CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. - Anthony Edwards, of Sanford, North Carolina, is a self-described small-town country boy with big dreams.
"I want to be a better leader than anyone who has led me," he says.
Ironically, there's nothing small about the man: not his stature, his personality or even his job. Command Sgt. Major Anthony Edwards is the man with the plan at Camp Atterbury, an installation renown for training deploying troops. Edwards is the top enlisted Soldier of the 205th Infantry Brigade here, the main unit responsible for providing this training. At six-feet-four inches, Edwards commands with authority more than 400 Soldiers. This "country boy" had it in him all along.
As a kid, Edwards can remember always wanting to be in the military.
"Most of the movies or shows on television were about cops or about the army. That helped plant the seed of wanting to be a Soldier," he said.
And what the television didn't cultivate, his older brothers did. Edwards had two older brothers in the military and he said when they would come home they always would talk about the drill sergeants.
"I looked up to my brothers and if a drill sergeant left such an impression on them, then I want to be this guy." "Not meet this guy," he said, emphatically, "Be this guy. I want to be this drill sergeant."
And he did just that. After enlisting in the Army, Edwards said he started out with the idea of being this guy that intimidated his brothers.
"But after the first six or seven months as a drill sergeant you actually see the good that you do," he said. Edwards said it gave him a sense of purpose to help mold and mentor young people who often had no direction. "So it becomes bigger than anyone could ever imagine if you're into it for the right reason," he said.
But being the great Soldier that he is, did he need a mentor'
"You bet," he said. "It's someone to guide you in the right direction," he said. "My mentor helped me to be who I am, to be able to do what I'm doing, to have the impact that I think I have on people," he said.
What it boils down to, he said, is treating people the way you want to be treated.
"The bottom line is that this little country boy treats everyone with dignity and respect 97 percent of the time. And the other three percent means you really done messed up!" he said without cracking a smile.
After more than 27 years of service, Edwards is still committed to respect and living the other six Army values in the pursuit of impacting Soldiers' lives.
Edwards remembers one thing his father always said was to try to make a difference in everything you're a part of.
"[My father said] be a better leader by interacting, listening and never rushing off to make a decision without putting yourself in the other person's shoes."
And although Edwards probably would not fit in the average Soldier's shoes, it would not stop him from going to bat for someone he believes in.
"If a Soldier tells me he screwed up I'll take my bayonet and fight for him," he said. "But if what he said isn't true," he trailed off. "I won't say the rest." At the end of the day, Edwards said, integrity is all that matters.
If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters. ~Alan Simpson