By Terrance BellAugust 24, 2017
FORT LEE, Va. (Aug. 24, 2017) -- After four months on the job as Ordnance Corps command sergeant major, there are signs CSM Terry D. Burton is becoming entrenched in the work of fulfilling objectives associated with his position as the top enlisted Soldier of the branch with the most military occupational specialties and third largest troop strength.
It's not just the various documents strewn about the desk that sits in his office, the sighs or the occasional cheek coming to rest in the palm of his hand. Another indicator is a large whiteboard filled with a cryptic-looking list of goals and reminders written in black ink.
In addition, it is his handle on the Ordnance Corps vision that readiness is the overarching focus and basis for much of what the command does.
"Maintenance is the cornerstone of readiness," said Burton. "If it flies, it takes maintenance. If it rolls, it takes maintenance. As long as an Army moves, it will require maintenance."
There are more than 9,000 ordnance Soldiers in the Army. That number includes troops holding 31 different military occupational specialties in the fields of vehicle maintenance and repair as well as ammunition, explosive ordnance disposal, weapons systems maintenance and explosives safety.
Most of the ordnance officer and enlisted training takes place at Fort Lee, but the Ordnance School also operates training sites located in other parts of the country.
The Ordnance Corps' focus on readiness is not arbitrary but based on the intent of Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army Chief of Staff, who said "Readiness is my No. 1 priority," upon taking office, and Brig. Gen. David Wilson, the Chief of Ordnance, who further articulated it.
"Gen. Wilson should be commended on supporting a vision and mission statement put together by a team," said Burton. "He didn't own it himself and came in with a people mindset, intending to harness the ideas of the Soldiers and civilians to create that vision and mission statement. That has paid big dividends."
From an Ordnance Corps perspective, readiness generally means shoring up its responsibility of training Soldiers who can adequately fulfill the Army's requirements. It also means providing doctrinal support that complements the Army's war-fighting strategies. The No. 1 priority for Burton is to better connect with the field and convey how the corps will implement the Army's intent.
"We have to enhance our communication with the operational and strategic commands out there, from the brigade all the way down to the lowest level," he said. "There are things here in CASCOM (the Ordnance Corps' higher headquarters) that have not reached the field. As a result, there may be perceptions that headquarters does not know what's going on within the (ordnance) community."
Burton said the command does have its ear to the community's heartbeat, but he is looking at strengthening the channels in each direction.
"I want to further bridge that gap and communicate more with the force," he said.
Burton's varied experience - a long list of tactical assignments, a special operations background and a third consecutive nominative CSM position - has taught him that time is a valuable commodity that can make the difference between mission accomplishment and mission failure. He wants to encourage leaders to make better use of time.
"We have to give Soldiers time to train," he said. "We have to go back and look at schedules and block out time to train. A question often asked is 'How do we buy back experience?' We buy back experience through training. We must look at those priorities that don't fall under readiness but are taking time away from us. Take for example Sergeant's Time Training. Some units do it and some don't, and that's because there isn't sufficient time allotted to such an event."
Training and other readiness issues can be remedied when senior noncommissioned officers essentially begin working in unison with commanders, said Burton. Generally, that's one way to buy back time and better prepare units to tackle their missions, he added.
"As noncommissioned officers who understand readiness, we support our commanders," he said. "That means understanding their lines of effort, vision and mission. When we do that, we can better address time and training issues."
In the standards of training arena, as it concerns active duty and reserve components, Burton said there are no discernible problems but acknowledged NCOs sometimes tend to veer away from accepted procedure.
"Our Soldier and technical manuals have tasks, conditions and standards," he said. "If noncommissioned officers follow those tasks, conditions and standards, they stay on line with the rest of the Army. When they don't, the standards lack clarity. For instance, Soldiers will often Google information rather than referring to the manuals. We've got to get back to doctrine."
During his initial assessments upon taking office, Burton has found credentialing an important priority throughout the sustainment community. It concerns providing Soldiers opportunities for further learning in their chosen fields not only as tools to increase readiness but a means to prepare troops for life after the Army. He is decidedly positive about the programs.
"Credentialing benefits the Soldier, the corps and the equipment," he said. "When Soldiers go out and conduct maintenance on vehicles, war-fighters understand they're getting Soldiers who fully understand all the functions, the operations and the capabilities of the equipment through his or her certification and institutional training and knowledge."
Soldiers gain certification through study and examination of the knowledge and skills attained during the conduct of their duties, said Burton. Currently, 12 civilian organizations offer credentialing opportunities to Soldiers in 18 ordnance military occupational specialties.
"In years past, we didn't get full credit for what we acquired," he said. "Now, Soldiers are getting rewarded for the things they do, and when they're out of uniform, they can take their credentials to a civilian job.
"We do this not just to serve our country, but also better ourselves, better our families and lead a better life. It's a great thing for Soldiers and a great recruiting tool because it is taking care of our sons and daughters."
Burton reiterated the importance of communication in fulfilling his goals. Initiatives to maximize the use of social media and other means to spread the corps message are underway. He said it will require diligence and patience.
"It's a slow deliberate process, but we're making progress," he said.
For more information about the Ordnance Corps, visit goordnance.army.mil.