The most important mission of the Sergeant Major of the Army is providing direct communication between the soldier and the Army leadership.
SMA Richard A. Kidd
The Sergeant Major of the Army’s job is to support and keep the Chief of Staff informed about the enlisted concerns in the Army, and let him know how soldiers are training and living at the canteen-cup level.
SMA Julius W. Gates
As SMA I wanted to make sure that policies were enforceable by noncommissioned officers in the field. I also wanted to ensure soldiers could live with whatever was recommended. In General John Wickham’s initial guidance to me, he told me to be myself and to “go do the things that needed to be done in the Army.” What a Sergeant Major of the Army does depends on the Chief of Staff. General Wickham listened and we pushed a lot of things through that would not have been accomplished if it hadn’t been for all of us working together.
SMA Glen E. Morrell
The two responsibilities the “chief,” General Edward Meyer, gave me were to provide open and frank advice and criticism of what I see in the field, and to oversee the continued development of the NCO Corps. Most of the time I’ve seen my role as SMA to be like the slick duck hunter who lays back and waits for the right time to get in a shot.
SMA William A. Connelly
The intent of the Sergeant Major of the Army is to support existing programs and provide input that may affect the possibility of additional programs.
SMA Leon L. Van Autreve
The most rewarding aspect of being Sergeant Major of the Army was being in the position to influence Army-wide policies pertaining to enlisted personnel, and getting top-level attention and focus on matters that never got to the top prior to the establishment of the Sergeant Major of the Army position. I wanted to be visible and I wanted soldiers of all ranks to know there was someone who could hear their problems and go right to the top with problems that had merit.
As SMA, I thought I could make a big difference so long as I kept the best interests of soldiers foremost in my mind. I knew soldiers, and I knew the way they lived. I knew what they needed, what motivated them, and what irritated them. Now I could do things that would be felt Army-wide. The most important thing I always remembered was where I came from. I was a soldier who had dug slit trenches, pulled K.P. and guard duty, and crawled in the mud. It was that same soldier I was there to represent, and I did my best every day I was Sergeant Major of the Army.
The MACOM Command Sergeants Major Conference was something the Army did not have prior to the establishment of a Sergeant Major of the Army. Soldiers of all grades and ranks, from all levels, had an opportunity to present ideas and recommendations for improving the Army’s morale, training, readiness, proficiency, and anything else that could be improved. They simply made suggestions to their immediate enlisted supervisor. Suggestions were consolidated at each level and submitted to the next higher level. This gave the enlisted soldier a voice that was heard at the very top, a voice he had never had before. This way we got lots of things approved that would never have even surfaced through the officers’ chain of command. Even the things that were disapproved were at least recorded and copies of everything considered were sent to all commands afterwards. That was an excellent way of informing commanders Army-wide of the things that interested soldiers.
The Army will be forever indebted to General Harold K. Johnson for establishing the SMA position. There are countless significant improvements that were made and will continue to be made as a result of the influence of the Sergeants Major of the Army. General Johnson was very concerned for the soldiers in his Army, and he left a system in place that will continue to provide for their best interests.
SMA George W. Dunaway