When Gerald C. Ecker, the inaugural command sergeant major for the U.S. Army Public Health Command, discusses the key concepts of the USAPHC mission, it's hard to believe that he has only been with the organization for a little more than two years.
As the senior enlisted leader for the command, Ecker can often be observed speaking to various audiences about the USAPHC. He has become well-acquainted with the mission of the organization to promote health and prevent disease, injury and disability in Soldiers and military retirees, their families and Army civilian employees, as well as its veterinary food safety and defense and animal care missions.
"I've enjoyed learning and understanding all the technical ways in which this command supports the means of the three entities of the public health concept -- people, animals and the environment," said Ecker.
On July 23, Ecker will leave his position at the USAPHC, and will assume new duties as the incoming command sergeant major for the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.
Ecker's days with the USAPHC were quite busy. Under his leadership, the USAPHC distinctive unit insignia, or unit crest, was approved by the Institute of Heraldry in March. The DUI will be worn by USAPHC Soldiers assigned to DOD installations and deployed locations around the globe.
Because he has deployed four times, Ecker is often sought after because of his experience. He's enjoyed assisting the command in the assimilation of how to better support the operational force by sharing some of his experiences and war-fighter knowledge.
But as a leader, Ecker can also articulate some of the challenges of his job. Because USAPHC is spread over 395 geographical locations, time, space and effective communication hindered his ability to lead his Soldiers.
"Leadership is a very fine art and without the opportunity for presence, it becomes challenging to influence leaders, Soldiers and the situation," said Ecker.
But Ecker believes it is better to offer a solution to a problem, rather than complain.
He began several initiatives to inspire and mentor Soldiers, including several competitions to reward the command's best and brightest. He elevated the challenges of the command's Best Warrior competition, focused Soldiers on the medical aspects of combat soldiering, and stimulated thought through essay competitions. He also enlisted the help of Soldiers and non-commissioned officers across the command to demonstrate and achieve exceptional standards and discipline across the USAPHC.
"Although senior leader presence has been a challenge, I am proud to say our junior officers and NCOs across the globe have performed in an exemplary fashion, and I am proud of them," said Ecker.
Ecker's loyalty to the military comes as no surprise to members of his family. His grandfather and three of his uncles served in the Army. Tragically, two of his uncles were killed during the Korean War and Vietnam War, his grandfather lost a limb during World War II, and one uncle was wounded twice in Vietnam.
Despite these circumstances, Ecker joined the Army in 1987 because he believed in its mission.
"As a young boy, I had a romance with the uniform, the flag, and courage and service," said Ecker. "I still do."
When he is not spending his time with the Army, Ecker enjoys many activities including reading, learning, playing baseball, fishing, taking long walks with his wife, and spending time with his two children.
His family is very active in his local church. His wife is the church organist, and he serves an usher and lector.
USAPHC personnel say Ecker was certainly an asset to the organization and will be missed.
"As Public Health Command's first command sergeant major, CSM Ecker has set the bar exceptionally high," said Col. Dennis C. Brown, the USAPHC Chief of Staff for Ecker's entire tenure. "He's a Soldier's Soldier, a skilled medic and a rare leader. He asks nothing of his troops that he cannot and will not do, and you can always be sure that CSM Ecker will always perform to the highest standard."
Ecker says he will miss the people he has met and worked with over the years.
"I've enjoyed everything from the start of my enlistment to now … from serving in elite, rapid deployment units specializing in airborne insertion and forced entry capability to my current service as the first USAPHC command sergeant major," said Ecker.
He cherishes his Army career because of the selfless service of his comrades.
"I've most enjoyed the people whom I've served alongside," said Ecker. "The U.S. Army is indeed the strength of our nation because of her service members' service to one another, a unique camaraderie, cohesion, esprit de corps and special friendships, strong enough to live for, and die for."