FORT KNOX, Kentucky (Aug. 22, 2016) -- Sometimes streamlining for efficiency is as simple as bringing all the players together.When it comes to managing assignments for the Army's top tier NCOs, that formula has been working since April when U.S. Army Human Resources Command functionally integrated three separate branches into a single division tasked with managing the careers of some 5,000 sergeants major and command sergeants major. The previously separate Command Management Branch and the former Sergeant Major Branch were merged to form the Sergeant Major Management Division, or SMMD, said Sgt. Maj. Eric Thom, the division's first chief.In addition to combining the CMB and SMB, the Nominative Sergeant Major Program Office, or NSPO, formerly known as the SMMO or Sergeant Major Management Office, while still located in Arlington, Virginia, has been pulled in under SMMD to integrate the career management of all active duty E9s. Though physically separated, the NSPO is functionally integrated with SMMD at Fort Knox.The immediate payoff can be summed up in one word, according to Thom. "Communication. Because we were stove-piped before, we simply weren't talking to each other. Now all three branches interact and our efficiency and effectiveness have increased dramatically. The communication right now is better than ever between all three branches," he said."Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, has made it clear: stop talking location changes; there are no location changes. It needs to be there so the NSPO chief, Sgt. Maj. Dennis Eger, can execute the functions required of that office with the SMA and the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. NSPO is an essential part of SMMD and although their core functions could be executed at HRC, it is far more efficient to run them out of the National Capitol Region," he said."Because this program is a Chief of Staff of the Army program managed by the VCSA and the SMA it is important that it be located in Crystal City," said Eger. "Most of the office processes, functions and paperwork require approval and direct oversight by the VCSA and the SMA so our location here works to create more effective and efficient operations."Thom arrived at HRC in early May after serving as the Army's 14th Aviation Branch command sergeant major at Fort Rucker, Alabama. With a long and varied career in Army Aviation and no background in Human Resources, Thom said he sees himself as a team builder. As the division jells, his team pushes ahead with its vital work for the Army and its senior NCOs."What we are doing is building the team," said Thom. "It doesn't happen overnight. Sure, the members are all in place, but it takes time to learn how everyone else operates, to learn their strengths and weaknesses. Remember: knowing your duties and responsibilities may make you good at your job, but knowing how everyone else operates and making adjustments accordingly builds teams. We are doing better today than we were six months ago, but we will be even better six months from now."Eger, the NSPO chief, concurred, saying, "The organization has been incredibly effective due primarily to the increased communication and sharing of information. We each must understand fully what the other is doing to effectively manage such an experienced and diverse group.""The process is more transparent," said Sergeant Major Branch chief, Sgt. Maj. Stephen Bower. "We don't make any assignment without talking to the other branches and that works to the benefit of the Soldiers and their families.""We have sergeants major who, based on their respective personal situations, would have to talk to all three of the branches," said Sgt. Maj. Michael Barbieri of Command Management Branch. "When we were in different offices it was confusing and it was frustrating to the field. Now we have information more readily available and we are providing more predictability.""Our focus is on the force. The SMA made it very clear: our guiding principles are to meet the needs of the Army, address our Soldiers' needs for career growth and progression, and to take care of their families. In that order," said Thom. "Although we have only been around for a couple of months, we've had nothing but positive feedback to this point."One collateral benefit of the SMMD integration has been its co-location with HRC's Army Reserve Enlisted Directorate SGM Branch inside the Maude Complex at Fort Knox. The result is better coordination and customer service across the components, according to Thom. "They are right here. They're this last row," he said, indicating a bay of work stations directly next to his own. "It's actually worked out well because I've had some people ask me questions reference AGR that I didn't have the answers to. So I simply stood up and asked over the cubicle. You're sitting less than five feet from them.""Communication is key to the success of all organizations," said Eger. "We each play a part in the holistic management of command sergeants major and sergeants major within the Army. We routinely discuss individuals who may be coming to the nominative program as well as those who will leave the program and return to their branch for future management. So it is imperative that we share information, because sharing information provides predictability and transparency to the force."With the team in place and having just released a MILPER to the field detailing the FY 2018 Centralized Selection List board for brigade and battalion CSM and SGM key billet positions, Thom said the SMMD team is focused on the way ahead. The MILPER is available on the HRC website at http://go.usa.gov/xTgTQ (CAC or DSLogon required).Part Two: The FY 18 CSL Board for CSM/SGM and key billet positions