CAMP CASEY, South Korea -- Command Sgt. Maj. Michael L. Berry, a career infantryman and former drill sergeant who in January 2016 became senior enlisted leader for U.S. Army Garrison Area I, has moved to a new assignment as Commandant of the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy.
The Academy, at Fort Jackson, S.C., trains noncommissioned officers to become Drill Sergeants, who in turn assume the pivotal role of training the Army's recruits and seeing them through the crucial transition from civilian to Soldier.
The garrison operates U.S. Army camps in a region that sprawls from a point north of Seoul all the way north to the Demilitarized Zone that divides Korea.
The garrison maintains key services -- electricity, water, upkeep of roads, barracks and other structures, and also operates fitness centers, swimming pools, libraries, and recreational programs that support the readiness and resilience of Soldiers and civilian employees.
It mainly supports the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-US Combined Division, the bulk of whose forces are being moved south -- gradually and by carefully orchestrated stages -- to a new home on Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek.
On his final day with the garrison, Berry was awarded the Legion of Merit for "exceptionally meritorious service with the garrison," during an Aug. 22 ceremony on Camp Casey
According to the written citation that accompanied the medal, Berry's "superb leadership, expertise, and commitment to excellence were evident as he led Soldiers, Civilians, and a local national workforce in building teams, communicating ideas, and enhancing efficiency to improve the garrison's mission to a community of" more than 13,000 Soldiers and civilians stationed on Area I's widely dispersed installations.
"His contributions to rotational and permanently assigned forces," the citation continues, "were critical to the historic transformation of Area I, Korea, and the United States Army."
The award was signed by Lt. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, Commander, U.S. Army Installation Management Command.
Col. Brandon D. Newton, Commander, USAG Area I, presented the award during a morning ceremony attended by garrison officials and representatives of various U.S. and South Korean military units in Area I, local municipal governments and civic organizations.
In remarks at the ceremony, Newton said Berry had won the respect and admiration of the Area I community and its Korean neighbors, including the garrison's South Korean army counterparts and local Korean officials.
But, "most importantly," Newton said, Berry's "contribution to Soldiers" surpassed that "of any leader that I've worked with." In addition, in Berry's dealings with Soldiers, civilians and senior leaders, he had "been that voice of reason and perspective that we all need from a senior enlisted adviser, or Command Sergeant Major," Newton said.
Newton predicted that upon assuming his new duties, Berry would "probably start to make immediate impact on, really, our core competency in the Army, which is training Soldiers, training fighters, training riflemen, training people to move from the civilian world into the military."
In his final official remarks before departing the garrison, Berry told those at the award ceremony that his assignment with the garrison "was so broadening, and taught me so much, personally and professionally, that will set me up for the next job that I'm going to."
Berry thanked Newton, saying that in nearly 25 years of military service "I've served with some phenomenal leaders but Colonel Newton is by far the best commander I have ever had the opportunity to serve with."
When he first arrived at the garrison after years in the Army's infantry and Ranger communities, Berry said, duty with a garrison had seemed daunting and humbling, he said.
"Because it's a very fluid and ambiguous environment," said Berry. "One day we're worried about floods, the next day we're worried about icy roads, the next day we're worried about electricity, the next day we have sporting events that provide leisure for the Soldiers. So each day you come in and there's something new you learn and you learn it on the fly."
Berry said the garrison's staff of knowledgeable professionals had been a major help in adapting to the garrison.
"Berry said his service with the garrison had "been truly a distinct privilege and honor."
Berry entered the Army in 1992 and took Basic Training at Fort Benning, Ga.
In addition to his assignment at USAG Area I, Berry has served as squad leader; Long Range Surveillance Team Leader; Drill Sergeant at Fort Sill, Okla.; Platoon Sergeant; Ranger Instructor at the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga.; First Sergeant; Foreign Security Forces Transition Team Operations Sergeant; Operations Sergeant Major; and Battalion Command Sergeant Major.
He took part in three rotations of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
His military education includes: Command and General Staff College; Brigade and Battalion Pre-Command and Command Sergeants Major Course; U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy; First Sergeant Course; Senior Leaders Course; Advanced Leaders Course; Warrior Leaders Course; Ranger School; Drill Sergeant School; Master Fitness Trainer Course; Battle Staff Course; Pathfinder School; Long Range Surveillance Leaders Course; Air Movement Operations Course; Jumpmaster School; Air Assault School; Army Combatives Course; and Airborne School.