Giving back hallmark of new command sergeant major's career (Part II)
May 21, 2014
(This is the second part of a two-part interview with the Command Sgt. Maj. David M. Puig, the new Army Contracting Command senior noncommissioned officer.)
While he was sitting atop the EOD world, the Sergeant Major of the Army Board of Directors selected Command Sergeant Major David M. Puig to interview for the Army Contracting Command command sergeant major position.
"I've known Command Sgt. Maj. (John L.) Murray (former ACC command sergeant major) for a while so the first thing I did was to call him and ask what the ACC was all about. He proceeded to give me a crash course on Army contracting and what the command does. By the time the interview rolled around I felt I could at least articulate the mission. I honestly didn't think I had a chance of being selected," said the 29-year veteran.
Puig said during his interview with Brig. Gen. Ted. C. Harrison, ACC commanding general, he could see a lot of similarities in the evolution of the EOD and the contracting career fields. Both, he said, are very small and technical with specialized teams working hard to find relevancy in turbulent times.
"We really started to piece things together during the interview process. By the end of the interview I felt comfortable but I knew some of the other candidates competing," said Puig who appreciated the thought, time and effort of being looked at but didn't think he would be offered the position.
A second call asking for a second interview with Harrison raised his curiosity.
"I gave the office a call and Brig. Gen. Harrison told me I was his first pick. I was speechless," said Puig. "I was dumbfounded. Out of all the great candidates presented to him, he picked me to be the command sergeant major. Needless to say I gave him a few seconds of dead air."
After agreeing to accept the position, Puig recalled the general asking a simple question.
"He asked me if I was ready for this and I said absolutely. I told him that I was honored to take the position," Puig said.
Harrison wasn't looking for a contracting expert, Puig explained. He was looking for someone with experience working within a small career field, managing within a dispersed command and a person who had the ability to explain ACC's relevancy when engaging with Army senior leaders.
"So that's one of my priorities. I will take every opportunity to engage with the Army senior leadership to tell this command's story," said Puig.
Puig also said he wants everyone from senior leaders to privates to understand the work done by the command so they have a better appreciation of what it takes to make the Army run.
"When I went to Joint Munitions Command I had no clue there was such a huge mechanism behind the curtain that provided services and equipment to our warfighters, much like contracting. I'd say 99 percent of the Army does not realize what allows them to complete their mission. They don't know the hard work that resides here in this command and in the contracting community. It's taken for granted and rightly so.
"The command is filled with a huge group of quiet professionals who conduct a very complex mission seamlessly so that the warfighter just knows it's going to be there but doesn't necessarily know how it got there or who was involved in getting it there. So by relevancy I mean it's time to draw back the curtain and let folks realize that this equipment and these services don't just magically appear. They need to know that there is a dedicated workforce that is working on their behalf that resides within this command."
Puig said raising the visibility and knowledge of the command to senior leaders may help place additional emphasis on the important and valuable contracting work accomplished.
"I've been all over the world working with folks. In the Czech Republic, there was no guarantee that they would get their ammunition on time because of things like manufacturing issues and distribution," he said about the time he worked alongside Czech soldiers. "So they had to be conservative, even in a combat zone, of what they used and how much they used because there was no guarantee their resupply would be there or would be on time.
"The American warfighter doesn't really have that worry. Unless weather is involved, there are very few reasons why equipment and resupply is not going to be there and we rely on that. Telling that story is a huge part of what I'll do while I'm here. Out of sight and out of mind does not provide the information for senior leaders to make decisions."
In addition to raising awareness of the command, Puig wants to raise the 51C, contracting noncommissioned officer corps, to a new height.
"While here, one of my challenges is to develop our brigade sergeants major to be competitive as the first nominative 51C command sergeant major. Nothing would make me happier when I leave than to see a great command sergeant major and leader replace me that is drawn from the 51C MOS. Not just a contracting expert, but a true leader that understands the unique challenges and complications of this command."
Puig said ACC NCOs should get their hands on two publications that will help them see the bigger picture and to help them stay on the right path for progression.
"Every NCO, especially every senior NCO, should read the Sergeants Major of the Army book (http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/070/70-63-1/CMH_Pub_70-63-1.pdf); it's a brief history of all the sergeants major of the Army to date. It's a very thin book, easy to read but absolutely valuable. Another book that I have kept by my side since getting my first stripes is the Noncommissioned Officer's Guide, (Field Manual 7-22.7)" Puig said. "To me there is no more definitive publication out there that defines what our job is as NCOs. It defines our missions, our ranks and what is expected of us."
Puig plans to get out to the field to see as many ACC Soldiers and civilians as possible as he believes the best way to get a grip on what is going on is to be around it.
"I hate being chained to a desk. As the budget allows I'll travel, if it doesn't, I'll find ways to get out and engage the workforce. I cannot advise the commander about this great organization sitting behind my desk reading emails. By the time information flows to this level of command it's been diluted," he said. "My primary mission is to advise the commander on all issues and concerns related to the enlisted force and I open the aperture on that to include all Soldiers and civilians. I am an advocate for the workforce of the command and have unfettered access to the general. When I see an issue I can take it all the way from the fox hole to the commander's desk so that he can have a real pulse of the organization."
Puig admits he was a bit intimidated upon his arrival but those feelings were easily replaced.
"The first time I stepped through the front doors I had some anxiety because this is a very unique and complex organization and you can only gather so much from resources you can find on the Web and other areas. After spending two full days engaging with the staff and seeing the curtain get drawn back a little bit, even though I have a steep learning curve, I think my experiences as a leader will help me to engage successfully here.
"I'm not a contract expert and wasn't brought on to be one but I think my leadership experience and ability to engage from the foxhole to the highest level of leadership will be beneficial to the command. I guarantee in the two years I'll be here I'll give 110 percent of my effort."