By Spc. Gregory T. Summers, 1st Signal Brigade Public Affairs Office June 12, 2014
USAG YONGSAN, South Korea -- Soldiers, noncommissioned officers, officers and leadership of the 1st Signal Brigade and its 41st Signal Battalion held a leadership professional development event at the USAG Yongsan multi-purpose theater facility June 6.
However, this LPD was of special significance, because Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, U.S. Army Ret. and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, U.S. Army Ret., hosted the forum focused on key ways to improve the care of Soldiers and the importance of promoting leadership across all ranks.
Sullivan, born in Boston, Mass. and raised in Quincy, was the 32nd Chief of Staff of the Army from June 1991 to July 1995. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the armor branch in 1959 after receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Norwich University. Sullivan's professional military education includes the Armor School's Basic and Advanced Courses, Command and General Staff College and the Army War College. He served just over 36 years of active duty and continues to serve the military as the president and executive officer of the Association of the United States Army, a non-profit association representing America's Army on Capitol Hill and in local communities.
Preston was the 13th Sergeant Major of the Army from January 2004 to March 2011. His seven years as the Army's top sergeant major marks the longest tenure of any sergeant major in the history of the Army. Preston, a native of Mount Savage, Md., joined the Army in 1975 and attended basic training and armor advanced individual training at Fort Knox, Ky. As a graduate of the Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course, Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Course, First Sergeant Course, M1/M1A1 Tank Master Gunner Course, Master Fitness Trainer Course, Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer Course and Class 46 of the Sergeants Major Course, Preston dedicated himself to the Army and his Soldiers for over 35 years. Preston currently serves as the organizational director of Homes for Our Troops, a national, non-profit organization founded in 2004 that is strongly committed to building specially adapted homes for the over 1,700 Service Members nationwide who have returned home with life-altering injuries post 9/11.
The two set the stage for a casual, relaxed discussion and provided advice, insights and words of encouragement for the direction the Army is heading. Preston and Sullivan used their own experiences from their distinguished military careers to help explain the meaning and importance of leadership.
Sullivan said some fundamentals of leadership include setting standards, talking with each other and having expectations. "Talking with each other is very important," Sullivan said, "because being willing to be able to have dialogue with each other and establish your point to take care of your troops is part of being a leader."
Preston also stressed the importance of understanding that each level of leadership is just as important as the other. "For all of the leaders here in the group, if you are a team leader out there and have two to three Soldiers that belong to you or if you are a squad leader and have about nine Soldiers, be very proud of each level of leadership in which you serve," Preston said. "As you go through your military career, each position that you serve in, I want you to think of it as an educational opportunity. The position you are in right now is like you're in school learning every day. No other institution in the world is as good as the Army at growing leaders."
He went on to explain that growing leaders is a top priority of the Army, saying that sergeants' roles, across the board, are to grow replacements from those below them. "Take those two or three Soldiers you are responsible for and train them to be as good, if not better, than what you were," Preston said.
Sullivan also said that the key to leadership and success in the Army is simple; it's people. "I think that excellence in the Army begins where the rubber meets the road and the power of the United States Army is found at the bottom within its people," Sullivan stated. "And we must treat our people with dignity and respect and take care of each other. It's about mutual respect for each other."
Preston added to Sullivan's remarks by also saying that the time spent with those people allows them to become successful leaders in the future. "The time you spend with your Soldiers, with that personal intervention, allows them to become a successor," Preston said. "When you invest in your people and make them good at what they do, that comes back as a positive reflection on you."
Preston and Sullivan expressed their gratitude for the Soldiers of 1st Signal Brigade and their time serving in Korea. They also said that they are doing everything they can to continue to tell their stories in Washington, D.C.
Sullivan said, "If you can get anything from two Soldiers such as sergeant major Preston and me, is that you can serve your country, wake up and say 'I have given myself for my country.' You are special for that, because there are not many who are willing to do it."
Preston said, "We are very proud of what you all do. I was never stationed here as a Soldier, but I've had the opportunity to come here several times over the years and I've seen the mission and all you have done here on the peninsula. You all can be very proud of the legacy you are now a part of."
Sullivan also added some words of encouragement and personally expressed his feelings to those in attendance. "I'm a Soldier, for better or worse, and I'll always be a Soldier. I don't care who knows it. I love it. If I could do it forever, I would," said Sullivan. "I think what you all do is noble and your sacrifice is one after another, one challenge after another and you continue to meet them all. We are enormously proud of each and every one of you and we thank you for what you're doing."
Lt. Col John K. Harris, deputy commander, 1st Signal Brigade, and Command Sgt. Maj. Darris Curry, sergeant major, 1st Signal Brigade, presented Sullivan and Preston coins and thanked them for visiting.
Harris said, "With their continued active commitment to those who serve, including their families, it is clear to say that they have an interest in military affairs at all levels. Your insights were good to hear and really grounded all of us and your words and experiences were spot on. Thank you."