FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- From the moment an individual enlists in the Army, the highest calling for many is to achieve the rank of sergeant major, the top of the scale as enlisted ranks go. The Soldiers that make it to this rank are then placed in command positions via a slating board process.

"The sergeant major slating board is a deliberate process that we conduct annually to identify talent in our formation and get that talent placed in appropriate positions," Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Abernethy, U.S. Army Special Operations Command's Command Sergeant Major said.

USASOC's sergeant major slating board was recently held on MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida.

"The most unique aspect of this year's slating board is that the sergeant major of the Army will be physically present (for the first time) during our process for the first two days," Abernethy said. "Where he will be speaking on day two of the conference."

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey had the opportunity to observe the way USASOC selects their top enlisted Soldiers first-hand, he also discussed current affairs and the way forward for the Army as a whole.

According to Abernethy, this board is normally held in the summertime but USASOC has since changed the timeline for logistical reasons.

"The sergeant major slating board is held in February and that is a recent change from past years, when it was typically held around the July -- August time-frame," Abernethy said. "The reason for the shift is to match up with the results from the E-9 promotion board."

This board process is a methodical approach to selecting the next battalion, brigade and group-level command sergeants major based on skill and potential.

"We try to map out a Soldier's career like a chess game to some extent, three to four steps ahead," Abernethy said. "So decisions made today are actually going to affect Soldier's careers tomorrow and also years down the road."

As promotions are announced, USASOC senior leadership begins planning to fill specific positions with sergeants major that are most qualified. This prior planning enhances the future readiness of our force.

"This year's theme is operations and readiness, so with that he's (SMA) going to have the opportunity to see how special operations is moving into the 21st century in how we deal with our unique operation and readiness op-tempo," Sgt. Maj. Gilbert Troxler, USASOC G-3 Sgt. Maj. said.

Having the SMA physically present is not the only thing that makes this year's conference a little different than previous years.

"Another thing that makes this conference very unique is that this is the first time ever that we are doing a concurrent spouse seminar," Abernethy said. "So my wife Angela will be present and host several of the CSM spouses, to include the SMA's spouse Holly, during a two day conference as well."

"This conference is actually two parts, the first being education and professional development in the first two days, and second is the slating process where we place the E-9 talent we have (in our formations) on the second two days."

Abernethy explains that retaining these senior noncommissioned officers and placing them in career advancing assignments goes hand in hand with the commanding general's priorities.

"The sergeant major board and slating process actually touches each of the command general's four priorities which are; sustain the force, sustain the fight, prepare for the future, and honor, preserve, and build on our legacy. More specifically, force sustainment is absolutely tied into sergeant major slating."

The SMA noted that although special operations forces may do things a little differently than conventional forces, they have been working side by side to win the nation's fights.

"The biggest thing I took away from this conference is the demonstrated need for us to continue collaboration and to capitalize on that collaboration that we've built over the last 10 to 15 years between special operation forces and our conventional forces," Dailey said.

Dailey explains that due to an ever-evolving battlefield, special operations forces and conventional forces must continue the on-going relationship through every available method.

"The complex world that we fight in is going to require complete and utter cooperation between our special forces and our conventional forces and we need to sustain that through training exercises, partnership, through conferences and any other mechanisms we have, in order to maintain that capability against any potential adversary for the future."

Abernethy explains that with these new appointments, there are expectations that must be met of not only the newly slated E-9's, but of all leadership across the special operation forces enterprise.

"What I expect from leaders across our organization regardless of grade is to show up every single day, give 100 percent to the Soldiers in their care and let the leadership take care of them," Abernethy said. "That's what we're chartered to do and that's what we will do."