By Sgt. 1st Class Mark BellMarch 2, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. - Nearly 650 Army Reserve senior noncommissioned officers' hopes of promotion were in the hands of more than a dozen command sergeants major during a semi-annual promotion board held here Feb. 22 to 26.
The 81st Regional Support Command hosted the regional board with the anticipation of discovering the brightest future leaders in the Army Reserve.
"We are looking to find the best of the best, for the senior NCO Corps," said Command Sgt. Maj. Cedric Green, the senior enlisted Soldier for the 479th Chemical Battalion, based at Fort Tilden, N.Y.
Green said the near week-long process was important to both Soldiers and the Army Reserve.
"Good or bad, we are talking about Soldiers who are the future of the Reserve NCO Corps," he said. "They are ready and willing to take that next step in their career."
The board is a lengthy process that will reap rewards for everyone involved, according to Green.
"There is a lot of weight on the sergeants major to determine the careers of Soldiers based on a single promotion packet," he said about the stuffed manila folders with the Soldier's name on it. "On my way down here, I knew I was coming here to be firm but fair. I owe it to each of these Soldiers and to the Army Reserve."
As Green and other board members thumbed through hundreds of packets, Col. Randy Cowell, the promotion board president, said he provided an officer viewpoint to the panel members.
"We have a group of professional sergeants major and lieutenant colonels reviewing packets to select the best-qualified candidates for promotion to the next rank," said Cowell, the deputy commander for 4th Battle Command Training Brigade, 75th Battle Command Training Division.
Cowell, an active-duty officer assigned to the Birmingham, Ala., reserve unit, said the Reserve NCO brings a whole new dynamic for any commander - on the battlefield or back in the States.
"Obviously, we have a strong NCO Corps in the Reserve," he said. "We have a lot of folks out there with a breadth of knowledge in different areas. It's amazing."
He said some of the promotion packets considered during the board were for three separate military occupational specialties.
"These Soldiers have either worked or have personal knowledge in all these MOSs," Cowell said. "So that's a key plus for the Army Reserve NCO."
He said the two major things that separate Reserve NCOs from their active-duty counterparts are the challenges of civilian careers and distant locations of Reserve units.
"On active duty, the NCO Corps can focus on that one MOS and possibly stay their entire military career in that particular job," he said. "For some, that's what they want to do. In the Army Reserve, with the location of our units, Soldiers have to move around, or maybe civilian job requirements force them to relocate."
Diversity, Green said, is the key to success in the NCO Corps.
He said he would like to see NCOs challenge themselves to be a well-rounded individual, both on and off duty.
"If I could make one recommendation, Soldiers should not be scared to be diversified," Green said. "Be an instructor or a drill sergeant. Show me you can perform."
The days of Soldiers progressing through their military career in one job or location is a thing of the past, Green said.
"Who would have ever thought our administrative specialists would be gunners on convoys," he said about Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It's happening all over the Army Reserve. We expect all Soldiers to be able to pull a trigger."
Aside from their particular military career, he said it boils down to Soldiers being Soldiers, doing Soldier things.
"When push comes to shove, we are all Soldiers," he said. "I like NCOs who have the ability to do the small things that matter. You don't have to have a master's degree, but you can show me you took time to do something to improve yourself."
Command Sgt. Maj. Maryeva Beesley, the senior enlisted Soldier assigned to the Deployment Support Command, said NCOs must demonstrate their excellent leadership skills.
"This must be shown in their packets," she said. "NCOs must be able to lead Soldiers in all aspects of their military career. I am not looking for meritocracy."
Both Beesley and Green agreed that civilian education is an important part of a Soldier's career.
"Civilian education is very important," Green said. "It's always good in a board member's mind when an individual has taken it upon himself or herself to show the initiative to further their education."
Taking that extra step demonstrates to promotion board members they are putting themselves ahead of their peers both in the Army Reserve and their communities, he said.
"When a Soldier continually strives to improve his or her educational background, both military and civilian, it shows me they want that next rank," Beesley said. "You have to show me you want this."
Whether it's consistency, diversity or education, at the end of the week, numerous Soldiers will soon receive the news of their recommendations to promotion to the next rank.
"NCOs are the backbone of our Army, and we must ensure, as leaders, they are prepared to be leaders on and off the battlefield," said Cowell.