U.S. Army Initial Military Training welcomes new command sergeant major
January 14, 2014
A ceremony marking a change of responsibility for the command sergeant major of U.S. Army Initial Military Training and senior enlisted advisor for Senior Commander, Army Element Fort Eustis took place Jan. 10 at Fort Eustis.
Command Sgt. Maj. John R. Calpena turned over responsibility to Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis J. Woods with the symbolic passing of a Civil War-era, Emerson & Silver model noncommissioned officer's sword, circa 1863. The passing of the sword signifies the relinquishment of responsibility and authority from outgoing CSM to incoming CSM.
"We say goodbye to an extremely talented senior leader," said Maj. Gen. Ross E. Ridge, deputy commanding general of IMT. "He will be greatly missed, and his legacy will continue to live on in the Soldiers, the leaders and the cadre that he encountered during his tour here as a command sergeant major."
Calpena has served as the IMT command sergeant major since May 2010. During his assignment, he:
- Developed and implemented outcome-based training throughout all phases of individual entry training of new Soldiers. Outcome-based training focuses on critical thinking so that new Soldiers can understand the process of problem solving -- "how" to think, not just "what" to think. This concept has now become the Army Learning Model, a continuum that begins in individual entry training and throughout a Soldier's career.
- Spearheaded critical refinement of key Soldier skills in marksmanship, combatives, values and culture.
- Implemented fundamental changes to warrior tasks and battle drills, or WTBD, to ensure relevancy. WTBD are fundamental skills in which all Soldiers, regardless of rank, component or military occupational specialty, must maintain proficiency of in order to fight and win on the battlefield.
A separate retirement review in honor of Calpena's 32 years of service followed the change of responsibility ceremony, during which Calpena received the Distinguished Service Medal.
"His stalwart pursuit of the standards, accountability and discipline in all assignments ensured consistent and relevant training was provided to the Soldiers serving in our Army, which cannot be emphasized enough," Ridge said. "John Calpena is the epitome of what it means to serve. You have truly represented the NCO Corps, what is good about our Army and what is great about our Noncommissioned Officer Corps."
The night before the ceremony at a farewell dinner, Calpena reflected upon his Army career, saying he was "fixated on making a difference." He revisited this theme during his remarks at the ceremony, giving credit to the IMT team for the assignment that rounded out his career.
"I got to participate in all of the accomplishments of IMT," Calpena said. "I get to end in the place where some pretty powerful brains design what initial military training is going to look like for the next generation coming in. But the big difference between them and me is they all joined with the understanding they were going in harm's way. What can't you do with that heart? We were able to radically transform training and see training the way we see them -- to influence them in a far more powerful way, because we didn't have to convince them to serve."
Following retirement, Calpena will take residence in San Antonio, Texas.
Woods, incoming CSM, is reporting from Operation Enduring Freedom XIII Afghanistan, where he served as the command sergeant major for 191st Infantry Brigade, 1st Army, Division West. Other previous assignments include Operation Enduring Freedom 2 Afghanistan, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 319th Division Artillery, 82nd Airborne Division; and Operation Enduring Freedom X Afghanistan, 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
Woods is also credited with 45 separate inventions and was designated as the Department of Defense "Inventor of the Year" for 2003. He is also the first recipient of the Gruber Award, given for outstanding achievement in the Army's field artillery corps.
Woods thanked Calpena for allowing him to inherit a successful organization, and recalled hearing Calpena speak for the first time at a Warrior's Leaders Course graduation ceremony in Germany.
"Upon hearing the power of your speech and the conviction of your words, I thought to myself, I can follow this man, and apparently I did, because I'm moving into that office today, brother."
As CSM for IMT, Woods is responsible for standardizing, refining and assessing training for initial entry Soldiers, recently commissioned and appointed officers, and warrant officers at 23 installations across the United States. The Army profession begins with IMT, transforming civilian volunteers into Soldiers and junior leaders who can contribute to their first units of assignment.