Making a difference for today's Soldiers
September 25, 2012
Command Sgt. Maj. Tod Glidewell would like to share something from Redstone Arsenal with the Army's youngest Soldiers.
And that something would be the community's tremendous hospitality for those serving in uniform.
Glidewell, who has served as the command sergeant major for the Aviation and Missile
Command since May, knows that recent changes and consolidations within the Army have taken away Redstone's youngest Soldiers, moving them from advanced individual training at what was formerly the Arsenal's Ordnance Munitions and Electronics Maintenance School to its new location at Fort Lee, Va. But still, he's convinced that Redstone and the surrounding community is one of the best places in the nation to raise the Army's forces.
"In my career, I've been to Redstone Arsenal several times and it has always been a professional place," he said. "But, since I've gotten here, I've truly been impressed with this awesome community and the people here who really care about Soldiers and their families. I wish more Soldiers could come here and experience that."
For now, a much smaller group of active duty Soldiers are continuing to benefit from the great relationship between Redstone and the surrounding community. And Glidewell is growing into his new role as a senior enlisted Soldier supporting the primarily civilian work force that makes up AMCOM and the rest of Redstone's tenants.
"Many of the civilians here are somehow connected to the military. They are military retirees who are now working civilian jobs, or family members of military retirees or current Soldiers," Glidewell said.
"When I talk with civilian groups, I try to answer every question I get and I try to join the military to what we are doing here today. I want to be approachable and help them to understand who the Army Soldier is."
This Soldier's Soldier and two-time Iraq war veteran has served in uniform for 31 years, with many of his positions related to helicopter maintenance. Before his current assignment, he served as the command sergeant major for the Combat Readiness/Safety Center at Fort Rucker for two years and then as the command sergeant major for the Aviation Branch Command at Fort Rucker for three years.
The Aviation Branch Command is charged with producing aviation Soldiers for the world's premier aviation force. Its Combat Readiness/Safety Center is one of the largest, most comprehensive safety programs in the world, designed to create safe air and ground operations, and to promote safe practices by military and civilian personnel on and off duty.
Those two previous assignments have particularly prepared Glidewell in his role today as the senior enlisted adviser to AMCOM commander Maj. Gen. Lynn Collyar. His experience at Fort Rucker helps to further solidify the working relationship between that installation and AMCOM, and especially with the Aviation Center Logistics Command, which is a subordinate command to AMCOM. ACLC is responsible for maintaining aircraft for Fort Rucker's aviation training mission.
"While I was at Fort Rucker, I learned about the training aspects of training aviation Soldiers. Understanding the roles of the different elements involved in training aviators and sustaining the aviation fleet allows me to help guide the commander on the sustainment piece," Glidewell said.
His Fort Rucker experience built upon many years of leading the Army's helicopter maintenance Soldiers.
"I've worked with maintenance and logistics my whole career," Glidewell said.
After basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., in 1981, he served as a crew chief at Fort Devens, Mass. He went to serve as a section sergeant with the 210th Aviation Battalion at Fort Kobbe, Panama; an instructor/writer for the 1/10th Aviation Battalion at Fort Rucker; a platoon sergeant for the 2/2nd Aviation Battalion at Camp Stanley, Korea, and for the 9/101st Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Ky.
While at Fort Campbell, he also served as the equal opportunity adviser for the Garrison, and as the first sergeant for Alpha and later Delta companies of the 4/101st Aviation Regiment. Duty then took him to El Gorah, Egypt, where he served as the first sergeant for the Aviation Company of the 1st Support Battalion. He then returned to Fort Campbell, where he served as first sergeant for Bravo Company and later as operations sergeant for the 8/101st Aviation Regiment.
After attending the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, Glidewell went on to serve as battalion command sergeant major for the 8/101st Aviation Regiment and then as brigade command sergeant major for the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, both at Fort Campbell.
During his first deployment with the 101st Airborne, Glidewell oversaw a 1,400-Soldier maintenance battalion supporting 270 aircraft that deployed through Jacksonville, Fla., to Kuwait into theater.
"After Desert Storm, we realized the 101st was quite a heavy division and when we deployed again we would have to have a way to deploy quickly," Glidewell said. "During about nine years, we developed tactics and techniques to load aviation assets on boats for transport.
"With Iraq, all that training came together. We loaded up 200 aircraft and all equipment in 19 days and we downloaded it in Kuwait in nine days. We delivered 6,600 pieces of aviation equipment quickly, and it made a big difference in the war effort."
Shortly after arriving in theater, he was selected to take on maintenance responsibility for the 101st Aviation Brigade (attack), consisting of 72 Apaches, 24 Kiowa Warriors and 24 Black Hawks responsible for aerial fires and reconnaissance for the 101st Aviation Brigade in northern Iraq.
When he returned to the U.S., Glidewell was assigned to oversee maintenance activities for an attack brigade of the 101st that at first consisted of 72 Apache helicopters, 24 Kiowa helicopters and 24 Black Hawk helicopters. After redeployment to Fort Campbell, that unit transformed into the first medium-sized multi-functional aviation brigade and then deployed once again to Iraq. The combat action brigade grew to 160 aircraft and more than 4,000 Soldiers during the deployment and flew more than 132,000 hours in support of operations in northern Iraq.
"In maintenance, we supported all the aircraft," he said. "We performed all aviation maintenance sustainment for the 101st Airborne Division. We supported attack helicopters that went out on aerial fires and reconnaissance for the 101st Aviation Brigade in northern Iraq. We were multi-functional and we supported all aviation assets north of Baghdad."
After completing that deployment, Glidewell reported to Fort Rucker as the command sergeant major of the Army Safety Center, where he applied his combat experience to reducing aviation accidents across the Army, and then to the Aviation Branch Command.
Now at AMCOM, Glidewell agrees that his experience reflects quite a journey for someone who first started out wanting to be a carpenter and cabinet maker. Glidewell grew up on the family farm in Pennsylvania, and attended vocational school.
"I was the oldest of four boys. My dad was a steel worker and my mom worked third shift. So, I was responsible for a lot while I was growing up," Glidewell said. "My parents knew they couldn't keep me around. I was going to go do something. I had too many ideas to stay on the farm."
But, in the late '70s and early '80s, the steel industry was going bust and unemployment was high. The military seemed like a good option.
"I first thought I would go into Navy subs," Glidewell recalled. "But one of my dad's friends was an airborne Ranger and he told me helicopters were the future.
"So I went to talk to an Army recruiter and he tried to make me a Pershing missile crewman. But I asked for aviation and I was lucky to get Black Hawk when it was a new military occupational specialty."
He first flew as a crew chief and a standardizing instructor. But it wasn't long before he realized that the Army's greater need was for good maintainers.
"My niche was that I was able to fix things that other people didn't want to," Glidewell said. "On the farm, I had to fix a lot of things myself because we couldn't afford to get things repaired. So, I started working helicopter maintenance in large maintenance companies, and I got promoted quickly."
During those early years, he also met his wife, who was also a Soldier.
"We pushed each other and she supported me," Glidewell said. "When I went to the war fighters leadership course, I practiced by marching her around and gave her commands for physical training. She helped me with boards. She got out of the Army when she got pregnant. But we pushed each other to get an education, and she's gone on to have her own career as a civil servant. When our daughters came along we pushed them to go to college."
And he discovered that mentoring other Soldiers was a rewarding experience.
"It's about the people," he said. "My work with Soldiers has been a two-way street. Soldiers have taught me a lot and I've tried to teach them as well. I have enjoyed leading Soldiers in combat and watching them grow as individuals.
"I believe everyone should find a way to serve their country. It teaches them about public service and about values. It teaches the value of our freedom and what makes our country great."
Along the way in his career, he started taking on logistics assignments in support of the maintenance mission.
"Learning how to support and sustain helicopters was difficult. It made the maintenance side seem easy. But I knew it would make me a better leader if I understood logistics as well as maintenance," Glidewell said.
"All throughout my career, the Army and my mentors pushed me to be the best. They pushed me to try new things. And it does pay off, making you a well-rounded non-commissioned officer."
At AMCOM, Glidewell hopes to rely on his experience to support the organization's mission during a time of budget tightening.
"Our challenge is to provide the best assets to the war fighter at the best cost to the taxpayer," he said. "We have to be able to sustain these systems that we've fought hard the last 11 years."
Though that's a difficult mission, Glidewell knows the Army's helicopter fleet is designed for long life cycles as long as maintenance is kept up to date. The 1971 Huey helicopter he first flew with as a crew chief back in 1981 is still flying. The second aircraft he crewed in Panama -- a 1984 Black Hawk -- is now being used by the Air Force for training exercises at Fort Rucker.
"Every day we are learning how to get more out of these aircraft," Glidewell said. "Condition-Based Maintenance is the key to unlocking how much our aviation fleet can take."
The command sergeant major is especially concerned that as the Army downsizes, so, too will maintenance capabilities.
"During the last 10 years, we have brought on a lot of contractors downrange to help maintain our helicopters because of increased flying hours," he said. "We have to bring those contractor numbers down while at the same time bringing up the experience of our Soldiers. If we don't do that right, then our Soldiers will lack the experience to maintain the fleet in theater."
He said there are always plenty of opportunities for Soldiers who "are eager to learn and grasp new ideas, and who work long hours.
"Growing up in the Army, we didn't work off a training schedule. Our life was dictated by operational readiness requirements. We worked 14 and 16 hour days. If they stay motivated, Soldiers will do well. But they have to be able to balance their military occupational specialty with the Army requirements. First, they are Soldiers. Then, they are helicopter mechanics and then they have their professional requirements."
While Glidewell mentors Soldiers at work, he is also mentoring them at home. Two of his three daughters are married to enlisted Soldiers -- one a military police officer at Fort Knox, Ky., and the other a unmanned aircraft system repairman at Fort Campbell.
"I tell them and all Soldiers I talk to that they have to stay in the top 10 percent of their peer group," he said. "If you push yourself to be in the top 10 percent then you'll never be overlooked for a promotion."