New battalion commander looks ahead
August 31, 2011
Born in New Mexico, a Northern Virginia high school graduate, an undergraduate from the University of Iowa and with overseas assignments in Japan, Iraq, Denmark and Germany under his belt, Lt. Col. Eric B. Fleming has settled in to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and has brought a wealth of military diversity and leadership to the Headquarters Command Battalion.
"It [JBM-HH] is a very unique installation," Fleming said. "It is a small installation, but with a dedicated workforce. It creates a unique environment and a high profile environment with Summerall Field right outside my office window and Conmy Hall."
Officially taking command of headquarters battalion on July 8 in a change of command ceremony he called "a momentous occasion," Fleming is currently responsible for 7,000 Soldiers in 53 agencies throughout the National Capital Region. The battalion's paramount responsibilities in the NCR are the expedient in-processing of Soldiers, being on top of readiness statuses, guiding Soldier and Family support services and Family advocacy and substance abuse programs. A number of Fleming's goals are to make the battalion's paperwork paperless with environmentally-friendly digital processing in an Army that is changing during economic lean times.
"There's a lot of change happening, but the future of the Army is very dynamic," Fleming said. "Obviously, right now, we're in flux. We have to get to where the chief of staff wants to take us. You have to open your mind and think outside the box when things are changing around you.
"Because we're taking cuts as well, we'll try to do more with less," he added.
Being a son of an ordnance officer - just like himself - Fleming was and is accustomed to domestic as well as foreign deployments, but as a high school graduate he was uniquely "deployed" to Iowa City, Iowa, by his mother and father.
"I was an Army brat," he remembered. "I actually graduated from high school here in the D.C. area. I was the only University of Iowa freshman who stepped off an airplane and took a cab when I went to orientation. I was the only one there without my parents. They put me on an airplane and said go get orientated for college. [Due to my father,] I guess it got in my blood to move around and do something different all the time. Growing up in the military [moving around] is one of those things that become second nature."
And Fleming has circumnavigated the globe. While many Americans may relocate from city to city or state to state, the new Headquarters Command Battalion commander has been deployed from continent to continent. The lieutenant colonel thinks that is not a negative.
"You can look at overseas assignments a few ways," he said. "You have your assignments where you go to Iraq or Afghanistan. And there are the overseas assignments that are cultural and you get to see how others live. Going back to being an Army brat, you joined the military to see the world. Overseas assignments can be a unique opportunity. Of course, you have the deployments that are downrange in a combat setting, but I think all Soldiers should take advantage of the overseas assignments that can culturally enrich their lives."
As for leadership, Fleming has learned lessons on how to lead and on how not to lead. He emphasized that he will bring a flexible approach to Headquarters Command Battalion.
"You learn a lot of things from both the good and the bad leaders you've worked for, and you can't learn from just one leader, per se," he said. "How do I define my leadership style? I'd have to say it is flexibility, and that [style] works well in this organization. You can't really be rigid."
While now settled into the second floor of Bldg. 417, Fleming readily admits he would like to achieve improvement in one area - the over-use of acronyms. With some urging from his wife, Lisa, Fleming is attempting to get a grasp on the communications gap that exists between the military and civilians. He is trying to bridge the acronym gap.
The military loves to use acronyms; a lot of people don't understand what that is; it just becomes confusing [to civilians]. There are different acronyms depending on which staff agency you are with. There are different acronyms in Iraq, there are different acronyms in the National Guard, and a plethora of them come from different parts of the country. I knew what the Army acronyms were [at a young age]."
Fleming, the father of two children, David and Hannah, enjoys spending time with his Family and reading.