Helping Soldiers Through Tough Parts of Life
July 18, 2008
HHC Garrison 1st Sgt. Paul Grosch remembers working with a supply sergeant who returned from Afghanistan and was temporarily assigned to the HHC Garrison staff at Redstone Arsenal while he helped care for his dying father.
It wasn't long before the sergeant's father lost his battle with cancer. Then, two weeks later, his mother also passed away.
"If you haven't lost a family member before, there is a lot that has to be done after a death that can really get to you. The death and all the other things involved with losing a loved one hits you hard," Grosch said.
"The Army recognizes that. We give these Soldiers the flexibility and allow them the time to handle all the personal business involved with a death. At the same time, I have the responsibility to bring them back up to speed to be a productive Soldier."
The staff at Headquarters & Headquarters Company, Garrison at Redstone Arsenal includes many Soldiers who are serving compassionate reassignments - temporary tours of duty where the Soldier continues to serve their country while also taking care of serious family issues. And, as the first sergeant of HHC Garrison, Grosch is there to help them through the tough times.
"These Soldiers are facing significant challenges. Their father, mother, child or another loved one is dying," he said. "There might be financial problems caused by the situation that they also have to deal with.
"I basically play mom and dad for these Soldiers. I help them get through the emotional part of life. I help them get financially back on their feet. At times, it is somewhat overwhelming for them and I'm here to help them. They have special needs. I make sure their needs are fulfilled so they can go on to be successful in their Army career."
Grosch, 45, works with HHC Garrison commander Capt. Rob Dewberry and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Rickey Cooper and the HHC Garrison staff to oversee the administrative needs of the 650 Soldiers assigned to the Arsenal (not including the Soldiers of OMEMS, Fox Army Health Center or SMDC). HHC Garrison works with several government, volunteer and community organizations that support Soldier needs on the Arsenal.
A career Soldier, Grosch is known for the compassion and generosity he shows toward Soldiers - all the way from privates to generals -- who serve at Redstone Arsenal. Recently, he was the active duty recipient of the 1st Sgt. John Ordway Leadership Award presented annually to outstanding first sergeants by the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army. 1st Sgt. Daryl Owens received the award on behalf of the Army Reserves and 1st Sgt. Johnny Whisenant received it on behalf of the Alabama Army National Guard.
Grosch was nominated for the award by his commanding officer. Describing how Grosch has helped several of his young Soldiers deal with personal issues - such as driving them to medical, financial and educational appointments, providing them with money from his personal funds to cover sudden expenses, and helping out Soldiers and their families during the holidays, Dewberry said his first sergeant goes the "extra mile."
"He has personally gave of his experience and time in a self-sacrificing means of mentoring to make sure that young Soldiers receive valuable lessons learned and guidance in their development in becoming future NCOs, etc.," Dewberry wrote in the nomination. "The reason I say 'etc.' is because it's hard to capture the extent of time and depth he has shown and given in being a leader to the Soldiers."
Grosch joined the Army in August 1988 at age 25, after working awhile in civilian jobs.
"The career field I was in was a dead end," he recalled. "Most of my family had been in the military before me and I really had always had a yearning to join the military. But I was scared. It was when I figured out I could go back to school while in the Army that I decided this was for me.
"The Army was a good choice for me because I needed the Army a whole lot more than the Army needed me at the time. But I had no plans of making this a career. My plan was to do my job honorably, work as hard as I could, and get out and get an education."
That plan changed as Grosch realized how much he enjoyed working alongside fellow Soldiers.
"In my opinion, there are no better people on earth than Soldiers and that's what's kept me in the Army," he said. "I enjoy the camaraderie and the challenge of the job. I love serving Soldiers and that's what my job is. Basically, I look out for Soldiers."
Grosch joined the Army as an infantryman, serving at Fort Bragg, N.C., Hawaii, Fort Benning, Ga., Germany, Italy and Fort Campbell, Ky. He also served as the senior military instructor at the Marion Military Institute.
"When I first became a sergeant, that was the first time I was put in charge of troops," he said. "To me, that was where it was at - developing someone who will take your place."
Grosch wears a combat infantry badge with a star, representing his combat service in the Panama War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq. He has also served during Hurricane Andrew and on a Multi-Force and Observer Tour between Egypt and Israel.
At Redstone Arsenal, Grosch is involved in HHC Garrison's responsibilities in supporting the Garrison by performing administration and management duties associated with Soldiers on active duty with Garrison agencies and activities; providing the Honor Guard, Color Guard and Burial Detail representing Redstone Arsenal; coordinating military activities for Arsenal Soldiers; supervising command responsibilities related to supply, discipline, morale, military training and general control of Garrison Soldiers; establishing and implementing internal policies and procedures; directing the Command Information Program for Garrison Soldiers; and coordinating supply, transportation and maintenance of HHC Garrison equipment.
Grosch and the HHC-Garrison staff also coordinate logistics for transporting, feeding, caring for and supervising large groups of Arsenal Soldiers who represent Redstone Arsenal at community events, such as the recent Armed Forces Celebration Week activities and sporting events.
At every installation where he's served, Grosch has worked and lived what he valued - the ethics and morals of the U.S. Soldier.
"A Soldier will mess up, but he doesn't do it on purpose," he said. "He wants to do a great job, the best job ever, 100 percent of the time. I don't think you will find that kind of work ethic in the civilian work force."
As with most Soldiers, his years in the Army have left their mark on Grosch.
"I know for a fact that the Army has made me a better leader, a better man," he said. "It's exposed me to all kinds of people from all different walks of life who learn to get along with each other and work together to accomplish the mission."
Today, with nearly 20 years of service in the Army, Grosch and his wife, Becky, have settled in Rogersville. They have two children -- Chris, who attends Western Kentucky University, and Savannah, a Shoals Community College student who is transferring to the University of Alabama-Huntsville.
Throughout his career, Grosch has been committed to being the best Soldier possible - and the best leader of Soldiers. He believes the best leaders are Soldiers who are firm but fair, who are smart and educated about the world, who have a wealth of experience to draw from and who, most of all, have compassion for Soldiers and other people. Grosch hopes others see those qualities in him in his role as a leader.
"Since I took over this job, I go home every night and look myself in the mirror. That's my check. I ask myself 'Grosch, today did you do everything you could for those Soldiers'' The promise I've made to myself is to try to do everything in my power to help my folks out," he said. "Some nights I can't say 'Yes.' But most nights I can."