Small Alaskan community counts on NCO as face of Army National Guard

By SGT. MARISA LINDSAY
Alaska National Guard Public Affairs

More than 400 miles west of Anchorage lies Bethel, Alaska’s largest western community. Although only accessible by air and water, approximately 6,000 residents call the city home. This includes the Alaska Army National Guard’s fulltime Bethel armory supply sergeant, Staff Sgt. Joseph Sallaffie, an infantryman with B Company, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Airborne Regiment.

Sallaffie, an Alaska Native Yupik Eskimo from Bethel, has worn the Alaska Army National Guard uniform, on and off, for more than four decades. During his career, he has performed a variety of duties, including his current role as supply sergeant and one of five full-time Guardsmen in his hometown.

Sallaffie’s Army story began in 1980, when he decided to follow in his older brother’s military footsteps. Following high school graduation, he joined the active U.S. Army as an infantry Soldier. Although he appreciated the military community, he separated after his three-year commitment and returned to Bethel.

“Like any teenager, I didn’t realize what was good for me at the time,” Sallaffie said and laughed as he described his initial stint with the Army. “But I came home to Bethel and it gave me the opportunity to meet my wife, Rachel, start a family and become an Alaska Guardsman.”

He enlisted with the Alaska Army National Guard in 1986 and served his state for 10 years as an infantryman who also performed military funeral honors and assisted in recruiting efforts, among other duties. After separating from the National Guard, Sallaffie, his wife, and their four children moved to the small village of Tuluksak to be closer to family.

However, Sallaffie missed the Army community.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Sallaffie, center, an infantryman and supply sergeant with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Airborne Regiment, converses with his commander, left, Capt. Walter Hotch-Hill, during a reconnaissance tour of Tuluksak for the upcoming Kuskokwim 300. Sallaffie, an Alaska Native Yupik Eskimo, initially enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1980 and has had a military career that has spanned four decades. (Photos by Sgt. Marisa Lindsay)
Staff Sgt. Joseph Sallaffie, center, an infantryman and supply sergeant with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Airborne Regiment, converses with his commander, left, Capt. Walter Hotch-Hill, during a reconnaissance tour of Tuluksak for the upcoming Kuskokwim 300. Sallaffie, an Alaska Native Yupik Eskimo, initially enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1980 and has had a military career that has spanned four decades. (Photos by Sgt. Marisa Lindsay)

“I especially missed the camaraderie and purpose behind working,” Sallaffie said.

In 2007, while employed as a maintenance worker at Tuluksak School, Sallaffie met two recruiters who were visiting students there. The recruiters were then-Sgt. 1st Class Rodger Morrison, who is now Sallaffie’s first sergeant, and then-Master Sgt. Richard Hildreth, who is now the senior enlisted advisor for the Alaska National Guard.

“If it wasn’t for them coming out to the school and speaking with me, I probably wouldn’t be here in the Guard today,” Sallaffie said. “I love my job, and I love working and representing the military in my community.”

The family moved back to Bethel in 2008, and Sallaffie has been fulltime as the Bethel armory supply sergeant for the past three years. Locals are familiar with the armory, and they know Sallaffie as a face of the Guard in the community.

“Sgt. Sallaffie is so much more than a supply sergeant,” Morrison said. “He has a Bethel background, he speaks Yupik, his wife is from Tuluksak, and they are heavily involved within Bethel and nearby villages.”

Morrison said Sallaffie is who locals reach out to when they think of or have questions for the Alaska Army National Guard.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Sallaffie, an infantryman and supply sergeant with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Airborne Regiment, works at his office in the Bethel National Guard armory as he helps to ready the facility for the coming drill weekend. Sallaffie, an Alaskan Native Yupik Eskimo, initially enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1980 and has had a military career that has spanned four decades.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Sallaffie, an infantryman and supply sergeant with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Airborne Regiment, works at his office in the Bethel National Guard armory as he helps to ready the facility for the coming drill weekend. Sallaffie, an Alaskan Native Yupik Eskimo, initially enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1980 and has had a military career that has spanned four decades.

“Staff Sgt. Sallaffie’s Bethel presence has been an enormous help to me and our first sergeant,” said Sallaffie’s company commander, Capt. Walter Hotch-Hill, who works on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. “He takes it upon himself to go above and beyond his regular duties. And he has become that line of communication for us to Bethel, its residents and outlying communities.”

Sallaffie works alongside his wife, who is currently the southwestern regional area family support coordinator for the Alaska National Guard. They enjoy serving the community of Bethel and nearby villages together.

“It was hard at the beginning, juggling military life and my family,” Sallaffie said. “As Rachel and I grew together, we really began to see it as a joint mission to help military members and families, and support the community as Guard representatives.”

The Sallaffies’ partnership and efforts are a valuable and important service to the Guard and the local community, Morrison said.

Last summer, after evacuations of more than 70 residents of Crooked Creek and Aniak were ordered, each of the evacuees were accounted for at the Bethel armory. Though most were able to stay in Bethel with family and friends, 45 were sheltered at the armory where the Sallaffies provided cots, blankets and food.

Last month, Sallaffie was the National Guard point of contact after a fire raged through the Kilbuck School building. He secured approval through official channels to offer temporary space in the armory for classes if needed.

“Actions speak louder than words, and Sallaffie helps show the Army Guard’s commitment to the residents of rural Alaska, especially during times of need,” Morrison said. “He and Rachel are incredible assets to the community and our organization, and as we drive the rural Guard initiative, his presence is vital to what we are trying to achieve.”

The Alaska Army National Guard has plans to train and conduct outreach campaigns for this coming year in rural Alaska, as a part of Alaska Governor Bill Walker’s rural Guard initiative. For example, next month, the Guard is supporting the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race in conjunction with cold weather training and holding an Alaska Army National Guard open house at the Bethel armory.

“We see the importance of our work here at the Bethel armory,” Sallaffie said. “It has boosted the trust locals have for the Guard, and strengthened valuable relationships.”

Senior NCO overcomes setback, learns value of medical profiles

By STAFF SGT. HEATHER DENBY
35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade

At 44 years old, 1st Sgt. Jon Otis has served in the U.S. Army for half of his life. Otis’ years of service as an infantryman, and later as an air defender, at numerous assignments across the U.S., not to mention five separate combat deployments, have worn wrinkles mirroring the many emotions he has worn on his face.

“I grew up in an Army where profiles were pretty much looked down upon, and I would say I probably didn’t have much compassion for Soldiers who had profiles because our leadership influenced us to just push through it,” said Otis, senior enlisted advisor for A Battery, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Regiment, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

“I had been on profile two times in my 20-year career, and they were both for rolled ankles during basketball games,” he said.

Otis’ mindset was forever changed after a series of life-altering events.

“One morning, I woke up with a pain in my leg,” he said. “But it was a Wednesday and we had a long weekend coming up so I figured I could recover, put some ice on it and be ready for work on Monday.”

By Sunday night, Otis’ right leg had become dark red and swollen to twice its normal size.

“He stopped by the office, as many leaders do, to have a medic give the minimum medical treatment that allows them to drive on with their mission,” said Maj. David Grant, former 35th ADA brigade surgeon. “But for Otis, that type of care just wasn’t an option.”

Grant sent Otis to the hospital for further examination.

Otis’ physician told him that it might have been a blood clot, but by the end of the week he had severe infections in both legs.

“It became three times worse than it had started out to be,” Otis said. “My legs were paralyzed and I had excruciating pain surging throughout my body.”

Doctors told Otis he had reactive arthritis and ordered him to remain in bed for as long as possible.

Behind closed doors, leaders spoke with his doctors about shipping Otis out of Korea and to a Warrior Transition Unit for possible medical separation.

Otis, who was a sergeant first class at the time, had other plans.

First Sgt. Jon Otis discusses his battery's table VIII certifications with 1st Lt. Nicholas Grace, fire control platoon leader, at Seosan Air Base, South Korea, on Dec. 10, 2015. Otis recently overcame a major infection which nearly jeapordized his military career to become a 1st Sgt. with Alpha Battery, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment headquartered at Suwon Air Base, South Korea. (U.S. Army Photo by KATUSA Pfc. Yoseup Kim)
First Sgt. Jon Otis discusses his battery’s table VIII certifications with 1st Lt. Nicholas Grace, fire control platoon leader, at Seosan Air Base, South Korea, on Dec. 10, 2015. Otis recently overcame a major infection that jeapordized his military career. He persevered to become first sergeant of A Battery, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment headquartered at Suwon Air Base, South Korea. (Photo by Pfc. Yoseup Kim)

“I needed to be eligible for promotion; I needed to pass an Army Physical Fitness Test so I set my goal and that’s what I did,” Otis said.

Doctors were not confident that Otis could make a full recovery and certainly not within the six months he would need to be eligible for the centralized master sergeant board that would convene in January.

But Otis’ chain of command supported his decision to remain in Korea, contribute to the air defense community and ultimately, overcome his disability.

“I love Korea for a lot of reasons but most importantly, I like the fact that there is no sense of entitlement here,” he said. “Everyone works; everyone earns their keep, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.”

For the next three months, Otis remained bed-ridden but determined to contribute to his unit.

The 35th ADA Brigade’s Operations sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Michael Arnold, recounted his first meeting with Otis upon hitting the ground in Osan.

“When I arrived in Korea, I was met by the Brigade Operations Noncommissioned Officer in Charge 1st Sgt. Otis. He was utilizing a walker and could barely move around due to his illness,” Arnold said. “But, from the first time I met 1st Sgt. Otis, I knew this NCO was the real deal. First Sgt. Otis truly demonstrated the Army values of selfless service, personal courage, loyalty and duty.”

Through physical therapy and determination, Otis progressed from his bed to a wheelchair.

“I was improving little by little but the whole process was overwhelming,” Otis said.

Otis’ marriage was also failing and he had less than three months to get out of his wheelchair and onto the PT track.

“I had incredible support from my chain of command, from my battle buddies and from the spouses within the unit,” Otis said. “Going to a WTU in the States wouldn’t have motivated me to overcome my physical limitations the same way my peers motivated me to get back in the fight.”

Otis said that the Warrior Ethos’ mantra of “I will never quit,” coupled with the overwhelming support from his battle buddies, kept him focused on meeting his goals.

In six months, Otis improved from being bed-ridden, to using a wheelchair, to utilizing a walker, then crutches, a cane, and finally to taking and passing an APFT.

“The brigade was critically short on ADA master sergeants,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jose Villarreal, 35th ADA senior enlisted advisor. “When the list came out and Otis was selected, we knew we wanted him to lead our Soldiers.”

“He had proved his work ethic before his setback and then he went on to lead by example through his resilient recovery,” Villarreal said.

Otis was pinned and then frocked by his command.

“This whole ordeal has taught me so much,” Otis said. “I learned the validity of a medical profile, the necessity of a functioning reconditioning program, and a real sense of empathy for my Soldiers when they too encounter an injury.”

Otis said that he continues to feel pain as a result of his illness, but that it won’t stop him from continuing to serve.

He said, “Compassion of my leadership is what got me where I am today and I plan to give it all that I have as long as I am here.”

NCOs honor RDECOM, NASA ties on staff ride

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCO Journal

More than 50 noncommissioned officers of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command gathered in October for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. Chief among the goals were making connections among their RDECOM peers for future project collaborations.

Also on the itinerary was a staff ride to John F. Kennedy Space Center.

RDECOM has been in a partnership with NASA since the inception of their space program, namely with the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, Army Research Laboratory and Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, said Sgt. Maj. James P. Snyder, command sergeant major and senior enlisted advisor of RDECOM.

“A lot of the products and technology that are being developed are in conjunction with RDECOM,” Snyder said. “That’s where that tie comes in, and that’s why we went there to see that.”

The NCOs who attended the training sessions are assigned to either Headquarters, ARL or the six research, development and engineering centers.

Photos by Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal

RDECOM’s NCOs use expertise to assist in Army product development

By MARTHA C. KOESTER
NCOJournal

It wasn’t the detailed overview of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command or even the staff ride to John F. Kennedy Space Center that particularly motivated the noncommissioned officers. It was the valuable connections made for future project collaborations that would prove the most gratifying during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions in October at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center.

Sgt. Maj. James P. Snyder, command sergeant major and senior enlisted advisor of RDECOM, urged the 54 NCOs who attended to capitalize on their shared link to RDECOM and make those connections at the training sessions.

Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hardwick, center, tells NCOs about Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith before the start of the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions in October at the Simulation and Training Technology Center, which is named after Smith. Hardwick is the senior enlisted advisor for Army Research Laboratory’s Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. 1st Class John C. Hardwick, center, tells NCOs about Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith before the start of the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions in October at the Simulation and Training Technology Center, which is named after Smith. Hardwick is the senior enlisted advisor for Army Research Laboratory’s Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“Start thinking, ‘How do I better work with others out there to leverage the product that we are building in design, so that way we can give the benefit to the Soldiers in the Army?’” Snyder said. “Because that’s what it’s about. It’s about the Soldiers; it’s not about us. It’s about the unit, it’s about the Soldier in the field and the product that we provide them, and the best product that we can give them.”

Exercising skills

The 54 NCOs are part of RDECOM’s vast enterprise and are assigned to either Headquarters, Army Research Laboratory or the six research, development and engineering centers — Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center or AMRDEC; Armaments Research, Development and Engineering Center or ARDEC; Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center or CERDEC; Edgewood Chemical Biological Center or ECBC, Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center or NSRDEC; and Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center or TARDEC.

The NCOs provide military expertise throughout RDECOM. They work closely with a large civilian workforce of scientists and engineers to develop products and technologies.

Neuropsychologist Hector Gonzalez of Army Research Laboratory advises Sgt. 1st Class Laritza Hamby on how to use the Construction Equipment Virtual Trainer research equipment in October during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Neuropsychologist Hector Gonzalez of Army Research Laboratory advises Sgt. 1st Class Laritza Hamby on how to use the Construction Equipment Virtual Trainer research equipment in October during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“Why you are here is to provide user-level input to our scientists and engineers so they can develop the best product they can develop, to get to our Soldiers the first time,” Snyder told the NCOs during the training sessions. “We cannot afford to keep providing a product quickly, that we have to continue to go back and to modernize and revamp. We just can’t afford it.”

Because most of the NCOs come from the operational side of the Army to RDECOM, working with civilians may prove to be a little tricky in the beginning.

“Sometimes our civilians are a little bit intimidated by a Soldier coming into the process because they are not used to working with a Soldier,” Snyder told the NCOs. “You have to show them the benefit that you can be to them in that process. The rank you wear does not matter. They can’t associate rank with anything. What they can associate with though is your technical expertise, and until you show them the technical expertise you provide, you will not gain that trust and they will not come to you seeking that advice.”

Organizational roles

NCOs at the training sessions were eager to ask Snyder, who assumed his position in March, about his job at RDECOM.

“Sergeant Major, how long did it take you to get comfortable in your position, coming out of an operational brigade sergeant major position?” asked Sgt. 1st Class Ralph Zito, senior NCO advisor to AMRDEC.

Science and technology manager Bill Pike, right, shows NCOs simple entry and exit wounds used for medical simulation training in October at the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Science and technology manager Bill Pike, right, shows NCOs simple entry and exit wounds used for medical simulation training in October at the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions at the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

“I am more comfortable than when I first took the seat because I try to embed myself in the process,” Snyder said. “I ask questions. There are plenty of things out there that I do not know yet. That just makes me want to know and ask more questions. I need all of you to do the same thing. The folks in this room know a lot more about how that piece of equipment is going to be utilized in the field than our scientists and engineers do.”

All of the information helped put NCOs at ease, especially in helping them to figure out their organizational roles.

“That RDECOM brief was pretty amazing,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tyler D. Hardy, Satellite Communications Terminal chief, Space and Terrestrial Communications Division, CERDEC. “I have been here for about three years. I wish I had heard it two years ago. That would have helped immensely, because RDECOM is so complex. That helped me understand where we fit in to the grand scheme of things. I’m getting ready to leave RDECOM, and it will help me brief the new NCOs who are coming in. Now, I have a better understanding.”

On display

A group of ARL scientists and engineers treated NCOs to technology demonstrations, which included the virtual 3D platform Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment using virtual puppeteering, as well as technological advances in tactical combat casualty care using medical simulation.

Sgt. Maj. James P. Snyder, command sergeant major and senior enlisted advisor of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, urges NCOs to make professional connections during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions. More than 50 NCOs attended the event in October in the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)
Sgt. Maj. James P. Snyder, command sergeant major and senior enlisted advisor of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, urges NCOs to make professional connections during the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development System training sessions. More than 50 NCOs attended the event in October in the Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Simulation and Training Technology Center. (Martha C. Koester / NCO Journal)

NCOs from ARL, AMRDEC, ARDEC, CERDEC, ECBC, NSRDEC and TARDEC presented outlines of their organizations to give other training participants a better understanding of what each contributes to RDECOM.

The NCOs also heard a variety of topics discussed, including guidance on professional development, the updated noncommissioned officer evaluation report and the Army’s new Select, Train, Educate, Promote policy.

“I thought the professional development piece was very helpful,” Zito said. “I thought that was really interesting [advice] to further my career and longevity in the military. It was very helpful on what to look for within myself and how to help Soldiers when I get back into the fight and be more productive as a leader.”

Snyder also told the NCOs about the effort to put the word out on RDECOM within the operational Army.

“I’ve been working with Army Training and Doctrine Command to get a block of instruction about RDECOM into the Basic Leaders Course,” Snyder said. “We’re trying to embed a block of training, not just about RDECOM but Army Materiel Command in general, because AMC is misunderstood. We’re trying to embed it in BLC so that our young leaders, who are the ones who are going to find the problems in equipment, have reachback capability to us.”

For Sgt. Maj. Todd Galindo, RDECOM G3, operations sergeant major, the NCOPDS training sessions offered a valuable opportunity to keep all NCOs up to date. Galindo is a new addition to the organization.

“Being a part of RDECOM really completes everything for me and what I’ve done on the operational side of the house,” Galindo said. “It’s a shame that I didn’t know this before, but now that I do I want to share it with everybody else. I know a lot of folks out in the force and hopefully I can make my rounds to explain what RDECOM does. That way, Soldiers can come in and be a part of it.”

By Example: Bradley maintenance NCO goes the extra mile

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

It’s not often that a staff sergeant serves as the logistics lead during a deployment, but that is exactly what Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, a 1st Cavalry Division Soldier, did in Lithuania during Operation Atlantic Resolve.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, a Bradley fighting vehicle maintenance supervisor for B Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, discusses the role of the mechanic in the overall supply system and how maintenance and equipment is tracked during an Oct. 10 visit with senior Lithuanian logisticians in Rukla, Lithuania. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson / U.S. Army News Service)
Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, a Bradley fighting vehicle maintenance supervisor for B Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, discusses the role of the mechanic in the overall supply system and how maintenance and equipment is tracked during an Oct. 10 visit with senior Lithuanian logisticians in Rukla, Lithuania. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson / U.S. Army News Service)

While on deployment in Rukla, Lithuania, Nemier, a Bradley fighting vehicle maintenance supervisor attached to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, created the standard operating procedures for logistics operations within the country and helped the Lithuanian military develop a maintenance program, all while training and mentoring his Soldiers in the motor pool.

“He had to run and plan all of the logistics for everything we did in that country as far as maintaining supplies for the training missions – ammunition and fuel, allocating maintenance support and getting parts. He would take care of all of that later in the day, and during the workday he would be with all the rest of us in the motor pool,” said Sgt. Jordan Gassie, who was Nemier’s shop foreman in Lithuania. “He had three Soldiers, some brand new to the Army, and he made time to train them, as well as the vehicle operators, up to his own high standards.”

Upon his return from deployment in December 2014, Nemier was recognized by Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, vice chief of staff of the Army, for the work he did with the Lithuanians and for excelling in mission command.

“I told Gen. Allyn that the success of any leader is because of the Soldiers he commands,” Nemier said. “Was I successful? Yes. Did I go above and beyond the aspects of my duty position? Yes. Because my other NCOs allotted me that time. They went above and beyond as well. I even had PFCs stepping up, because they saw what I was doing and knew why I was doing it.”

New place, new SOPs

Atlantic Resolve, led by U.S Army Europe, is a combined arms exercise taking place throughout Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to enhance multinational interoperability, strengthen relationships among allied militaries, contribute to regional stability and demonstrate the United States’ commitment to NATO.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, of J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pictured at left, joins his team as they repair a fuel leak on a Bradley fighting vehicle. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier, of J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pictured at left, joins his team as they repair a fuel leak on a Bradley fighting vehicle. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

Nemier’s unit was the first to bring Bradleys into Lithuania, and as such, faced numerous challenges. One of those challenges was moving vehicles and equipment on Baltic trains, which are a different size than what the Soldiers are used to. Nemier worked with Lithuanian logistics officers and the Corps of Engineers from USAREUR to determine the best method for loading and unloading the vehicles, and the maintenance and logistics SOPs he put in place have paved the way for continued mission success. The division has adapted them for American Soldiers to use in Latvia, Estonia and Poland. Because Atlantic Resolve is an ongoing operation, units are still utilizing those SOPs – adding to them and adapting them as needed – long after Nemier’s departure.

“Normally I would place an officer as the leader of a forward logistics element, but with Nemier’s experience and his wealth of knowledge, he was the easy choice to make,” said Cpt. Jeremy Hunter, commander of J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, which is Nemier’s unit at Fort Hood. “Staff Sgt. Nemier had a lot more experience than the lieutenants I considered, and he had proved that he could not only lead the Soldiers in there but think critically and creatively to solve any of the issues that would come up in a theater that really hasn’t been developed. Lithuania has a smaller army, and I knew he would work closely with his Lithuanian counterparts to really accomplish the goal – to ensure them that the United States is with them, but also to deter the Russian aggression at that point. I had full confidence that he could take a team that we created, lead them and really take that mission and accomplish it without me having to give him direct guidance every day.”

Hunter said he values NCOs, such as Nemier, who show initiative.

“A good NCO will take the mission provided, find the shortfalls within that mission and point them out,” Hunter said. “What makes Nemier stand above the rest is that not only does he point out those shortfalls, but he comes up with solutions and presents them as well to other leaders.”

Working with Lithuanians

The Lithuanian military is very new, Nemier explained. The country didn’t join the European Union until 2004. Its soldiers are in a vulnerable situation and hungry for information.

“Even if [Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier] is turning a wrench on something himself, he is explaining to everyone the exact purpose of what he is doing, the reason why he is doing it, the system it is part of, how it works, why you do it in a particular order. … He makes everything into a lesson to help the Soldiers learn to make informed decisions on their own,” said Sgt. Jordan Gassie, who served with Nemier in Lithuania. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
“Even if [Staff Sgt. Christopher Nemier] is turning a wrench on something himself, he is explaining to everyone the exact purpose of what he is doing, the reason why he is doing it, the system it is part of, how it works, why you do it in a particular order. … He makes everything into a lesson to help the Soldiers learn to make informed decisions on their own,” said Sgt. Jordan Gassie, who served with Nemier in Lithuania. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Some of the daily procedures and common precautions performed by U.S. Soldiers are not even considered in the Baltic countries, he said. For example, the Lithuanians were not prepared to deal with the environmental impact of moving equipment and using it in the field. If a humvee started leaking oil, for example, they would just let it leak. But when Nemier’s unit began showing them the proper way to dispose of the waste, they were eager to learn. Nemier and his team dug up the contaminated soil and showed the Lithuanian soldiers how to build drip pans from boxes and plastic liners. Nemier guided them in creating a hazardous material SOP based on European Union and NATO standards, and that same month, the country passed an inspection for the first time since joining the EU.

Nemier met with members of the Lithuanian Department of Defense, sharing what he could to strengthen the army.

“We were humble when we went in, and they responded very well, because they could see we wanted to set them up for success,” Nemier said. “They still hit me up on email with mechanical questions. It’s a friendship. It really is.”

Nemier also struck up a friendship with the Lithuanian motor sergeant who shared the motor pool with his team. Through broken English and Google Translate, they worked well together and still keep in touch.

The language barrier made everything more difficult, Nemier said, but it taught them patience.

“It forced us to be patient,” he said. “I would teach something on a Bradley, and I would have to go over it 10 times. I had to adjust my leadership style and, as an NCO, you have to be flexible like that. One leadership style is not going to work for ‘Joe A’ and ‘Joe B.’ We struggled for the first couple of weeks, but we figured it out. I think it really made us better leaders.”

Working with Soldiers

Nemier said he always knew patience was an important trait in a good NCO, but working with foreign soldiers really drove the point home. Now, he strives to have even more patience with his Soldiers at Fort Hood.

Private First Class Derrik Steinebach, a member of Nemier's crew within J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, repairs a fuel leak on a Bradley fighting vehicle. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Private First Class Derrik Steinebach, a member of Nemier’s crew within J Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, repairs a fuel leak on a Bradley fighting vehicle. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“Patience is so important,” Nemier said. “NCOs need to figure out what the problem is before jumping to conclusions or freaking out. Find out what the problem is and try to come up with solutions. … I don’t scream and yell. I’ll do the 4857 – the counseling form and the paperwork – that is without a doubt, and they will be held accountable for their actions. But, especially a young Soldier who has never experienced anything this major before, I want to show him or her that though they are just a small pebble in a pond, they can create a ripple and affect the entire shoreline. You lose a Brad, you lose a wingman. You lose a flanking position. You lose an infantry squad. So what they do here in the motor pool is important. I want to help young Soldiers see that they can affect the entire pond.”

Helping Soldiers understand the importance of their work and how they fit into the big picture is a huge motivator, Nemier said.

“If I tell Joe to go over there and fix that Bradley, he is going to go over there and fix that Bradley,” he said. “But he doesn’t know why. … Because it’s broken? But, if I say, ‘Hey, you need to go over and fix that Bradley because we are getting ready to go shoot gunnery, and we want the Bradleys to be ready to go for the infantry guys so they don’t get hurt while they are rolling out to the ranges,’ I’ve just motivated that Soldier. He now knows what his work is affecting in the near future.”

Gassie said he appreciated Nemier’s honesty and the time he took to explain each task to his Soldiers.

“Across the board, he is fair and straightforward, whether you are a subordinate, a peer or a superior. He will give you a straight answer,” Gassie said. “And when he describes a maintenance task or a Soldier skill, it’s never ‘Do this because I say so.’ Even if he is turning a wrench on something himself, he is explaining to everyone the exact purpose of what he is doing, the reason why he is doing it, the system it is part of, how it works, why you do it in a particular order. … He makes everything into a lesson to help the Soldiers learn to make informed decisions on their own.”

Hunter said a good NCO is one who, like Nemier – now attending the Senior Leader course at Fort Lee, Virginia – always strives to better himself and remains dedicated to every aspect of his Soldiers’ development.

“Staff Sgt. Nemier has continually pushed himself to learn more and more within his MOS and has also taken time to teach his Soldiers – some of them brand new out of basic training and Advanced Individual Training – so they can also become experts in their field. Above that, he is continually taking the time to develop them into complete Soldiers – really showing them how to succeed, not only in the Army, but in life as well.”