Putting the needs of others first
October 14, 2010
- Outgoing HHC Commander reflects on job, life in the Army
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - For an outsider looking in, it may appear that Capt. Norven Charles' job as the Headquarters and Headquarters Company Commander for the 20th Support Command is a dream job with many advantages. He has a reserved parking space, comfortable office, and his photograph is posted on the outside of his headquarters building.
But that's where the perks end.
"It's a twenty-four-hour job, and you are always on duty," Charles said.
He should finally get those perks after passing the guidon to a new commander Oct. 1.
For the past 15 months, Charles maintained a demanding schedule at the 20th Support Command. As the commander of HHC, he was responsible for accountability of all Soldiers within the unit.
"I needed to know where every Soldier was at any given time," Charles said. "We don't want any Soldier to be unaccounted for."
As he prepares to go to Alaska for his next assignment, Charles took some time to reflect on a job and career that has made him the Soldier he is today.
While most employees end their work day around five, sometimes Charles' work day is just beginning.
"I have an open-door policy, and sometimes a Soldier wants to talk about issues they are experiencing," Charles said.
Charles said he knows that a Soldier's personal problems can affect morale and productivity on the job, so he always makes time to listen. He frequently counsels Soldiers who are facing a variety of personal and professional challenges. If any Soldier becomes hospitalized or injured, Charles is there. He even sends out monthly e-mails recognizing the birthdays of Soldiers within the command.
"To me, Soldiers are people, and I care about their well being," Charles said.
Charles said he knows personally how much an encouraging word can affect someone for the better.
"As a teenager growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I started hanging with the wrong crowd, and made some bad choices," Charles said.
He was caught vandalizing and shoplifting, and landed in a judge's courtroom three times.
It took a member of the community to talk some sense into him.
"One of the elders in the community told me to stop what I was doing or I could end up in jail," Charles said. "As a kid in high school, I took a field trip to prison, and I knew that was some place I didn't want to be."
When an Army recruiter called Charles in 1993, he was ripe for the picking.
After researching the various careers available, he joined the Army as an Infantryman. He performed well and transferred from the enlisted to the Officer Corps in 2003.
Charles' past assignments include: Battalion Chemical Officer, 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, Fort Bragg, N.C.; Platoon Leader, 101st Chemical Company, Fort Bragg, N.C.; and CBRN Joint Response Team Leader, Company C, 22d Chemical Battalion (Technical Escort). Additionally, Charles deployed as a battle captain and battalion chemical officer for 1/325th Airborne Infantry Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Charles is leaving the 20th SUPCOM with mixed emotions.
"I am ready for the challenge at a new command, but I am really going to miss the folks, here," Charles said. "The 20th Support Command is a diverse group with various backgrounds. I enjoy working with the people."
Sometimes Charles faced challenges, however. He said it was tough working in an organization where many of the Soldiers held higher ranks than he.
"I've often compared my job as HHC commander to being the mayor of Washington, D.C.," Charles said. "It's my job to run the city, but everyone works for the president."
Despite these challenges, Charles has made an impact on the 20th. His coworkers said his presence will be missed because he is an asset to the command.
"He's the best commander I've worked with," HHC 1st Sgt. Terry Sykes said. "He is very knowledgeable as a leader, but he also finds time to roll up his sleeves and work."
Under his command, Charles and his team ensured a member of 20th SUPCOM HHC was personally there to welcome home a Soldier returning from a deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. He also helped organize numerous events for the command, and he and his team have raised money for the command through innovative fundraisers.
Many Soldiers, however, believe Charles' greatest legacy will be his implementation of "The Dirty D's."
Just before the 20th SUPCOM troops break their formation for the weekend, they all recite the "Dirty D's": Don't drink and drive, Don't do drugs, Don't beat your spouse, kids, or pets, Don't be dishonest, Don't have unprotected sex.
Charles said these rules are basic tips for success. He said he cares deeply about his unit, and doesn't want to see anyone end up in a bad situation because of poor choices.
"When I go back to New York, it saddens me to see that a lot of the guys I grew up with are either in jail or dead," Charles said. "I'm grateful the Army has helped to mold me into the man I am today."
On the rare occasions that Charles gets some free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and son. He also frequently travels to New York and St. Croix to visit his extended family.
Charles may have grown into a model, law-abiding citizen, but he still has one vice, that he is not proud of.
"I love shopping," Charles said. "I'll see something on sale and buy it because it is a bargain, even though I don't need it."
He said that's how he ended up with two bicycles. The second one he bought was on sale.
He said he believes in being humble, so he does not talk much about what he has accomplished. But it does make him feel good to know his parents are proud of him.
"My father did not receive an education, so he pushed us and always taught us to aim high," Charles said.
He and his five siblings have all earned college degrees. Charles earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Campbell University, and he has a master's degree in environmental management from Webster University.
Just as Charles' parents were an inspiration to him he hopes that he can set an example for his five-year-old son.
"I want him to have fun, live life to the fullest, and ensure that he respects his elders," Charles said.