Being a service member is not an easy occupation. Ask anyone familiar with the military and they are able to share tales of sacrifices and struggles.The lesser-shared stories are those of how new families and lifelong friendships are built and fostered. Military families must remain flexible and constantly adapt to unexpected and sometimes difficult changes, but in the end, some of these changes bring new and interesting family and friends into our lives.This summer the Sea Dragon Ohana was faced with a change to their leadership as they bid farewell to the Dodson and Sanchez Families and welcomed the Foley and Gainey Families. What could be better than adding to your family and building new friendships?When Brig. Gen. Sean A. Gainey and Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Foley, and their families, were officially welcomed to the command Soldiers read their command bios and whispered among themselves, sharing stories of who "they are". Yet, with their hectic schedules, frequent travel and the elevated missile threats, no one has really had an opportunity to truly get to know them.That time is now."I was an Air Force brat and was actually born on an Air Force base about four years before my dad retired from the service," shared Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Foley, the new command sergeant major for the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.Foley, assumed responsibility for the 94th AAMDC from Command Sgt. Maj. Finis A. Dodson, the previous 94th AAMDC command sergeant major, during a change of responsibility ceremony, May 16, 2016 at the historic Palm Circle at Fort Shafter, Hawaii."The first few years of my life we were a military family, so we always lived in and or around Air Force bases, just because it was natural, due to my father being retired Air Force."Brig. Gen. Sean A. Gainey, the commanding general of the 94th AAMDC who assumed command, Aug. 5, 2016, had a similar response when asked about where he grew up, "It is really difficult to claim anyone place because we were a military family and as such traveled a lot."
Many Soldiers joined the Army to get away and try something new, and Foley is no different."Growing up in a military family, my dad was pretty strict," said Foley. "I went to school and martial arts was my extracurricular activity ...until I joined the Army."Other than school and martial arts, Foley did some odd jobs like cutting grass as he grew older. The first 17 years of his life was a routine existence."I was home on time, I did my homework, and I went to karate and came back. That was the way it was for the first 17 years," shared Foley. "As soon as I turned 17, I joined the Army, no kidding, I was 17 years and 40 days old, and I joined through the delayed entry program. I wanted to get away. As soon as I graduated, two weeks later I shipped to basic training and never looked back."Gainey was familiar with the military and knew he wanted to be a leader at an early age."I was very fortunate to come from a military family where my parents instilled the core values of Family, discipline, respect, and hard work in my four siblings and myself," explained Gainey. "We were always involved in sports; football, baseball, wrestling. No matter how well we did in sports though, when we were done we still had chores to do at home."At an early age, watching my father lead as a noncommissioned officer, I became familiar with the aspects of the military life like the team work. I was accustomed to the travel, and really enjoyed it, and I knew from being involved in sports that I enjoyed being a leader."During high school, he thought about joining the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps but decided against it because his school only had a Naval JROTC program and he wanted to experience college life."I was determined to have the college experience and I was recruited by Georgia Southern [to play football]. Everything changed ... we started winning championships and I was misorienting my priorities ... In college you are on your own, time management is important, but enforcement [of time management] is a lot looser. Football becomes your life. You go to two or three classes a day and then everything else is football....football, football, football. It almost engulfed me."Realizing his priorities had to change; Gainey decided to take another look at the ROTC program."In my sophomore year, I started to figure out pretty quickly that being successful in sports outside of college is very difficult ... I realized that I probably wouldn't be able to play professional athletics after college and needed to figure out what I really wanted to do. That is when I looked back into ROTC....I took some classes through the program and I was hooked. Balancing all my class work with sports and ROTC was tough, but well worth it when I commissioned as a second lieutenant."Even though they are different from each other, Gainey and Foley learned similar lessons, which have shaped them into the leaders they are today."My first assignment out of AIT [Advanced Individual Training] was to a new air defense unit in its infancy," shared Foley. "I didn't have the best leaders in that organization to train and mentor me ... but it helped me grow a little bit because I realized I had to get myself squared away. So even with poor leadership, I still tried to make the best of it. I was always on time, I was in the right uniform, my boots were always shined and I worked hard."However, Foley was not immune to the follies of being a private."Just like any normal private, I got into trouble, nothing serious, but I had some corrective training," revealed Foley. "That is being a private, but I learned and grew from that. When I PCSed [moved] to Germany I realized I needed to change if I wanted to be a good Soldier and a good leader."That was the turning point for me from being a knucklehead private to a leader, and I think that we all go through that at some point ... fortunately I realized it within the first 18 months of entering the Army and so I decided not to get into trouble anymore."While he made the decision to change, he still credits strong NCOs with helping him develop into a good leader."I was also very lucky that I did eventually get some phenomenal NCOs, tough NCOs, but they taught me a lot and they really cared about me as a Soldier. They helped me transition to that leader," said Foley. "I give credit to Staff Sgt. Mike Medina; my very first 'squared away' section sergeant, for making me the leader I am today. I adopted much of his leadership style."Gainey admits to being scared and nervous when he first became a platoon leader but credits his success as a leader to the values that were instilled in him by his father; the same values his father learned as an NCO in the Army."Leverage your strengths, minimize your weaknesses, and then build on those weaknesses. I just leveraged what made me successful in everything else, the core values that I learned at an early age: Family, hard work, respect for others (equally up and down the chain) and building a team," shared Gainey. "I got a great response. It worked very well."When he was a young company grade officer, he did not know if he was going to make the Army a career. He explained how he would focus on being the best leader in whatever job he held at the time, but if he stopped having fun in a job, he needed to move on and do something else."If you don't have the passion to take on this job, there is a trickle-down-effect and it impacts everyone in the organization," said Gainey. "If others can't see your passion they will no longer want to be passionate about it either."As leaders, Gainey and Foley put Soldier and Family readiness as a top priority. Both are passionate about leading the Sea Dragon Soldiers, but are also looking forward to spending time with their Families and enjoying Hawaii."I don't really think I have anything like swimming with sharks on my Hawaii bucket list," laughed Gainey. "I am looking forward to the traveling and experiencing the culture of the Hawaiian Islands."
"Before I leave, I hope to take an island-hopping vacation with the family," shared Foley.Yes, they have worked hard.Yes, they have a wealth of Army experience to draw from.Yes, they are now a new part of the Sea Dragon Ohana....but what do they really think of each other."He is an avid sports fan," said Foley, with a serious smile. "He loves to watch a Redskins game. He loves his time with his Family. If it is Family time, he is telling me to kick people out to go spend time with their Families. Bottom line, he is down to earth and very easy to talk to.""He is high maintenance," shared Gainey, chuckling with a huge grin. "He only flies certain airlines. If it isn't a four star, top-of-the-line aircraft, he will not get on it.....See I am a low maintenance kind of person. I can ride in coach, bouncing around and I am fine as long as I get there, but sergeant major, he will be cranky the whole time until he is walking off that plane. That's my dish on the sergeant major."