Headquarters Command Battalion welcomes new CSM
June 21, 2013
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Outgoing Headquarters Command Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Jessup placed a set of keys on a podium that had been set inside the community center on the Fort Myer portion of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall June 18. He looked out at the crowd that had gathered for the change of responsibility ceremony that would see Command Sgt. Maj. Alex Pratt assume his duties of battalion CSM.
"A couple of years ago when I took this job, I had no idea what I was getting into," he said with a smile and a slight shake of his head, "but I've come to understand that there's no other command in the Army like the Headquarters Command Battalion."
And when his government-issued cellular phone rang a couple of minutes later, Jessup answered it, told the person who was calling to hang on and handed the device to Pratt and said, "it's for you," to the delight of the audience, who applauded the move.
Headquarters Command Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Mark Biehl served as the ceremony's host and called the day "bittersweet" because Jessup is moving on to be the garrison command sergeant major at Fort Detrick, Md., after two impressive years as battalion CSM.
Biehl said the only way to put Jessup's accomplishments into perspective was to tell the audience a little bit about the battalion itself.
"The battalion is the largest in the Army, with Soldiers serving all over the National Capital Region and throughout the world," he said. The battalion provides command and control of 53 agencies throughout the NCR, processes administrative actions, conducts Uniform Code of Military Justice actions as the summary court martial convening authority for the NCR, and provides logistical and training support.
"We're a little busy at times," Biehl said. "Despite that overwhelming pace, Command Sergeant Major Jessup made an immediate impact by focusing on leadership, training and schools. He mentored and counseled over 500 Soldiers and NCOs prior to attending schools. His emphasis on standards, pre-execution checks and mentorship resulted in over 200 graduates from various noncommissioned officer education system schools with over 15 distinguished honor graduates."
Biehl said Jessup revamped the battalion's mentorship and NCO development programs by highlighting professional and personal skills, including financial readiness, the care and maintenance of enlisted records and sponsorship. Jessup also developed and implemented a comprehensive Army warrior training program, regardless of unit, in the NCR.
"He leveraged the training facilities and leadership at Fort Lee, resulting in over 800 Soldiers receiving quality training," he continued. "He served as the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall command sergeant major on several occasions, resulting in mission accomplishment and increased efficiency for this extremely high-profile installation."
During his tenure as Headquarters Command Battalion CSM, Jessup also imposed quality risk initiatives that resulted in zero privately owned vehicle accidents for safety violations and developed the battalion's motorcycle safety program.
"Command Sergeant Major Richard Jessup is an exceptional Soldier and leader who has left an indelible mark on thousands of military members, their Families and civilians around the world," added Biehl. "He always places the needs of his unit or people above his own."
Biehl said that no Soldier can do it alone, and praised the contributions of Jessup's wife, Sylvia, to her husband's career.
"Sylvia, trust me, it is readily apparent from the multiple discussions that he and I have had about our Families that you are the rock-solid foundation; you allow him to be successful," Biehl said.
Turning to Jessup, Biehl told him it has been an "honor and privilege" to work with him, and added that he would "fight to do it again in the future."
Biehl then explained that the day was "sweet" because the battalion is welcoming Pratt and his Family to the team.
"Command Sergeant Major Pratt, welcome to the most interesting battalion in the United States Army," continued Biehl. "I look forward to partnering with you as we solve the daily, unique and complex challenges associated with the battalion. Every day is an adventure."
Pratt, a native of Monroe, La., joined the Army in August of 1987. Prior to his assignment to Headquarters Command Battalion, he served as the G3 sergeant major for the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.
"The battalion is like no other in the United States Army, not to mention the largest, and I am proud to have been selected as the command sergeant major," said Pratt. "I recognize what a privilege it is to serve our nation and Soldiers. I have been given an even greater honor to serve as a member of a command team at the battalion level."
Pratt also stressed that welfare of the battalion's Soldiers, Families and civilians is uppermost in his mind at all times.
The ceremony was highlighted by the traditional passing of the noncommissioned officer's sword by Jessup to Pratt. Jessup's wife, Sylvia, and Pratt's daughter, Daphne, also received flowers during the ceremony. Pratt's wife was unable to attend the event.
The units represented at the ceremony included Headquarters Company; Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison; and the color guard was provided by Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).
Also attending the ceremony were Maj. Gen. (P) Michael S. Linnington, commander Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and U.S. Military District of Washington; Col. Fern O. Sumpter, commander of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall; Col. Thomas Palmatier, commanding officer of the United States Army Band, "Pershing's Own"; Command Sgt. Maj. Earlene Y. Lavender, command sergeant major of JBM-HH; and Command Sgt. Maj. David Turnbull, command sergeant major JFHQ-NCR/MDW.