FORT BENNING, Ga., (March 11, 2015) -- The 98th Training Division welcomed incoming Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Priest during a change of responsibility ceremony March 7 and bid farewell to outgoing Command Sgt. Maj. Grady Blue Jr.
Maj. Gen. Leslie Purser, commanding general, 108th Training Command, said it is important to recognize the senior enlisted Soldier of the unit with a ceremony such as this with the noncommissioned officer's saber. The passing of the saber signifies relinquishing of responsibility and authority from the outgoing command sergeant major to the incoming command sergeant major. This is a symbolic exchange of the sacred trust placed in the NCO Corps for the care and keeping of the unit and its Soldiers.
In attendance were Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 98th Division, Fort Benning; 1st Brigade, 98th Training Division, Fort Benning; 2nd Brigade, 98th Training Division, Fort Jackson, South Carolina; 3rd Brigade, 98th Training Division, Salem, Virginia; and 4th Brigade, 98th Training Division, Buffalo, New York.
"Sgt. Maj. Priest brings with him a wealth of experience: a lot of deployments, he brings joint experience, he was originally a Marine for five years ... plus, his drill sergeant capability," Purser said.
Priest, a native of Lafayette, Indiana, entered the United States Army Reserve after having served as an Infantryman for more than five years with the 6th Marine Regiment. His combined active and reserve service exceeds 30 years. He has held senior leadership positions as an operations sergeant major, joint senior enlisted leader - sergeant major, battalion command sergeant major - and most recently as brigade command sergeant major, 354th Civil Affairs Brigade.
"There is only one unit in the Army that is the best unit," Priest said. "That unit is your unit, and for me, that unit now is the 98th Training Division. What this means to me is I will own that unit, I will support that unit as the senior noncommissioned officer of that organization, I will do everything in my power to make sure I take care of their Soldiers ... and most importantly, build upon the work of Command Sgt. Maj. Blue, the commanding general and those leaders in the formation."
Priest's operational assignments include Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Iraqi Freedom and three tours in Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan.
He attended all levels of the NCO education system culminating with the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.
Priest's awards include the Bronze Star Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the Expert and Combat Infantryman Badges, the 1999 TRADOC Ralph E. Haines Jr. Outstanding Drill Sergeant of the Year Award, the Department of State-Meritorious Honor Award and the Infantry Order of Saint Maurice Medallion.
He has a Bachelor of Science Degree from Purdue University and a Master Degree from George Washington University. He is employed by Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. in support of the U.S. Army Capabilities Integration Center, HQ TRADOC, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. He is married to the former Dawna Noel Lenz of California, and has two children and two grandchildren: son Sgt. Kameron T. Priest of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, wife Adrianna and granddaughter Mckynli of Fort Benning, Georgia, and daughter Sage B. Priest and grandson Colten of Lafayette.
Blue will move on to his next assignment taking responsibility of duties at the 311th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, Los Angeles, California.
"Serving the 98th Division Soldiers over the last four years has been very rewarding," Blue said, noting he got to do what he loved to do, and that is "working well and growing drill sergeants."
Blue commended Brig. Gen. Michaelene Kloster, commanding general, 98th Training Division, for laying out the foundation, alongside him, for the drill sergeant force by writing and implementing a Drill Sergeant Prep program, designed grow and graduate drill sergeants both in the active duty and the Army Reserve.
"You had a terrific and successful tenor," Kloster said."You have produced results and you did so with tough love and caring love for the Soldiers."
During the ceremony, roses were presented to the spouses and Family members of the incoming and outgoing command sergeants major.