Old Guard honors the fallen

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

More than 400,000 active-duty service members, veterans and their families are buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Whether they are maintaining a 24-hour vigil at the Tomb of the Unknowns or firing three rifle volleys as part of the Firing Party, 3rd Infantry Regiment Soldiers conduct ceremonies and memorial affairs to honor America’s fallen at the cemetery.

Up to 30 funerals take place daily at the nation’s most revered cemetery and the Army does about half of those, said Sgt. 1st Class Adony A. Batista, platoon sergeant for the Firing Party of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).

By the end of a two- or three-year tour in the Army’s oldest active-duty infantry regiment headquartered at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall at Arlington County, Virginia, a Soldier will have performed 100 or more funerals for service members, according to the Old Guard.

Military funerals with standard honors include a Casket Platoon, the Firing Party and a bugler, as well as a caisson for service members who have reached the top NCO grade of E-9. In addition to standard honors, full honors military funerals include an Escort Platoon and a military band.

Soldiers in the Old Guard must pass the demanding Regimental Orientation Program, a three-week course designed to teach new arrivals the subtle distinctions of the uniforms of the Old Guard, rifle movements and marching that is unique to the elite precision unit.

Maintaining ceremonial composure is critical to the unit’s Soldiers, especially in front of the families who serve as inspiration.

“We are that last Soldier some of these families see, whether it be here, rendering final honors for service members or at the Tomb of the Unknowns, [so we have to be on point],” Batista said.

Photos by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal

 

NCOs embrace Old Guard’s sense of tradition and duty

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

Honor. Privilege. Prestige.

For the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), presiding over America’s fallen is a duty that the 1,600 Soldiers who volunteer for the Army’s oldest active-duty infantry regiment are dedicated to carrying out with the utmost precision.

Service in the elite unit, which has served since 1784 and is headquartered at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall at Arlington County, Virginia, means participating in several high profile, yet solemn, duties in the nation’s capital. Since World War II, the Old Guard has served as the official Army Honor Guard and escort to the president.

Sgt. 1st Class Adony A. Batista has served as the Casket Platoon squad leader and the Firing Party platoon sergeant for the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). “Out of everything I have done since I have been in the Army for 13 years, this has been the most rewarding,” Batista said.
Sgt. 1st Class Adony A. Batista has served as the Casket Platoon squad leader and the Firing Party platoon sergeant for the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). “Out of everything I have done since I have been in the Army for 13 years, this has been the most rewarding,” Batista said. (Photos by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

Noncommissioned officers are valued by the Old Guard for their combat experience and proficiency in soldiering skills. NCOs of the Old Guard lead Soldiers through a diverse set of missions, from ceremonies at the White House to memorial affairs at Arlington National Cemetery. Their professional appearance and conduct sets the standard for the Soldiers in their unit.

NCOs must also meet physical standards, which call for physically fit males to be at least 5 feet 10 inches tall and fit females at least 5 feet 8 inches.

Upon arrival, the demanding Regimental Orientation Program awaits each new member. The three-week course is designed to teach arrivals the Old Guard uniform nuances, rifle movements and marching unique to the unit.

Final honors

Perhaps the most well-known of duties that Old Guard Soldiers provide is the rendering of final military honors for fallen comrades. For the past three years, Sgt. 1st Class Adony A. Batista has been on hand during Army funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, whether as the Casket Platoon squad leader or most recently as the platoon sergeant for the Firing Party.

Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) set up for a Twilight Tattoo performance in June at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Arlington County, Virginia. Twilight Tattoo is a military pageant featuring the Soldiers of the Old Guard.
Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) set up for a Twilight Tattoo performance in June at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Arlington County, Virginia. Twilight Tattoo is a military pageant featuring the Soldiers of the Old Guard.

Up to 30 funerals take place daily at Arlington National Cemetery, and the Army does about half of those, Batista said.

“Out of everything I have done since I have been in the Army for 13 years, this has been the most rewarding,” Batista said. “We are the last Soldier some of these families see, whether it be here, rendering final honors for service members or at the Tomb of the Unknowns, [so we have to be on point]. We want to offer the families comfort and for them to know that we did our jobs in honoring and rendering services to our fallen service member in the way they are supposed to be honored.”

Aside from supervising Soldiers’ training and offering mentorship, Batista makes sure necessary personnel are available and ready for funeral services. Maintaining ceremonial composure may not be easy when you’re wearing a wool uniform in 90-degree heat with humidity.

“Honestly you get used to it, and you just learn to deal with it,” Batista said. “That’s why as an NCO you make sure your guys are hydrated, but in the summertime it can get pretty bad.”

Three teams are part of the Firing Party platoon ─ a full honors team and two standard honors teams. Military funerals with standard honors include a Casket Platoon, the Firing Party and a bugler, as well as a caisson for service members who have reached the top NCO grade of E-9. In addition to standard honors, full honors military funerals include an Escort Platoon and a military band.

Training is done consistently to ensure all members are in sync when the Firing Party commander orders them to fire their weapons. The intent is for it to sound as if one shot is being fired at the same time, Batista said.

“It’s seven guys firing, but it should only sound as one shot,” he said. “Three volleys for a total of 21 rounds are fired. You will notice that pretty much perfection is our standard or pretty close to that.”

 ‘Come humble’

Coming from operational assignments to the Old Guard has been a learning experience for Batista. He said he still does the same training, but it’s now training for another side of the Army.

Members of the Firing Party full honors team, 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), await the order to fire their weapons during a military funeral with full honors in June at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. The Firing Party trains consistently to make sure that all members are in sync when they fire their weapons.
Members of the Firing Party full honors team, 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), await the order to fire their weapons during a military funeral with full honors in June at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. The Firing Party trains consistently to make sure that all members are in sync when they fire their weapons.

“For the most part, you still provide that mentorship to the junior enlisted and help them to grow as Soldiers and NCOs,” Batista said.

Though his service in the Old Guard has provided him with a great sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, he has some advice for NCOs looking to join the unit.

“You have to come humble because this is one of the few units ─ because of our makeup ─ that the junior enlisted know the job sometimes better than the NCOs when you first come in,” he said. “So the mentorship, in a sense, not only goes from the top to bottom but bottom to top. Come humble and come ready to learn ─ from your first days at the unit, learning how to march all over again, to learning how to manipulate the sword.”

Eye-opening experience

For Sgt. 1st Class Lane Duhon, Continental Color Guard platoon sergeant, any NCO who volunteers to come to the Old Guard is in for a unique opportunity to see the Army from a different perspective, he said.

“Leading highly motivated Soldiers who volunteer to be here and being able to see all the other noncommissioned officers and officers who want to be here and want to serve the duty that we are charged with, I think it diversifies NCOs’ careers and it helps them lead better and understand the dynamic of being a leader,” Duhon said.

Duhon credited multiple deployments and former operational assignments for instilling the discipline necessary to serve in the Honor Guard.

“This unit has opened my eyes from those experiences to see the Army from a different perspective ─ from being in an operational unit versus being here and being in a garrison, seeing a program of outreach to the civilian population,” he said. “We’re going to be balancing the military way of life with the civilian way of life. Hopefully we help the public understand us from our perspective and not a negative media perspective.

“Being a noncommissioned officer in the Honor Guard is a privilege, a unique opportunity to do something different in the infantry world and/or any MOS,” he said. “It’s a distinct privilege also to honor our fallen and be able to hopefully leave a lasting impression on people we perform for, leaving them with a positive impression of the military.”

Duhon will be heading back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and an operational assignment with the 82nd Airborne Division, but his time with the Honor Guard and “taking part and surveying the most prestigious job in the Army right now” gave him many learning opportunities, he said.

“I think I am going to take a better understanding of how to lead and mentor Soldiers from a 360-degree perspective versus one approach of getting Soldiers ready for combat,” Duhon said. “I have also had to learn a lot from Soldiers who have taught me lessons on how to do this job that we do here. Everyone knows a little something extra, so you can learn from everyone here.”

Click here to read more about the specialty platoons of the Old Guard.

SMA Dailey defends uniform changes at Solarium II

NCO Journal staff report

Dozens of NCOs applauded when one asked Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey to try to “hold off making any more uniform changes for a while.”

Dailey replied to the NCOs — half of whom were wearing Operational Camouflage Patterns, or OCPs, the other Army Combat Uniforms, or ACUs — “I don’t want to make any more changes.”

He then qualified the remark: “I’m working hard to minimize changes, but I’d be lying if I promised you there’d be no more changes.”

He joked that he’s becoming known as the “black socks and tattoo” sergeant major.

The exchange came as Dailey fielded questions on the fourth and final day of the chief of staff of the Army-sponsored NCO Solarium II on Nov. 20 at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The Noncommissioned Officer Solarium II 2015 is an effort by the sergeant major of the Army to inform and shape the future direction of the U.S. Army. The on-site session at Fort Leavenworth ran from Tuesday through Friday and brought together 60 sergeants first class. In addition to Dailey’s address, the NCOs in attendance identified issues that will have an impact on the Army into the foreseeable future and provided recommendations to Dailey, who will brief that “unfiltered feedback” to the chief of staff of the Army.

As part of the uniform changes discussion, Dailey reminded participants that at least enlisted Soldiers are fortunate to have a clothing allowance that will completely pay for the new uniforms over the phase-in period. Officers bear that expense on their own.

When changes are made, Dailey said, it’s normally by consensus. As a rule of thumb, a consensus is roughly 60 percent, he said. He gets that percentage by surveying Soldiers and then is able to inform leadership from the bottom up.

Dailey referred to a uniform survey conducted in August as an example of consensus building. Soldiers were surveyed about making the blue service cap be the required headgear with the Army Service Uniform for senior NCOs, officers and warrant officers, instead of the beret.

Just over half of the respondents favored the change, but the 60 percent threshold wasn’t met. One Solarium II participant told Dailey that she was passionate about the need for one cap for all.

Dailey said he’d heard from others who agreed with her, but some who just as passionately disagreed.

For example, he said, one Soldier he spoke with said she appreciates the two versions because she likes the men and women to be differentiated by their apparel.

There could be times in the future when changes will be made without survey or convention, Dailey said — for instance, a change to the uniform that provides Soldiers a greater level of protection.

Dailey said he and the Army chief of staff are both fond of period uniforms, such as those worn during World War II. They were both happy to see the return of the Ike jacket, he said. However, he said, their preferences will not have much of a bearing on future changes.

Lastly, Dailey advised having an open mind to changes in general to avoid a stagnating force.

COMBAT IN SYRIA?

One NCO wondered whether Soldiers would be battling the Islamic State in Syria or elsewhere within the next 18 months. Dailey responded that that would be hard to predict and that he didn’t have any inside knowledge about forces in Syria.

He did, however, offer his personal assessment: With the recent attacks in Paris and elsewhere, Dailey said there’s a growing concern globally the severity of the IS threat is setting in.

He said he believes one of the main reasons another attack hasn’t yet happened on the homeland is because of worldwide involvement of the United States and others, including the some 190,000 Soldiers serving abroad in 90 countries.

He harkened back to the Army chief of staff’s main focus of being deployable and ready at all times to fight and win the nation’s wars.

“The only certainty is uncertainty for the future,” he said.

ON LEADERSHIP

“We own the world’s intellectual capital. We have the most intelligent NCOs, officers and Army civilians,” Dailey said of Army leaders. But there’s always room for growth, he added.

Lt. Gen. Robert B. Brown, commander of the Combined Arms Center, followed Dailey’s closing remarks about leadership with his own.

“A sergeant in the Army does what a colonel or brigadier general does in the Chinese army,” he said. “We have mission command empowering leaders like you.”

NCOs at the small-unit level are making strategic decisions.

“You are the Army’s ‘trusted professionals,’” he added, recalling a previous Solarium in which that phrase was suggested and adopted by the Army.

ON SCHOOLS

Brown hailed the new Army University as the most revolutionary step in education that the Army has taken since 1881, when Army Chief of Staff Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman first established Army school houses at Leavenworth and elsewhere.

Brown said Army University was created not to compete with but to collaborate with other excellent American universities.

At one time, all of the Army schools were stove-piped, he said. Now they’re synchronized as they must be, because the Army no longer has the luxury of infusing good ideas across the school houses over a long period of time. The world has changed and good ideas need to flow faster, he said.

At one time, Brown said, there were 100 doctors of philosophy at Fort Leavenworth, helping only students at the Army Command and General Staff College. Now, he said, they’re helping everyone across the force.

The other thing the Army is doing is working to provide Soldiers college credit for Army education courses and certifying Soldiers for job-related training.

For instance, when a Soldier separates from the force and goes into welding in the private sector, the difference between having welding certification and not can add up to more than $50,000 per year. Certified welders earn an average of $80,000 annually, and those who are not certified average $30,000.

Non-deployable Soldiers are hampering Army, SMA Dailey says

NCO Journal staff report

Read more: NCO Journal coverage of NCO Solarium I in May

The number of non-deployable Soldiers is having a direct impact on readiness, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey said at the NCO Solarium II this week at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Dailey said the situation is unsustainable in today’s complex operational environment. Currently, about 50,000 Soldiers are non-deployable.

“That’s huge,” Dailey said. “That’s three out of the 10 divisions” the Army currently has.

The Army’s mission is to fight and win the nation’s wars, he said. That mission must apply to every Soldier, no matter what military occupational specialty they’re in.

“If you will not or cannot fight and win, then there’s no place for you in the Army,” Dailey said. “We have to become unemotional about this. We have a job to do.”

Dailey is suggesting to the Army’s chief of staff that a box should be added to every Soldier’s evaluation form that can be checked to indicate whether that Soldier is deployable. Under his proposal, Soldiers with long-term medical profiles would be evaluated against their ability to recover and be deployable.

Dailey said he realizes this will take a large shift in Army culture. It’s natural to want to keep someone who has a profile, he acknowledged, especially if that person is of good character and skilled.

But having so many Soldiers in non-deployable status is not good for the Army or good for the nation, he said, particularly as the Army draws down from 490,000 to 450,000, and as more deployments loom on the horizon.

Dailey also is working on ways to increase deployment pay, and he would like boost promotion opportunities for Soldiers who deploy. He said he’s recommending reducing the retention control points to 20 years for staff sergeants, 24 for sergeants first class, 26 for master sergeants, and 30 for sergeants major. He also said he plans to recommend reducing the time-in-grade requirements by one year for the sergeant first class ranks through sergeant major ranks.

These changes would stimulate initiative in young leaders and offer more opportunities for promotion by moving stagnant leaders into their transition phase, he said.

 

LEADER DEVELOPMENT

Dailey is also concerned about leader development. He said the Army is still using old standards of multiple-choice testing and rote-memory drills in training, instead of training leaders to be critical thinkers.

Having said that, he said, “we have the best trained Army in the world in leader development.”

However, other nations, including potential adversaries, are catching up in their leader-development efforts. The Army’s leader-development training needs to be more realistic and relevant, Dailey said.

One big problem in leader development, he acknowledged, is the number of Soldiers shying away from attending courses. That’s going to change soon, Dailey said. By next year, if Soldiers are not attending, they risk Qualitative Management Program screenings under the Select-Train-Education-Promote, or STEP, program.

That will create more opportunities for Soldiers who do want to develop their leadership skills and get promoted, he said.

 

TALENT MANAGEMENT

“We’re really good at moving people around, but terrible at managing talent,” Dailey said.

The Army’s struggles with managing talent has a lot to do with the service’s size and its bureaucracy, Dailey conceded.

“We’re working very hard to change that,” he told the symposium.

The Army is in the process of evaluating all of the skills needed in each military occupational specialty, and will be comparing that against the knowledge, skills and attributes of Soldiers, as well as what’s on their noncommissioned officer evaluation report.

Speaking of NCOERs, Dailey noted, “80 percent of the Army thinks they’re in the top 20 percent” of the ratings, “because we told them they are.”

The new NCOER, which starts next year, promises a fairer assessment and more honest ratings, he said. Simple statistics bear out that only “25 percent of the Army is in the top 25 percent of the Army,” he said.

The Noncommissioned Officer Solarium II 2015 is an effort by the sergeant major of the Army to to inform and shape the future direction of the U.S. Army. The on-site session at Fort Leavenworth ran from Tuesday through Friday and brought together 60 sergeants first class. In addition to Dailey’s address, the NCOs in attendance identified issues that will have an impact on the Army into the foreseeable future and provided recommendations to Dailey, who will brief that “unfiltered feedback” to the chief of staff of the Army.

U.S. Forces Korea CSM chosen as senior enlisted advisor to Joint Chiefs chairman

NCO Journal staff report

Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell of U.S. Forces Korea will be the next senior enlisted advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. announced Troxell’s selection to replace Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia on Wednesday. Battaglia was selected for the role by former Chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey and was sworn in Sept. 30, 2011. Battaglia is retiring in December.

Troxell, 51, will be the nation’s third SEAC, a post which serves as the armed forces’ most senior noncommissioned officer and the principal military advisor to the chairman and the U.S. secretary of defense on all matters involving joint and combined total force integration, utilization, health of the force and joint development for enlisted personnel.

“All of the candidates epitomize senior enlisted leadership,” Dunford said in a statement announcing Troxell’s selection. “Sgt. Maj. Troxell is someone Soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors can look up to. He can inspire people, and he is someone I trust to tell me things straight.”

Troxell is the command senior enlisted leader of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and United States Forces Korea, stationed in Yongsan, South Korea. He enlisted in the Army in 1982 as an armored reconnaissance specialist and has served in numerous units throughout his career, including as the senior enlisted adviser for I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and as the senior NCO for the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force-Joint Command in Afghanistan. He served combat tours of duty in Operation Just Cause, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, two tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom and one in Operation Enduring Freedom.

During a May symposium on U.S. Land Power in the Pacific in Oahu, Hawaii, Troxell expressed some of his expectations for noncommissioned officers after serving in a joint, combined environment at U.S. Forces 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.”

The first enlisted service member to hold the position was Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. “Joe” Gainey, who was SEAC from Oct. 1, 2005, until he retired in April 2008. The post was created in 2005 by then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and growing concern about the health and sustainability of the force.

Pace’s successor as chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, opted not to appoint a senior enlisted adviser, although Dempsey did shortly after he assumed the chairman position. Dunford’s decision to name a SEAC may help institutionalize the relatively new position.

By DOD regulation, eligible for the position are only senior enlisted advisors assigned to the military’s top four-star commands — senior enlisted members of each of the five services, the nine combatant commands, the National Guard Bureau, U.S. Forces Korea, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, U.S. Cyber Command and Allied Command Transformation, a NATO command.