As the new senior enlisted adviser to the Office of the Program Manager-Saudi Arabian National Guard, Sgt. Maj. Michael James Mingle will focus his efforts on both U.S. and Saudi noncommissioned officers.
In addition to advising the program manager on all NCO matters, Mingle will make sure U.S. troops successfully satisfy their crucial roles as adviser-diplomats in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
"My plan is to ensure our U.S. advisers are giving 100 percent to the SANG. In order to do this, we must make sure we have the right Soldiers performing the job," he said.
With Saudi Arabia and allied Arab nations engaged in combat in neighboring Yemen, it is especially important for OPM-SANG to receive the best personnel consistently. Mingle visited the Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in October to do just that. During talks with HR officials who select Soldiers for the OPM-SANG post, Mingle stressed the importance of the assignment.
"I want to make sure it is understood how critical our mission is, and I want to make sure we receive Soldiers with the right skill sets," he said. "We've been at this mission for 42 years now. And we need the NCO and Officer Corps to understand that being assigned to OPM-SANG is not only providing a critical service to our partner nation in support of national strategy, but it's also an opportunity for anyone who takes the assignment to excel, get promoted, and to become a more well-rounded Soldier and diplomat."
OPM-SANG's core mission is to maintain and enhance the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States. To do this, military and civilian teams assigned to Saudi Arabia provide advice and assistance in modernizing the SANG. This modernization encompasses training, equipment, maintenance, supply, procurement, management, organization, health care and facilities.
Mingle's role as senior NCO also requires him to interact with SANG's enlisted troops. Topping his agenda for the SANG is helping them bolster their NCO Corps.
"I'm looking forward to getting a sergeant major from Saudi's Ministry of the National Guard enrolled in the U.S. Army Sergeant Major Academy, and help the SANG grow a stronger organization," he said.
Mingle said he'd also like to see as many Saudi NCOs as possible enrolled in English language classes, and he'd like to help the SANG establish the Warrior Leader (the Army's former PLDC) and Basic Leader courses. He acknowledged that these are tall orders that will require equal parts determination, dedication and diplomacy, but he's up for the challenge.
"I've got two years to do it," said Mingle, referring to his length of assignment. "Fortunately, my predecessor, Sgt. Maj. Love, started the groundwork and the U.S.-Saudi partnership is strong. I know it's not going to happen overnight, but I think by next year, we'll see some progress."
Mingle, who was born in Berlin, Germany, and raised in Germany, Pennsylvania, California, Alabama and later North Carolina has rarely shied away from challenge. His mother was from East Berlin and his father was an American Soldier who retired, after 23 years of service, to Valdese, North Carolina, where Mingle also calls home.
Growing up in Germany for most of his life gave Mingle his love for travel and adventure. He called it a "great experience," one that opened his eyes to the advantages of a multicultural life. Mingle worked on a German farm every day after school and learned at an early age the value of hard work.
He said he grew up in a tightknit family with one sister. He and his wife did not have children, but they are the proud parents of a 14-year-old Dachshund named Waldi. Mingle made Waldi a corporal while stationed in Korea, and has since promoted him to staff sergeant.
Mingle served in the Army Reserve from 1981-86 while attending community college and playing basketball, his favorite sport. He said he gladly followed in his dad's footsteps when he joined the Army in Leesville, Louisiana, in December 1986.
"I always wanted to serve my country like my father did, he was my hero, and I knew I wanted to take care of Soldiers and their families," Mingle said.
And he's done just that.
With deployments and assignments that took him from Colorado, Korea, Germany and Bosnia, to California, Georgia, New York, Iraq and Afghanistan, Mingle has spent nearly three decades taking care of troops and their families.
He said the good advice of his most trusted mentor, retired Sgt. Maj. Charles Gibson, has never failed him, no matter where in the world he landed.
Gibson taught a young Mingle how to care for those in his charge, advising him to "never worry about promotions and awards, because if you are doing the right thing, you will be recognized. And he was absolutely correct," Mingle said.
ABOUT THE MAN
Mingle said his favorite assignment was at Fort Stewart, Georgia, where he served as the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry command sergeant major. His proudest moment, he recalled, "was deploying this unit to Iraq and Afghanistan and then bringing every Soldier home."
Mingle assumed responsibility as the OPM-SANG sergeant major Sept. 23, arriving from his previous assignment as the G3/5/7 sergeant major at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Some of Mingle's most gratifying accomplishments include being designated the top tank platoon in 1st Battalion, 32nd Armor, his selection as an observer controller at Fort Irwin's National Training Center, being selected as an Army Officer Basic instructor at Fort Knox under Project Warrior, the day he was promoted to first sergeant and his selection as sergeant major to OPM-SANG, commanded by Brig. Gen. Paul Laughlin.
Mingle is a self-described professional "who loves his country, his family and his job" and he relishes his assist-and-advise role.
"I will give 100 percent every day, 24/7," he said. He said his work ethic is simple, revolving around a strict adherence to the Army Values, honesty and a positive attitude.
And he expects the same of others.
While his main focus is on the NCO Corps, he expects all OPM-SANG personnel to be disciplined and respectful of one another, "trying to understand the Saudi Arabian culture and improve OPM-SANG for the next Soldier, civilian or contractor coming after us."
And so he is looking forward to meeting with civilian employees to find out how he can support and assist them.
"I want to share my philosophy and hear their ideas for improvement, and find out how we can work together to keep things going in the right direction."
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Mingle's hobbies include biking, weightlifting, hot rods and basketball. He says retirement isn't in the very near future, but he can see himself teaching ROTC and becoming a motivational speaker to youth after the military.
"If I can convince one kid to be a part of society and help others, to get an education, whether they join the military or not, I'll be happy," he said. "We all have to do our parts in society to make our country a better place."
Mingle's post-retirement plans are in line with what he hopes to see at OPM-SANG.
"More than anything," he said. "I want to make the foxhole better for the next person."