John Ordway Winner Stands Above Rest
July 9, 2010
- 1st Sgt. Albert Rocker was recently recognized for his efforts as the active duty recipient of the 1st Sgt. John Ordway Leadership Award.
- "He displays the utmost ethical and moral character as a leader. I would have 1st Sgt. Rocker on my team first any day."
- "The payback for that is knowing you had something to do with making a Soldier a better person."
- "As a first sergeant, you set the example for the unit. You have to live the kind of lifestyle you want your Soldiers to live."
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- When you meet 1st Sgt. Albert Rocker, you may notice his 6-foot-3 stature.
Then again, it may be you notice his million-watt smile.
And these days, Rocker's job gives him a lot to smile about.
Rocker is the first sergeant for the Garrison's Headquarters and Headquarters Company. As such, he is tasked with several responsibilities that involve the health, welfare, morale, training and professional development of the 650-member Soldier community at Redstone.
That community, which does not include Soldiers assigned to the Ordnance Munitions and Electronic Maintenance School, ranges in rank from privates to general officers, encompasses Soldiers conducting sustainment operations and project support in 21 functional areas to include two combat zones; and supports 138 organizations with 250,000 military, family members, retirees, civilians and contractors. He also works closely with young Soldiers who are assigned to HHC through the Army's compassionate program so they have the time and assistance needed to work through family and personal issues.
"This is a unique job," Rocker said. "I'm actually the first sergeant for generals and colonels and all the senior rank on post. Even though there's a lot of hands off with them, I am very busy supporting the entire Soldier community here and assisting with the coordination of downtown community activities that involve Redstone Arsenal Soldiers."
Rocker was recently recognized for his efforts as the active duty recipient of the 1st Sgt. John Ordway Leadership Award, presented annually by the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army at the Army Birthday Dinner Celebration in June. The award is given to an active duty, Reserve and National Guard first sergeant.
Rocker "shows a genuine passion for leading and building Soldiers," said Garrison HHC commander Capt. Ryan Godbee, who recommended Rocker for the award. "He displays the utmost ethical and moral character as a leader. I would have 1st Sgt. Rocker on my team first any day."
An award recognizing first sergeants is a one-of-a-kind program for the Redstone-Huntsville community and the Army as a whole, Rocker said.
"Usually, a first sergeant doesn't receive any type of recognition or reward. There are a lot of things first sergeants do behind closed doors for Soldiers and the payback for that is knowing you had something to do with making a Soldier a better person. We don't look for recognition for what we do," he said.
While his current assignment involves minimal contact with many of his higher ranking Soldiers, Rocker has also served as a first sergeant for young Soldiers - 189 to be exact at Fort Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
"It was all about young Soldiers. Every day was about talking with them, leading them and ensuring their safety. As a first sergeant, you set the example for the unit. You have to live the kind of lifestyle you want your Soldiers to live," he said. "You have to have compassion and willpower to stay with Soldiers and stay for the long haul."
This September, Rocker will have served 22 years living the Army lifestyle. At age 21, he was a father of one with one on the way and working construction in central Florida when he finally followed his father's advice to join the Army. Both his father and brother have served as Soldiers.
"Most 21-year-olds in the Army were already sergeants when I joined, so I had a lot of catching up to do," he recalled of his early years. "I could tell the difference between the 17-year-old privates and older privates like me."
Rocker did his advanced individual training at Redstone, where he also served at his first duty station in the maintenance shop, where he worked in Chaparral missile repair. He worked his way through the ranks, attending the NCO Academy at Fort Stewart, Ga. Assignments took him to Fort Bliss (Texas), Korea and back to Redstone to serve as an instructor for an Avenger detachment and then as an instructor for the NCO Academy at Redstone. Fort Huachuca introduced him to the responsibilities of serving as a first sergeant.
"That was my toughest assignment," he said of Fort Huachuca. "It was the toughest and most rewarding, and I loved it. It was long nights and long weekends. But it gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment."
And it was a chance for Rocker to really lead Soldiers in the ways he had been taught during his career.
"As a young private, a sergeant told me 'never forget where you came from.' All through my career, I've had good leadership, and people have mentored and pushed me through the ranks," he said. "They wanted me to succeed. I didn't get here by myself.
"So, I like returning the favor. I like reaching down and dusting off a Soldier and helping them along their way. The end product is a phone call or an e-mail sometime later from that Soldier who thanks you for what you do."
Rocker will soon decide if he will retire or continue his career in hopes of being promoted to sergeant major.
"This is a job like no other. I get to travel and meet all kinds of people. I came into the military and I got to see the world," Rocker said. "There is camaraderie with Soldiers from all different walks of life and different parts of the world. And there is always a mission to accomplish."
Rocker and his wife, Sheri, raised two children in the military life. His son, Albert III, graduated from Sparkman High School and attends Georgia Tech, where he plays football. His daughter, Crystal, is a nurse in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Though there are no children at home, Rocker has found a way to still influence young lives. He serves as the assistant Scoutmaster for the Boy Scout program at his church, Indian Creek Primitive Baptist Church.
"The church came to me and asked me to help out. They saw my uniform and they know that I have successful, grown kids," Rocker said. "Working with these kids isn't much different than working with Soldiers. You have to stay in control and have a lot of energy. It's interesting to watch them grow up."