Why we serve: Command Sgt. Major Marion Arnett
October 12, 2012
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Command Sgt. Maj. Marion E Arnett, a native of Holt, Fla., is the 96th Aviation Support Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Troubleshooter command sergeant major.
Arnett is a soldier with a big sense of humor, deep southern accent and quick speech. Underneath that sense of humor is a deep commitment to the soldiers he leads.
"I would not be here without the soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers behind me," said Arnett. "These soldiers are going to replace me. I want to try and pass down what I've learned to the soldiers behind me. I try to make them better when they step into my position."
His passion for the soldier and the family that comes with that soldier governs all of his decisions.
"From day one, Command Sgt. Maj. Arnett has advocated that it's not just the soldier, but the soldier's family as well," said Staff Sgt. Gary Jager, B Company, 96th ASB, 101st CAB, TF Troubleshooter orderly room non-comissioned officer-in-charge. "It doesn't matter if it's a spouse, parent or sibling, if things are not well with the soldier, among the first questions to ask is 'how are things at home or back home?'"
Even when a soldier messes up and requires disciplinary action, the family has to be taken into account, Arnett said. Whatever affects the soldier affects the family. You have to look at both.
Looking at his own family, Arnett realizes that he is not alone in his career. He realizes that soldiers need good friends and strong families to best endure the lifestyle that the Army often requires.
"The military is very difficult on the family," he said. "There's no way I could do this without my family."
Melinda Arnett, Arnett's wife of 18 years, agrees. She and her husband have created a successful Army career and sustainable leadership style by making sure that the soldier and the family are interconnected.
"Marion always told us that without our love he would not be where he is today," said Melinda in comments emailed to Task Force Destiny public affairs. "The love we've given him has been received great, it has always made him a better leader looking at the soldier and his family."
Throughout his career, taking care of soldiers and families has been a driving force, particularly when he spent time as a drill sergeant.
The parents are so shocked to see their children as such different people, Arnett said. To do in nine weeks what they couldn't in 20 years is totally shocking to them.
Being a drill sergeant wasn't always a cake walk for Arnett, but the rewards were worth it. Arnett also got a lot of personal satisfaction out of creating soldiers out of the men who came to Fort Benning, Ga., while he was a drill sergeant.
"We work a lot of long hours," he said. "The difficult part is getting them out of the civilian side of the house. Once you see that happen, it's a good feeling. Once they realize they're part of a team, and that's the biggest thing, you can't ask for anything better than that."
The work that Arnett puts in is all about the soldiers, but another big aspect of his life is his family. His father worked at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and his mother was a housewife.
"My father said to me, 'There's nothing out there for you,'" said Arnett. "'You have to earn it. Never give up hope on anything you want.'"
His father would live to see his son achieve the highest enlisted rank in the Army.
"My dad promoted me to command sergeant major," he said. "I had never seen my dad cry before. He was real proud of me."
As with all things in the Army, careers are made by the people you interact with on a daily basis. It shows when a leader genuinely cares for the welfare of his soldiers.
"About two weeks ago he handed me a small stack of calling cards," said Jager. "I knew what he'd say before he said it. 'Get these out to the soldiers, make sure they're calling their families and letting them know how they're doing. These soldiers need to be able to call home and know the family is all right.'"
With a proud family behind him, Arnett can enjoy the rewards of being an outstanding leader.
"I never thought I'd be 51 and doing this, never in my entire life," said Arnett. "I'm most proud of all my soldiers that I have now."