students attending the Sergeants Major Course, as well as the other courses executed at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.

“As the Museum of the Noncommissioned Officer, the facility did a great job of chronicling the NCO story, but the facility needed some improvements and the displays needed updating,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Tedd Pritchard, deputy commandant of USASMA and the lead for the changes taking place at the Heritage and Education Center. “So we knocked down some walls, rebuilt some displays and changed the name to reflect its new mission – that of heritage and education.”

As a drill sergeant in the early 1990s, Pritchard helped construct new walls within the museum. He remembers when they were proud to have nearly 100 artifacts. Now, the center boasts more than 2,500 artifacts, with about a third of them on display at any time, highlighting NCOs’ role as small-unit leaders. The exhibits complement the history curriculums within the Sergeants Major Course, the Battle Staff Course and the Warrior Leaders Course, Pritchard said, and the center is equipped with an open classroom space to host lectures as well as promotion and induction ceremonies.

“We talk about customs, honoring our traditions. It’s important for all of our students to understand those who served before us: their legacies, their battles, what they have done. We must continue to honor them,” Pritchard said. “It opens up students’ eyes to the way they will have to adapt to the future. It broadens their perspective and their understanding of what this education is all about and what it is to be a student here at the Sergeants Major Academy.”

Lessons steeped in history

The walls separating displays along one side of the NCO Heritage and Education Center were rebuilt on a 45-degree angle to open the space and help show the changes over time.
The walls separating displays along one side of the NCO Heritage and Education Center were rebuilt on a 45-degree angle to open the space and help show the changes over time.

Courses at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy are designed to develop agile, versatile and broadly-skilled NCOs, and lessons on the history of the NCO Corps have always been an integral part of the curriculum.

“One of the semesters that all of the Sergeants Major Academy students go through is the Department of Training and Doctrine,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Defreese, USASMA’s commandant. “About half of that curriculum is about NCO history and the effects of our NCO Corps on the military as a whole and different wars and campaigns … and also about how it’s evolved over time to where it is now known as the premier NCO Corps of any army in the world.”

History classes can be taught anywhere, Defreese said, but it is difficult to tie lessons together and convey the big picture. The NCO Heritage and Education Center is an ideal location for lectures, he said, because the exhibits bring the lessons to life in chronological order – from the establishment of the Continental Army in 1775 to the present.

“Really seeing the history of our NCO Corps from what it was in 1775 to what it is now, it is clear that our NCO Corps has had to continue to professionalize over the last 240 years,” he said. “The world has always been an increasingly complex world and continues to be that way, and [this center provides] a visual and tangible way to demonstrate how the NCO Corps has had to adapt over the years and why it is important, as we move forward, to continue to be adaptable like that.”

A refreshing change

The musty, old smell associated with museums and ancient artifacts has been replaced with the smell of clean, new carpet and fresh coats of paint. Visitors are greeted with vibrant colors and an elegant display of the NCO Creed.

An open classroom area will be used for lectures as well as NCO promotion and induction ceremonies, NCO professional development and other educational activities. To schedule a ceremony or event, contact the center at 915-744-8646.
An open classroom area will be used for lectures as well as NCO promotion and induction ceremonies, NCO professional development and other educational activities. To schedule a ceremony or event, contact the center at 915-744-8646.

“When [Pritchard] came in here, the first thing he said was, ‘When I walk through this door, I want things to pop. BAM! I want people to get excited, refreshed, when they walk in the door,’” recalled Sgt. 1st Class Skeet Styer, curator at the NCO Heritage and Education Center.

When the doors closed Dec. 22 to begin the construction, approximately 45 students and spouses from the Family Readiness Group joined the effort. Styer and Staff Sgt. Brandon Burkhart – the history NCO assigned to the center – were the only ones to handle artifacts, but the bulk of the work was done by volunteers.

Walls were taken down to turn no-longer-needed office space into the open classroom area, which will seat more than 50 people. A podium stands in the corner and two video monitors hang on the bright yellow and black wall to enable lectures and presentations. The students have even built an archway for use during promotion ceremonies. New NCOs can walk through it as a symbolic “rite of passage,” Styer said.

The walls separating a large section of displays were rebuilt on a 45-degree angle to further open the space. The building must remain somewhat dark to protect the artifacts, but the colored walls and structural changes lighten the layout. Plans for more LED lighting that will not damage items on display are in the works, Styer said.

The sergeant major of the Army exhibit includes a portrait of Sgt. Maj. William O. Wooldridge, the first sergeant major of the Army, as well as Sgt. Maj. Kenneth O. Preston’s desk, bookcase and locker. The items used by Sgt. Maj. Preston during his seven years as sergeant major of the Army were donated by former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler.
The sergeant major of the Army exhibit includes a portrait of Sgt. Maj. William O. Wooldridge, the first sergeant major of the Army, as well as Sgt. Maj. Kenneth O. Preston’s desk, bookcase and locker. The items used by Sgt. Maj. Preston during his seven years as sergeant major of the Army were donated by former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler.

“The students and spouses have been phenomenal,” Styer added. “There is no way this center would be like it is now without their help. And nothing would have gotten done without the entire S-3 shop. They have all the connections. They know who to talk to. It has definitely been a team effort.”

The volunteers’ talents ranged from carpentry to theatrical set design. Astrid Owens, an artist and the spouse of a USASMA staff member, painted murals behind many of the displays, depicting far-away landscapes as well as scenes much closer to home. One sets the stage in the jungles of Vietnam, while another shows El Paso’s own Franklin Mountains, which can be seen from the center’s front door.

The work done on the center is a legacy project for Class 65 of the Sergeants Major Academy, explained Jennifer Wood, USASMA Family Readiness Group co-leader and chair for the center refurbishment committee. Because the students’ academic responsibilities are so demanding, the FRG volunteered to help with the work, and Wood said it has been exciting for them to see the project from start to finish.

“It’s been incredibly exciting to watch it come to life,” she said. “Each new thing that you put in place makes it a tangible experience or puts you inside that day of the NCO. It’s so exciting to see other people come and say, ‘Oh, I get it! I see what it was like now.’ We want you to be able to look [at an exhibit] and put yourself in the place of the NCO.

“For example, World War I – it was really important for us to put in a trench, because when you think of World War I, it’s trench warfare, and the majority of us don’t know that experience and cannot relate to that. So that’s what we wanted to portray. … The important thing is to tell the story of the NCO.”

At the grand reopening ceremony scheduled for May 28, the class president will present the commandant with a plaque to hang on the wall, stating the accomplishments of the students and their spouses.

“We will recognize the students and all of the spouses for what they have done, which has been tremendous,” Pritchard said. “We can’t be more proud or excited about what they have done. I praise the heck out of them every time I see them.”

Hard work paying off

Barracks life in the 1890s is depicted in this display recently redesigned by USASMA students and their spouses. A staple item at the time was the footlocker, which held the Soldier’s materials and military possessions. Card games, dime novels, photos and baseball items could all be found in the room to fill idle hours.
Barracks life in the 1890s is depicted in this display recently redesigned by USASMA students and their spouses. A staple item at the time was the footlocker, which held the Soldier’s materials and military possessions. Card games, dime novels, photos and baseball items could all be found in the room to fill idle hours.

“A lot of people are coming in here going, ‘Wow, this place has really changed.’ They are really excited about it,” Styer said. “So Sgt. Maj. Pritchard’s dream is coming to light. It’s pretty exciting to see where it was to where it is now.”

It is a work in progress, however. To care for the artifacts and to prevent the uniforms from fading, the exhibits will rotate, he said, and improvements to the center will continue.

“Every single day we are doing something to change the place. It just takes time,” he said.

Maintaining a refreshed and updated heritage and education center is important, Pritchard said, because it reflects the Army’s pride in its NCO Corps.

“I have done a lot of stuff here at USASMA,” Pritchard said, “and am getting ready to leave, but I take most pride in leading this project.

“We have revitalized it to be a place people will want to come back to. We should have the best heritage center in the Army because the noncommissioned officer has been out front and leading so many charges for so long. It is critically important that we keep it revitalized and maintained for future generations to come. It’s already been over there 25 years now, and it will hopefully be there 25 years after us.”

strid Owens, an artist and the spouse of a USASMA staffmember, painted murals behind several of the displays. The one above depicts El Paso’s own Franklin Mountains, which can be seen from the center’s front door.
Astrid Owens, an artist and the spouse of a USASMA staffmember, painted murals behind several of the displays. The one above depicts El Paso’s own Franklin Mountains, which can be seen from the center’s front door.

 

Grand Reopening The ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. May 28 at the NCO Heritage and Education Center, 11331 SSG Sims St., at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Senior enlisted panel discusses ways to succeed during joint, combined missions in Pacific

By JONATHAN (JAY) KOESTER
NCO Journal

A standing-room-only audience of more than 100 officers and noncommissioned officers, including former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, was on hand for the first senior enlisted panel at the Association of the United States Army Institute of Land Warfare LANPAC Symposium and Exposition on Tuesday in Oahu, Hawaii.

Command Sgt. Maj. Bryant Lambert, command sergeant major for U.S. Army Pacific, organized and led the panel. Lambert said he thought it was pivotal, during this third year of the Land Power in the Pacific symposium, to include the noncommissioned-officer point of view.

“I thought it was important that we have a senior enlisted advisor perspective on some of the concerns and barriers that we are having out there in the Pacific when we are executing interoperabilities,” Lambert said. “We’ll be looking at the relationships that we are building, not just multinational, but also with our other services.”

With so much to talk about, the panel took place over an entire day, with 90 minutes of discussion in the morning and another 90 minutes of discussion in the afternoon.

Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, command sergeant major for U.S. Forces Korea, kicked off the morning session, talking about how he works in a combined, joint environment, striving every day to cement the U.S. partnership with the Republic of Korea.

“When we talk about interoperability, my definition is the ability, confidence and comfort for a noncommissioned officer to operate in any environment, whether it’s their service environment or working around partner security forces or working with other services,” Troxell said. “The way I think we get after that is through horizontal communication. We do a great job at vertical communication. … What we have to get better at is horizontal communication in the joint and combined perspective.

“What we want is the ability to have that service identity and understand that as an Army there are things we have to stand alone on, but also, that we are never going to face another fight alone,” Troxell said. “It’s going to be in a joint capacity, and also a multinational capacity.”

A standing-room-only crowd listened to the first senior enlisted panel of the Association of the United States Army Institute of Land Warfare LANPAC Symposium and Exposition. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester, NCO Journal)
A standing-room-only crowd listened to the first senior enlisted panel of the Association of the United States Army Institute of Land Warfare LANPAC Symposium and Exposition. (Photos by Jonathan (Jay) Koester / NCO Journal)

After more than a decade of war, Soldiers in the U.S. Army are experienced in conflict, Troxell said. The challenge now is to make those Soldiers realize that, as the Army focuses on the Pacific region, their role changes to that of ambassadors.

“What we’ve got to continue to get better at is shaping and deterring conflict,” Troxell said. “As we look at rebalance in the Pacific and regionally aligned forces, we are going to be in a phase 0 or phase 1 type of environment, more than we are going to be in a combat environment. So we have to shape our noncommissioned officers so that they understand that they are ambassadors for our country out there. Their ability to influence whoever they’re partnering with, whether it’s a joint force or a combined force, is imperative.”

“We have to set the example as senior noncommissioned officers of stepping out of our comfort zone to make progress in a combined and joint environment,” Troxell said later during the panel. “All it takes is one senior enlisted leader to not respect that culture, that refuses to eat that nation’s food or something like that, it sends a huge message across this entire Pacific that we have some U.S. Soldiers out there doing things they shouldn’t.”

Sgt. Maj. William Stables, sergeant major of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, spoke of the need to let junior leaders take charge, despite the risk that sometimes entails.

“Regarding the NCO, what I wanted to do is pull a phrase from our commandant’s planning guidance,” Stables said. “The staffers wrote it perfectly. … ‘Errors by junior leaders stemming from overboldness are a necessary part of learning. We should deal with such errors leniently. There must be no zero-defects mentality. Abolishing zero defects means that we do not stifle boldness or initiative through the threat of punishment. It does not mean the commander does not counsel subordinates on mistakes. Instructive criticism is an important element in learning, nor does it give subordinates free license to act stupidly or recklessly.’”

Lead Sgt. Daribish Oyunbold, senior enlisted advisor of the Mongolian Armed Forces, spoke of the increased demands on his army’s NCOs, and how those demands forced them to  spend more time training NCOs before a deployment. Working with other nations’ militaries has helped his NCOs see problems and solutions in a more mature way, Oyunbold said.

“Mongolia was closed off from the rest of the world until 20 years ago,” Oyunbold said. “And as Mongolian citizens are traveling around the world and bringing back a lot of different perspectives, knowledge, ideas and participating in the multinational environment, our NCOs are seeing things in a different way. They’ve grown more mature and analyze things in different ways. It’s really valuable to every single NCO. It’s brought a lot of value to our nation.”

After Oyunbold talked about the ways in which his NCOs are now required to make decisions on their own, Lambert tied the discussion together.

“Regardless of the Army that you are a part of, noncommissioned officers are the ones on the ground, making those decisions, because the officers can’t be everywhere at every time of day,” Lambert said. “That’s why the noncommissioned officer is there — to instill discipline and ensure the commander’s intent is getting accomplished.”

Warrant Officer Mark Motriboy, the sergeant major of the New Zealand Army, talked about the need to invest time in learning about partner nations.

“You know, we study the enemy,” Motriboy said. “We spend a gross amount of time studying a threat group. We need to invest a certain amount of time learning about our partners. You’re going to have to have patience to cultivate and expand the relationship. It takes time, and you do have to put some energy into it.”

Former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston, right, listens to the senior enlisted panel. Pictured in the panel are, from left, Command Sgt. Maj. James Norman, command sergeant major for U.S. Army 1st Corps; Command Sgt. Major John Troxell, command sergeant major for U.S. Forces Korea; Sgt. Maj. William Stables, senior enlisted leader for the U.S. Marine Corps; and Lead Sgt. Daribish Oyunbold, senior enlisted advisor of the Mongolian Armed Forces.
Former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, right, listens to the senior enlisted panel. Pictured in the panel are, from left, Command Sgt. Maj. James Norman, command sergeant major of U.S. Army 1st Corps; Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, command sergeant major of U.S. Forces Korea; Sgt. Maj. William Stables, sergeant major of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific; and Lead Sgt. Daribish Oyunbold, senior enlisted advisor of the Mongolian Armed Forces.

Stables added that, in addition to the up-front effort to build partnerships, NCOs need to remember the importance of how the mission wraps up, as well.

“We’re all guilty of this, but on the back end of that mission, we don’t take enough time to celebrate the accomplishments of that unit,” Stables said. “That’s part of building a relationship. You will work with a lot of those people again, so if the mission has been successful, it’s incumbent on the sergeant major of the unit to tell the commander, ‘We have got to do something for everybody to remember.’”

Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Sweezer, command sergeant major of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, was part of the audience for the panel, and stood to tell the panel members that he learned a lot from their discussion. He added that he only wished he had heard some of it before he traveled to Thailand, Korea and the Philippines recently as part of the Pacific Pathways initiative.

“I lived it and experienced it with our team,” Sweezer told the panel. “In Thailand, we had the language barrier. But, Soldiers are Soldiers. They figure it out. The technology, whether it be apps, iPads or phones, no matter what country we partner with, they will figure out how to communicate, whether it’s actions, words or technology helping them.”

Warrant Officer David Galloway, senior enlisted advisor for the Australian Army, told Sweezer and other NCOs who work with partner nations through Pacific Pathways to remember to cherish and keep active the connections and relationships they make, so that they don’t fade away.

“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?”

Command Sgt. Maj. James Norman, command sergeant major for U.S. Army 1st Corps, closed the afternoon session with a reminder of what the discussion means as the U.S. Army and partner nations move forward.

“I think we’ve all come to the conclusion that we will never do something as a single country or a single service,” Norman said. “These joint task forces don’t occur by happenstance. So, it is paramount that we train together, train to build interoperability, train to build relationships, train to foster our ability to move through the Pacific.”

Also participating in the panel were Chief Warrant Officer NG Siak Ping, senior enlisted leader for the Singapore Armed Forces; Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Tobin, the command sergeant major of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command; and Command Sgt. Maj. William Bruns, the command sergeant major for Communications Electronics Command. The LANPAC conference concludes Thursday.

Injured vet places 3rd in ‘Dancing’; expect to see Galloway soon

By CLIFFORD KYLE JONES
NCO Journal

Medically retired Army Sgt. Noah Galloway made an incredible run on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars,” but he didn’t carry away the show’s signature mirrorball trophy. The double amputee and fitness guru placed third in Tuesday’s final show of the program’s 10th anniversary season.

Galloway said in a taped message aired Monday night that he only expected to make it until about Week 3. But here on Week 10, many were calling the show too close to call.

“I made it to third place!” Galloway said. “And I’m so happy about that, and it’s because of all the love and support from everyone here.”

Galloway often struggled with the “Dancing With The Stars” judges, but fans, particularly Soldiers and veterans groups, helped propel him on his impressive run.

“Congratulations & thank you, @Noah_Galloway! You inspired us all, proving injuries & illnesses don’t define #veterans,” the 1.2 million strong Disabled American Veterans charitable nonprofit organization tweeted after the announcement that Galloway had placed third.

Another injured veteran and “Dancing With The Stars” alum, J.R. Martinez, tweeted to Galloway, “You ARE a champion! You don’t need a mirror ball trophy! You’ve forced me and so many others to stop making excuses! Thank you!”

"DWTS" finalists.
The “Dancing With The Stars” finalists, including retired sgt. Noah Galloway and his partner, Sharna Burgess, at left, await the first results of the finale. Galloway and Burgess placed third. (Photo courtesy of ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars.”)

The finale is broken into four parts, two judged dances Monday, one judged dance Tuesday and fan votes between Monday’s and Tuesday’s show.

After the judges scored the final dances, Galloway and his partner, Sharna Burgess, trailed their “Star” rivals, Riker Lynch and Rumer Willis, who eventually won the competition.

Although the judges didn’t score Galloway as highly as his competitors, they called him an “inspiration” and “the heart of the program” after his last dance.

“Every time you’ve come into the ballroom, you’ve done more than dance, you’ve changed people’s lives,” judge Carrie Ann Inaba said after Galloway and Burgess’ final dance.

During their first dance Monday night — a repeat performance from earlier in the season of the duo’s Week 3 Argentine tango — Galloway stumbled a bit in the latter portions of the dance. They were given 32 out of 40 possible points from the judges. Their competitors each received perfect scores.

Galloway, however, staged a comeback in the penultimate dance Monday, the freestyle. Burgess choreographed a sequence inspired by the veteran’s injuries and Galloway’s long recovery. They danced to a mashup of David Guetta and Sia’s “Titanium” and Coldplay’s “Fix You” and received a perfect 40 for their performance.

“Your journey has been the hardest and the longest, and as we nearly reach the journey’s end, I have to say, that was amazing,” judge Len Goodman said.

Inaba said, “It’s beyond words what you did.”

Of course, Galloway’s journey is far from over. He walks away from “Dancing With The Stars” with new levels of fame, a new fiancee, a new motorcycle. And, as he told the NCO Journal in a telephone interview just before the finals, big plans.

“Well, you know, I’ve got a wedding I’ve got to plan,” he said and laughed. He proposed to his girlfriend, Army Reserve Spc. Jamie Boyd, during last week’s semifinals.

But after that, he said, another television project looms in his future.

“I want to have a show of me going and doing these extreme things all over the world,” he said. Kayaking. Mountain climbing. Riding a bull. Running with the bulls. Skydiving.

“There’s all these different challenges to do all over the world, it would be cool to do that,” he said. “To go and show different parts of the world and these extreme things and be doing it missing an arm and a leg and showing what’s possible.”

With his performances at “Dancing With The Stars,” Galloway has certainly done that.

READ MORE: GALLOWAY SPEAKS WITH THE NCO JOURNAL

Galloway takes Soldier mentality into ‘Dancing With The Stars’ finale

By CLIFFORD KYLE JONES
NCO Journal

These days, Noah Galloway is a television celebrity, a magazine cover model, a personal trainer and a motivational speaker — but he never stopped being a Soldier.

When he takes the stage tonight to compete in the “Dancing With The Stars” finals, among his greatest advantages will be the work ethic, perseverance and endurance he developed as a member of the 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

Noah Galloway spends time with his children after a recent race.
Noah Galloway poses with his children. (Photo courtesy of Noah Galloway)

“That’s what I feel my mission is now: to continue pushing hard and to show that even injured and out, I still have the Soldier mentality,” Galloway told the NCO Journal in a phone interview during a brief respite from preparing for the finale.

In December 2005, Sgt. Galloway was four months into his second deployment to Iraq when his Humvee was struck by an improvised explosive device. He awoke five days later, on Christmas Eve, in Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He had lost his left arm and his left leg below the knee. His right leg and jaw were also injured.

He grappled with adapting to life without two of his limbs. But adapting to life without the Army was as difficult.

“I struggled for a long time,” the 33-year-old said. “The biggest struggle I dealt with, aside from missing an arm and a leg, was not being in anymore. I loved deployments. I loved my job. And suddenly, that was taken away. … That bothered me for years.”

He started drinking too much. He was eating poorly.

He was suffering emotionally, but he wasn’t talking. He hid those struggles from his friends and his family, including his then-wife, Tracy, and his three children.

He has said that fatherhood finally motivated him to make a change. But it was fitness that helped him do it.

“Fitness is what got me out of my depression,” he said. “There were several other aspects, but fitness — changing my eating habits, getting back in the gym, and I started running races — that’s what uplifted me and pulled me out of that rut.”

Galloway eventually became a physical trainer and a motivational speaker, using his personal story to encourage others to get in shape and accomplish their goals. He calls his philosophy No Excuses. He has found a way not only to stay in shape, modifying exercises to work his left side, but also to run adventure courses across the country, including the Tough Mudder, Spartan events and Crossfit competitions, in addition to numerous 5K, 10K and half- and full-marathon races. He accepts no excuses from his clients, and he accepted none from his Soldiers.

Galloway in Iraq
Sgt. Noah Galloway, right, poses for a photograph during his second deployment to Iraq. (Photo courtesy of Noah Galloway)

His older sister is an educator, and he says he learned from her that every child can excel if he or she is encouraged the right way. As a sergeant, he followed that same philosophy with his Soldiers.

“For example, I had two guys on my team,” Galloway said. “One, I could sit him down and say, ‘Hey, man, this is where you’re messing up.’ The other one, I had to use tough love. I told him, ‘If you do this, this is what your punishment is going to be,’ and I had to follow through with it. But the two of them were so different. Lots of times I would see other guys who would treat a whole group the same, and it doesn’t work that way because we’re all individuals.

“The military is known for using punishment in a mass group. Even my girlfriend says she’s noticed that I do that with my kids sometimes. I’ll say, ‘Look, this is what’s going to happen if one of you does this.’ And, you know, that works. But when it comes to actually being successful, it’s knowing the individual person. That’s how you’re going to improve them as a Soldier, which makes you a better leader.”

Those are lessons that have served Galloway well in his new career as a personal trainer and motivational speaker (and, of course, as a father). It’s another aspect of his time in the Army that’s helped with his impressive turn on the dance floor.

“I’ll tell you, I think that my military experience has helped me with these end stages of ‘Dancing With The Stars,’ ” he said. “It hasn’t been extremely physical for me — it is very physical, I mean, it’s nonstop — but I came into it in great shape. And they were impressed with everything when I got here, which is an advantage because I’m working a little bit harder than everyone else. Each week it’s not just let’s learn a dance, perfect it, be ready to do it on Monday. It’s, ‘OK, can you do this movement? Can I do this?’ So there’s an extra day and a half of just trying to see what I can physically do without falling over or whatever it is.”

At the beginning of this, the 20th, season, last season’s winner, “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” co-star Alfonso Ribeiro, spoke to the new cast and gave them some advice.

“On day one, he told a group of us that this is going to be the most tiring thing you’ve ever done, and it’s going to wear you out,” Galloway said. “And he was right on point. This is extremely tiring and a lot of people who didn’t make it through the competition couldn’t have made it this far anyway because it is so tiring. But three months of 24/7 does not compare to a year deployment, and I keep that in mind.”

DWTS lift
Noah Galloway lifts his partner Sharna Burgess during the contemporary dance portion of “Dancing With The Stars.” Galloway and Burgess danced to Toby Keith’s “American Soldier.” Galloway’s one-armed lift brought the audience members to their feet. (Photo courtesy of ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars”)

Galloway is as surprised as anyone by his success on the show. He has consistently said that he thought he might last two or three weeks before being sent home. When he reached week four, he and his partner, Sharna Burgess, performed an extremely personal dance that highlighted both what Galloway had lost and what he has achieved. The song was Toby Keith’s “American Soldier.” The dance opens with Galloway standing by a mirror, so his body looks whole, before the mirror is pulled away to reveal his missing limbs. It culminates with Galloway lifting Burgess with one arm and holding her aloft as the amazed audience gasps, then cheers.

It was a breakthrough for Galloway.

“That was the dance that really put in perspective for me what dance can actually do,” he said. “Now I understand more that you can tell a story in your movement and in your dance.”

It was a breakthrough for others, as well. In the video that aired on the show before the dance, Galloway talked about his emotional struggles. A friend of his, a veteran, called him after the show to tell him that another veteran struggling with his feelings had reached out because of Galloway.

“In the video that played before [the dance], I mentioned that the biggest mistake I ever made was not talking to anybody,” Galloway said. “It was enough to reach him. That veteran had called [my friend] to tell him that he needed to talk about some things. [My friend] said you need to know that if anything, one veteran was touched by that. And it was amazing to know that.”

Galloway started to realize the impact he was having on service members after he became the first reader-selected cover model for Men’s Health magazine. He said veterans and Soldiers from around the world, including some stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, began to reach out to him to tell him what an inspiration he was.

“And then being on this show, the amount of people who have been in support of me, …” he said. “I mean, even General Odierno shared one of my videos on his Facebook page. That’s why I feel like I’m still connected with all the men and women in uniform and other veterans.”
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno shared the story of the standing ovation that followed Galloway and Burgess’ performance to “American Soldier.” Odierno’s only comment: “#inspired.”

Galloway said, “When I say I feel like it’s just my mission has changed, instead of being the guy on the front lines in the middle of the fight, I am the story that keeps them motivated when they’re away from home, when they’re deployed, when they’re pushing themselves more than they’ve ever pushed themselves before. I’m a reminder of what’s possible.”

It’s true. The thousands he’s inspired at races, the tens of thousands who saw his Men’s Health cover and the millions who cheer for him on “Dancing With The Stars” would agree. But Galloway is too humble to own it completely.

“Ugh, it sounds kind of cocky and arrogant when I say it out loud.”

Operation Enduring Warrior
Noah Galloway participates in an adventure race with other members of Operation Enduring Warrior. The nonprofit group pays for injured veterans to travel to and participate in the races. (Photo courtesy of Operation Enduring Warrior)

Stephen Mills, executive director of Operation Enduring Warrior, says that Galloway has never been one to talk up his accomplishments and that his contributions extend far beyond what the television audience sees.

Mills and Galloway met through Mills’ nonprofit organization, which helps get injured veterans active by helping them participate in races and obstacle-course runs by providing schedules, encouragement and travel expenses. OEW volunteers go further: They run with the participants, in fire-team-, squad- or platoon-style formations, and they do it wearing gas masks in honor of the obstacles injured veterans must overcome to race.

Galloway is an active OEW team member and has become friends with Mills and other members of the nonprofit’s board. Mills and his wife attended one of the episodes of “Dancing With The Stars” to show their support for Galloway. The same week they were there, Galloway had flown in a young double amputee, originally from Vietnam who has been adopted by a family in Missouri, to watch the show. Haven Shepherd, 12, lost both of her legs and her parents in a family suicide attempt. She hasn’t let that stop her from participating in races, and she had contacted Galloway to let him know what an inspiration he was to her. He worked with another nonprofit group to bring her to the show.

“When Noah came over prior to the show starting and talked to her, I mean, she was the happiest kid on Earth,” Mills said. “And he had other people, like Riker (Lynch, another finalist and brother of Disney Channel star Ross Lynch), come over and talk to her. And I think that’s something that Noah does that probably gets overlooked sometimes, because he’s doing things like that all the time and nobody truly highlights it and he doesn’t expect it.”

In fact, the very next week, Galloway helped bring another young amputee to the show, 8-year-old dancer Alissa Sizemore, who lost her leg in an accident. The “Dancing With the Stars” judges haven’t always been generous with Galloway’s scores, but Alissa had no such reservations. “He was awesome,” she told People magazine. “He makes it look easy.”

Mills said Galloway’s generosity has been — and continues to be — a great benefit to the veterans helped by Operation Enduring Warrior.

“He’s very busy with what he’s doing,” Mills said of Galloway. “But he has his own charitable fund (called No Excuses) that he set up, and now he is taking money from that charitable fund and giving it back to Operation Enduring Warrior to help one of our programs where we can help more veterans get to races or go skydiving. So here’s a guy who was wounded, who’s joined the organization, and he has now found a way to use his celebrity not just to raise money but to give back to the organization.”

Operation Enduring Warrior is one of Galloway’s favorite charities because it helps veterans through one of his own passions, fitness, and because it keeps its focus so clearly on the veterans it helps.

“I mean if you’re going to race, especially in a gas mask, you’re going to have to train. And if you’re training to do a race, well, you can’t be sitting around taking pills, drinking, eating like crap,” Galloway said. “And no one’s expected to get out there and just be a beast in their first race. That’s one thing where a lot of veterans have struggled when they’ve gotten on board. No, we’re all about working with whoever that veteran is to get through the course. I just love the mentality that they have: It’s all about helping one another, and it has that physical fitness aspect to it.”

After his first deployment to Iraq in 2003, Galloway said, he knew that all he wanted to do was be an infantryman, a Soldier. When an IED took that away, it was fitness that helped pull Galloway out of his depression. And it’s fitness that has become his new mission, but those he served with and the lessons he learned in the Army stay with him.

“Ever since the invasion of Iraq, we’ve all had to deal with the people who say, ‘We should have been there’ or ‘We shouldn’t have been there’ but to me, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I was doing what was asked of me and I did it to the best of my ability and so did the men I served with. And that’s what made me proud. I worked with all these guys who were tough as nails but then also had these big hearts. And we worked really hard at what we did. And that connection, I couldn’t imagine finding anywhere else. I loved it. It was on that deployment that I knew that was all I wanted to do.”

He doesn’t wear a uniform anymore, but his new mission keeps him connected to his fellow service members and he continues to try to help them, just in a new way.

“I feel like I’m still a Soldier. For guys who are out, you’ve got to remember that you’re still that Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine. We’re all the less than 1 percent of the nation that was able to do what we do. Have pride in that. Don’t lose that. I think of that when I think of people who really just kind of lose it and go crazy, …” Galloway said. “The biggest mistake I made was not talking to anybody. And I see that now. It took me awhile. And it was a struggle. And being able to open up now takes all that weight off my chest.

“Fitness is what I love. Racing. It’s my passion now that I’m out of the military. I’ve met with other veterans and told them, ‘You don’t have to get into fitness. You don’t have to race. I don’t care if you get into knitting. But if that’s what you love, do it. And do it the best that you can.’ You’ve got to have that thing. If you sit around and: One, don’t talk to anybody, and Two, don’t have any passion for anything, you will go crazy.”

Since Galloway opened up and started following his passion, he’s found fitness, fame, success — and love. Last week, during the semifinals of “Dancing With The Stars,” he proposed to his girlfriend, who is also a Soldier, Army Reserve Spc. Jamie Boyd. Since Galloway made his first appearance on “Dancing With The Stars,” she completed Basic Combat Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. (She was released a couple days early, so she could surprise him after one of his performances.)

So now he’ll be in the Army family in another way, as a spouse.

“I’ll tell you what, when she went through basic training, being on the other side of that — being the one waiting — even though she was just in training,” he said and paused. “That sucked.”

But Boyd has graduated and she’ll be in the audience tonight and tomorrow, watching along with millions of others in and out of the service as Galloway performs his last dances with the stars. But regardless of whether he walks away with the mirror ball trophy, you can trust this won’t be his last competition. In one way or another, he’ll continue to compete, to push himself, to strive — to Soldier on.

This Month in NCO History: May 21, 1951 — Taking the hill at Munye-Ri, Korea

When he was growing up in San Bernardino, Calif., Sgt. Joseph C. Rodriguez heard constant reminders from his father of what it took for the family to muster through the tough times endured.

“He raised me up saying, ‘Son, you be a man. You be a man. You don’t be afraid to die if it takes it,’” Rodriguez said during an oral history session for the book, Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty, first published by Artisan in 2003.

That notion was never more evident than on May 21, 1951. That day, then-Pfc. Rodriguez led a squad from F Company, 17th Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division, on a mission to take a strategic hill near the small village of Munye-Ri, Korea. That mission resulted in Rodriguez being awarded the nation’s highest honor.

The effort was part of a massive counterattack by U.S. forces to regain ground in the Korean War. But the hill was firmly entrenched with Chinese Communist forces. F Company had attempted to take the hill three times only to be repelled. Then a squad from 2nd Platoon, which included Rodriguez, got the call to attempt another assault up the high ground.

The group immediately came under heavy fire. The hail of gunfire careening down the hill wouldn’t allow the squad to press forward or withdraw. With progress halted and frustration building, Rodriguez seethed. He couldn’t see where the enemy fire was coming from. He only knew it was coming from high up on the hill. His anger over the group’s plight eventually boiled over.

“I felt something had to be done,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t even think about it. I just did it.”

Rodriguez sprang from his pinned position and sprinted toward the top of the hill. The jaunt was 60 yards into the teeth of five machinegun nests. As bullets sprayed the ground around him, Rodriguez lobbed grenades in the direction of a foxhole to his right. The gunfire coming from that direction ceased. He ran around the left flank and silenced a second foxhole with two more grenades. After returning to his fellow Soldiers’ position to retrieve more grenades, Rodriguez continued his solo charge up the hill. He eliminated two more machinegun nests and, with bullets whizzing past him, Rodriguez sprinted to a fifth emplacement throwing grenades as he went. The gunfire finally fell silent, leaving the crackling of brush fires as the only sound evident throughout the hill.

Rodriguez’s actions, according to his Medal of Honor citation, “exacted a toll of 15 enemy dead and, as a result of his incredible display of valor, the defense of the opposition was broken, and the enemy routed, and the strategic strongpoint secured. His unflinching courage under fire and inspirational devotion to duty reflect highest credit on himself and uphold the honored traditions of the military service.”

He was subsequently promoted to sergeant and was decorated with the Medal of Honor on Feb. 5, 1952, by President Harry S. Truman during a ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Rodriguez made a career of the Army, becoming a commissioned officer in 1953 with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He served more than 30 years, including four assignments in Latin America. He retired as a colonel in 1980.

In April 1952, Rodriguez appeared with his then-fiancée, Rose Aranda, on “You Bet Your Life,” a game show hosted by Groucho Marx. Upon hearing the reason Rodriguez made his fateful charge up the hill in Korea, Marx told the couple, “You wiped out a whole army because you got mad? Joe, if I said anything tonight that you resent, I was just being facetious. … Well, I’m sure glad you’re on our side. Rose, take good care of this fella. My advice is, don’t ever make him mad — he’s liable to wipe out Los Angeles!”

After his retirement, Rodriguez lived with his wife in El Paso, Texas. Rodriguez died there Nov. 1, 2005. He was buried with full military honors at Mountain View Cemetery in San Bernardino. He is survived by his wife and three children.

—      Compiled by Pablo Villa

Sgt. Joseph C. Rodriguez, left, appeared on “You Bet Your Life,” with his then-fiancée, Rose Aranda, in April 1952. The show was hosted by famed comedian Groucho Marx, right.
Sgt. Joseph C. Rodriguez, left, appeared on “You Bet Your Life,” with his then-fiancée, Rose Aranda, in April 1952. The show was hosted by famed comedian Groucho Marx, right.