By Sgt. 1st Class Mark BellDecember 12, 2008
FORT JACKSON, S.C. - As national media outlets and world leaders focus on the inaugural ceremony for the new Commander in Chief in Washington D.C., a small, seemingly unnoticed promotion ceremony took place at the U.S. Army Reserve Readiness Command headquarters here on Friday.
There were no bands, color guards or secret service scanning the perimeter, but instead, one command sergeant major doing the right thing - ensuring today's Soldier get the recognition and spotlight to shine.
From a small South Carolina community nestled in the middle of Sumter National Forest, Pvt. Alicia Hall was given her 15 minutes of fame during her promotion ceremony to the rank of private.
Finally, after completing combat basic training and her advanced individual training as a human resource specialist here, Staff Sgt. Luisa Walker, Hall's supervisor, covered her bare Velcro square patch on her uniform with a small, yet significant "skeeter" rank.
Command Sgt. Maj. David L. Belcher, the U.S. Army Reserve Readiness Command's senior enlisted Soldier, said it's important to formally recognize Soldiers of all ranks when they are promoted or awarded.
"I think it is particularly important with lower-ranking Soldiers because it sets the tone for the rest of their careers and instills Army tradition in them," he said.
It is incumbent on leaders to publicly, as well as privately, recognize and express their appreciation for each Soldier's efforts and achievements, Belcher said.
"After all, none of us achieved any level of leadership without the efforts and successes of those we lead and serve along side," he said.
Hall, like every Soldier, has her unique reasons for joining the Army Reserve.
Duty, honor, country and money for college are typical responses from Soldiers who trade their jeans and name-brand shirts for the Army Combat Uniform.
Hall's choice to join the Reserve was not inspired by a recruiter's phone call or a commercial seen during prime-time television but rather by someone who mentored her since before she can remember - her father, Michael.
"I joined because I was influenced by my father, and I felt this would give me a chance to set some direction for my future," said the Whitmire, S.C., resident.
Hall plans to pursue a degree in radiologic technology and work in a health-care facility in Columbia, S.C.
Like every daughter's father, he always seemed to be there at the right time to answer that difficult question.
"My father was important growing up because he always seemed to know the answer to everything, and he always gave great advice," she said.
That great advice lead Hall down a path to voluntarily join the Army Reserve in a time of when Soldiers are deploying to schedule combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The best advice my father has ever given me was to never lie and to always take responsibility for my actions," she said.
A Soldier taking responsibility for his or her own actions is paramount to succeed in the Army, according to Belcher.
Belcher, who served four years in the Marine Corps during the time of the Vietnam Conflict, said although it was a very different era, military and public opinion and support, a private's promotion ceremony today is just important and memorable as his first promotion in 1969.
"I remember my first promotion and the circumstances leading to it," he said. "I was promoted meritoriously for a particular achievement, and it showed me that I could control my own career by my actions and set me up for future successes."
Nearly 40 years after his own first promotion, Belcher said he is still proud to promote Soldiers today and he hopes to instill the same professionalism and mentoring he learned when he was growing as a young Marine in the Corps.
Belcher's Marine drill instructor, Staff Sgt. Rogers, taught him about importance of leadership, taking care of Soldiers, honor and integrity.
"At the time, I would have taken issue, but now I recognize that Staff Sgt. Rogers, a veteran of the Korea War and Vietnam Conflict, did indeed instill in me the seven Army values long before they were adopted by the Army."
Belcher admits there have been numerous NCOs in his career that have empowered him to be the best Soldier in today's Army.
"I often think of them and how much they invested in me," he said about his past enlisted leaders. "I hope that, in some small way, I've been able to touch the life of a Soldier and give them a boost in their career."
That somewhat invisible boost helps give Hall the motivation to make herself better as a Soldier and a member of her community.
"In five years, I see myself being at least sergeant and continuing to learn and better myself," she said. "I have learned to take responsibility for my actions, and being part of a team is always better than being by yourself."
Hall's family is no stranger to serving in the armed forces. Her father was a captain in the Army National Guard, her uncles were in the Navy and Air Force, her cousin is a retired Army colonel and her brother is the current Reserve Officer Training Corps student commander at Presbyterian College in South Carolina.
"Soldiers should take away that every Soldier is important," Belcher said. "Every Soldier is a vital and integral member of the team. As Soldiers, we must never underestimate the contributions made by other Soldiers, regardless of rank."