62nd Medical Brigade CSM reflects on 30-years of service
August 23, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - As a bright-eyed 17-year-old, entering the Army was Eugene Jeffers' first serious occupation outside of having a paper route and picking produce for a local farmer in Syracuse, Ohio.
"This was my first real job, and the only thing I have done since then," said Command Sgt. Maj. Eugene Jeffers.
Jeffers, who has plans of retiring next year, is a 30-year veteran who serves as 62nd Medical Brigade's command sergeant major. He expressed that he embraces his experiences and is proud of the changes in the Army he prepares to leave behind.
When Jeffers entered basic training June of 1982 he was engulfed in trying to figure out his new surroundings and all the challenges that came with his new career. He explained that originally he only planned to do four years and receive a college fund, but those thought are void based on the span of his career.
"I quickly realized that I was a part of something unique," Jeffers said. "You get transformed and realize that, I am no longer an individual I am know a soldier. From there on that's who I am and all that I am."
Reflecting on the years Jeffers remembers a few career highlights such as when he jumped into Panama during Operation Just Cause in 1989 to save lives on the battlefield, when he received his expert field medical badge as a Private, when he was appointed to command sergeant major when he was chosen to be the task force command sergeant major in Iraq and Afghanistan during two separate deployments and most recently became the command sergeant major of 62nd Med. Bde.
"I just look back upon everything with great fondness and joy," Jeffers said.
Not only does he appreciate his career highlights he feels that he has made an impact on his soldiers, which is an important part of being a non-commissioned officer. He remembers one particular situation where he helped a soldier who made a potentially career-ending mistake.
"I sat down with the soldier and was completely honest with him," Jeffers said. "I said if you are not cut out to be a soldier then that's fine and you have it in your heart to be successful, then here's what you need to do."
"After talking with him and sharing my guidance he later emailed me saying that he got promoted to sergeant and explained how great he felt to be a non-commissioned officer.
Col. Theresa Schneider, 62nd Medical Brigade Commander, feels that Jeffers is an outstanding leader and is passionate about taking care of his soldiers.
"He's the consummate soldier and medic," said Scheider, a native of Oradell, N.J. "A stellar leader with tremendous experience and passion for being a soldier and being a part of the Army. Working with him everyday I see being a leader is in his blood it's in his core to develop and mentor soldiers."
During his military service spanning three-decades. Jeffers has seen many changes to the Army. Individual responsibility and accountability, equipment improvements and leadership involvement are three things he feels have drastically improved over the years.
First, he explained that individual responsibility and accountability changed when the Army switched to an all-volunteer force. He believes that when individuals are accountable for themselves then it improves initiative and the ability to accomplish the mission.
"In the Army we are given operation orders outlines the commanders intent and make sure it's understood down to the lowest level," Jeffers said. "With that intent the squad leader in charge of a patrol can continue to execute when they come to an obstacle and not quit. We develop initiative which allows the individual soldier the ability to get things done."
Secondly, Jeffers is impressed with the advances the Army continually makes to improve the equipment that soldiers use. He thinks that the improvements are possible because of what our leaders said was needed to protect the soldiers.
"The Army is wrapping its arms around technology and what can help the individual soldier," Jeffers said.
Lastly, he feels that leaders are more involved with their troops. He explained that as a young soldier he never met his brigade or battalion commander or his command sergeant major. Mostly everything stopped at the company level; he knew that he had to memorize his chain of command, which was placed on the board, but never actually saw them.
"We have commanders talking with the squads trying to get feedback on how the can improve training," Jeffers said. "Everything is more interactive, its not from a micro-managing standpoint, it's on how we can get things better."
Progressively Jeffers has matured from trying to figure out his surroundings into knowing the Army and guiding others. His view of the Army is much clearer after 30 years.
"I see the Army as somewhere where individuals can maximize their potential and what they have to offer," Jeffers said. "Before, individual development consisted of training to accomplish the task, now it's more about developing the individual soldiers to become our future leaders."
Schneider expressed that the continuity Jeffers offers cannot be easily replaced but because of his mentorship there will be leaders to follow who can make an impact on soldiers like he did.
Even though Jeffers will depart the Army within the next year he leaves future leaders with a challenge to not just know the standard, but also take initiative to do what's right.
"The same initiative it takes for soldiers to yell, 'at ease,' when a noncommissioned officer enters the room, is the same initiative it takes in combat to switch the selector from safe to semi and engage the target."