Sgt. Maj. of the Army
Kenneth O. Preston, USA, Ret.
Director, Noncommissioned officer
and Soldier Programs
Greetings from the Association of the United States Army – our Army’s and our soldiers’ professional organization. Special thanks to AUSA’s Fort Leonard Wood Mid-Missouri Chapter for hosting my visit on July 31and Aug. 1. This amazing Association chapter was selected as the best chapter in their membership category for 2012. After my visit I know why, and I want to take this opportunity to share some of the secrets to their success.
Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Morris, USA, Ret., past Association chapter president, did all the coordination for my visit. Rick is a longtime volunteer with the chapter who actively seeks out opportunities to help the Fort Leonard Wood command and the local community, and to help soldiers and their families.
I was given the opportunity to address the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership’s (SOP) second annual meeting held at the Waynesville Career Center.
The vision of the SOP is "Regional communities, governments and organizations, Fort Leonard Wood, and state and federal enablers working together as stakeholders to make the region an ever better place to live, work and play, while enabling Fort Leonard Wood’s mission sustainment and growth."
The Association chapter plays a key enabling and sponsorship role as the lynchpin connecting the installation leadership to local and state governments and to participating leaders and businesses, educational institutions and supporting organizations.
Collectively this large group of volunteers is actively seeking opportunities in seven focus areas that include: economic development and jobs, education and workforce development, environment and natural resources, health and wellness, quality of life, transportation, and utilities infrastructure.
Command Sgt. Maj. Terrence Murphy, Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, provided me with the opportunity to spend some time with the Sapper Leader Course, the Chemical School, and to have lunch with the installation sergeants major.
These visits gave me the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of discussions that included career development and being competitive for promotion in tomorrow’s smaller force, to assignment management and broadening opportunities.
The highlight for me was talking with an officer basic course about team building, establishing the command team relationship with your platoon sergeant, and growing noncommissioned officers who make the daily routine operations, routine.
TRADOC NCO, soldier of the year
Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, commanding general, Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, and Murphy gave me the opportunity to participate in a Video Teleconference (VTC) with the Training and Doctrine Command’s announcement of the NCO and Soldier of the Year.
Participating with Gen. Robert W. Cone, TRADOC commander; Lt. Gen. David Halverson, deputy commander; and Command Sgt. Maj. Dan Dailey were the leaders from 11 different installations who had competitors contending for the top honors.
Cone addressed the VTC audience with his congratulations to the competitors.
He said, "I’d like to congratulate each and every one of you for aspiring to compete – to be the man or woman in the arena – to step forward and say: ‘I’m going to take a shot at this.’"
Adding, "I will guarantee you just because of your participation and just because of the preparation you have made, you are, in fact, a better soldier or noncommissioned officer – and your units are better – for having had this experience."
He and Dailey also talked about how they wanted this year’s competition to be cost neutral while meeting the commander’s intent to select and recognize the best NCO and soldier across the command.
Utilizing the NCO academies across the 11 installations as the evaluation team competitors on each installation executed their hands-on testing at home station.
All 10 Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, land navigation, media interviews and more than 60 hands-on tasks, to include the Army physical fitness test, were executed to a high standard.
The culmination of the competition was the traditional selection board executed via VTC.
Selected in the competition were the TRADOC soldier of the year, Sgt. Curtis Bittner from the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Okla.; and the TRADOC NCO of the year, Staff Sgt. Benjamin Steele from the Initial Military Training Center of Excellence at Fort Jackson, S.C.
After the winners were announced, Steele said he still wasn’t sure if he could put into words how it felt to take the title of TRADOC’s 2013 NCO of the Year.
"It’ll take a while for it to sink in, but I’m extremely excited and happy to represent Fort Jackson this week," Steele said. He added jokingly that although his wife will be excited, she might be a bit disappointed to hear that there are going to be many more nights of studying and practicing.
Bittner said there is a lot of hands-on training that goes into the competition – in addition to the missions that must still be completed within each competitor's unit. However, setting the example for his soldiers is what kept him motivated.
"I feel great," Bittner said. "The soldiers below me get to see how far you can really go. I look forward to the next level, and I plan on winning it all."
Fort Leonard Wood chapter dinner
I also joined the Association’s chapter leadership and approximately 350 guests for the chapter’s annual recognition awards dinner.
The turnout was amazing and I had the opportunity to meet many military and civilian leaders and retirees, including two former installation command sergeants major, Jack Butler and Harold Baxter, and a large gathering of family members and loyal friends of the Army and the Association.
I had the opportunity to speak with Staff Sgt. Dan Barnes, USA, Ret., and his wife during the dinner. Dan was seriously wounded in combat with the loss of both legs above the knee.
The Association chapter and many local businesses have supported Dan and his family throughout their reintegration back into the local community.
Morris was the master of ceremonies and, after honors to our nation and the invocation, recognized four great individuals with the chapter’s Colonel Edward A. Owsley Superior Service Award.
Recognized were Debby Crawford, Command Sgt. Maj. Robert M. Dils, USA, Ret., Julian Harrison and Bill Ransdall. These recipients have made substantial contributions to the Army and AUSA.
Following dinner I spoke as the guest of honor.
I talked about why the Army leadership formed AUSA in 1950 and did some comparisons between the Army in the aftermath of WW II and the Army after Iraq and Afghanistan.
At both times in our history, 1950 and 2013, the Army had just finished a war with two countries, our nation faced a large deficit that had to be paid, and a rapid reduction of forces was needed to recoup the expenditures.
Col. Edward A. Owsley, for whom the chapter award is named, was a staff officer working in the Pentagon in the aftermath of WW II in 1950. He served as one of the principle staff officers establishing the Association with the merger of the Infantry and Artillery Associations.
Owsley retired from the Army in the mid-1960s as the Fort Leonard Wood chief of staff and remained in the local area.
In retirement, Owsley continued to volunteer and serve the Army through the Association’s chapter.
Serving at the local, state and regional level positions of the Association, Owsley saw the need for continued service throughout his retirement until his death in 2006.
AUSA Annual Meeting
So now you know the rest of the story. Come learn and see many more compelling stories of dedication and support for our soldiers and their families at this year’s AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition.
This year’s events begin on Saturday, Oct. 19, with the Army Ten-Miler GEICO Pre-Race Pasta Dinner.
The pre-race dinner is attended by hundreds of runners and their supporters.
Sgt. Maj. the Army Raymond Chandler, along with the command sergeants majors of Army National Guard and the Army Reserve, will address and motivate the runners.
The 29th Army Ten-Miler will start early on Sunday morning, Oct. 20, at the Pentagon.
Monday morning, Oct. 21, kicks off AUSA’s three-day professional development conference with the sergeant major of the Army’s "State of the NCO Corps" presentation to soldiers and noncommissioned officers.
This presentation provides a unique opportunity to listen and ask questions about the Army, the future of our profession and discuss subjects of interest.
The Opening Ceremony immediately follows where Secretary of the Army John McHugh will address attendees.
This event will include the presentation Sgt. Maj. of the Army William G. Bainbridge Distinguished Service Award to Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew McFowler, USA, Ret.
The Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year Awards Luncheon is one of the highlights of the Annual Meeting where we honor the Army’s Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year.
Recognition awards for these two great soldiers will be presented during the luncheon by the Army vice chief of staff, Gen. John F. Campbell, and the sergeant major of the Army.
The highlight for the second day is the NCO Professional Development Forum.
The theme for the forum is "The Army Profession" and all attendees are invited to attend and participate in the discussions.
Following this forum, the Army chief of staff, Gen Raymond T. Odierno, and Chandler will recognize both the active and reserve drill sergeants of the year, and the recruiters of the year from the active Army, Army National Guard and the Army Reserve at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Luncheon.
For all soldiers in attendance, buses will be staged outside the convention center on Wed., Oct. 23, for a tour of Arlington National Cemetery and a windshield tour of Washington starting at 9:30 a.m. and returning at approximately 1:30 p.m.
For more information and a complete list of events about these and the many professional development forums, family forums, Army National Guard and Army Reserve events, go to www.ausa.org.
Still Serving, Still Saluting!