By Ms. Mary Ann Davis (IMCOM)October 2, 2018
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- From the day he assumed his duties as the top enlisted leader of U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz, Command Sergeant Maj. Brett Waterhouse has been cultivating relationships with units and local communities, while looking for ways to enhance efficiency and take care of the Garrison's customers -- the Soldiers and family members of the Kaiserslautern and Baumholder military communities.
Now, more than 100 days later and with a new commander by his side, Waterhouse is busy visiting the Garrison's 29 sites geographically dispersed across the state of Rheinland-Pfalz (to include Coleman Work Site in Mannheim, Baden Württemberg), learning what needs to be done.
The command sergeant major spent a considerable amount of time during his first six weeks meeting and listening to his tenant organization peers to determine their needs and provide them support.
"One of my biggest tasks was establishing relationships with local government, community and tenant units' senior enlisted leaders," many of whom also arrived in Germany this summer, the sergeant major said. "Our job at the USAG Rheinland-Pfalz is to provide services to the warfighter, and if we can't provide something, let them know what we can provide. I don't want the Soldiers and families we support to be separate entities, but a single entity. We are getting there."
Waterhouse knows a lot about warfighter needs, because he served as an M1A1 tank loader with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Saudi Arabia and Iraq during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 90's and as an M1A1 tank platoon, platoon sergeant with the 3rd Infantry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom I in 2003.
Years later, the CSM used what he learned about teamwork there and applied it to the garrison here -- listening, observing, correcting and praising the work force when warranted.
"Just like many units in the Army, the Garrison is shorthanded. We have a lot of folks doing a lot of work -- not just holding down the fort -- but doing great things and providing great service to our Soldiers and families," the CSM said. "In every organization, you've got some people who just come to work and some who go above and beyond what is required of them. That's one thing I like about this garrison, we've got a lot of people who care. They are leading their part of the organization for the benefit of all. They don't have to do it -- they want to do it, because they want to make sure our Army families are well taken care of."
Leading comes naturally to Waterhouse who learned a lot about leadership, teamwork and discipline years before the Army while playing baseball from an early age through high school and leading the percussion section and drumline of the Gainesville High School Marching Band. The latter, earned him a scholarship to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where he pursued an architecture degree. But after taking time off from college and working various jobs back home, Waterhouse would march to a different drum -- that of the U.S. Army.
"Growing up playing baseball and sports where people are relying on you -- if you don't do your job, we all fail. Playing sports and in bands are group efforts, and individuals can either screw it up or make it better for the group as a whole," the CSM reflected. "So I grew up in that teamwork type of environment. When I did decide to join the Army, I had no idea I would like it that much."
He liked it enough to spend the next 28 years serving in a variety of duty positions to include tank loader, tank gunner, tank commander and platoon sergeant; Recruiter; First Sergeant; Military Science Instructor; Operations Sergeant Major; Stryker Squadron Command Sergeant Major; Cadet Command Brigade Command Sergeant Major; and NCO Oral History Program lead at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center -- giving 110 percent to every job he's taken.
"When you do a job, do it to the best of your abilities. It's that simple. It really comes down to everybody doing what they are supposed to do and doing those tasks well, it's about the team," Waterhouse explained. "Some people think if they make a certain rank or position that it's all about them, but it's the opposite -- as you move up, it's all about those who will replace you one day."
His passion for individual responsibility, discipline and teamwork came from mentors who took care of him along the way, from his high school band director, the late Martha Starke, "who was a regimented stickler for detail," to his tank commander, Staff Sergeant Mark Bare in Schweinfurt, Germany from 1993-1995, who "was inspiring and had total confidence in me -- even when I didn't have confidence in myself. He motivated his troops to become better tankers by instilling the spirit of competition in us," the CSM said.
Part of being a leader is inspiring your folks to do more than they thought they could, Waterhouse said. But how do you do that? You need to get to know them -- their personalities, strengths, weaknesses -- what motivates them, what makes them tick.
"It's also about connecting with people," the CSM advised. "Communication is key to getting to know people and accomplishing missions efficiently and effectively. For leaders, it's not necessarily what you say, but how you say it. This is especially important when what you have to say is something people don't want to hear."
He spoke from experience. During the weeks and days leading up to what would become Operation Iraqi Freedom I in 2003, then Sergeant First Class Waterhouse had to motivate his fellow tankers to prepare for his unit's inevitable border crossing from Kuwait to Iraq. Many members of Waterhouse's tank platoon were in a state of denial about the impending war in Iraq. His unit had been deployed to Kuwait in September 2002 for a six-month training mission called Operation Desert Spring. Many of the NCOs in the platoon were focused on going home in March 2003 instead of crossing the Kuwait border and fighting the enemy. This prospect of war and the NCOs' focus on going home, in turn, affected their Soldiers' morale and confidence.
"I told the NCOs, I need you to be ready. The Army didn't bring other brigades to Kuwait the last couple of months (January-March 2003) for the fun of it, to include the other brigades in the 3rd Infantry Division who had already completed their six-month rotation in Kuwait. I told them, we are going to war, and I need your heads in the game. I had to give them a dose of reality and motivate them to be ready to fight."
Waterhouse went on to say, "I talked to the junior Soldiers in the platoon separately, and explained that I knew how they felt, having been in a similar situation in Saudi Arabia in 1990 and on the border of Iraq in 1991. I said to them, 'You guys have been here in Kuwait for six months, and no one is better trained and ready to kick the enemy's ass than we are right now. This is why we train. This is our job, and when the bullets start flying, you will all know what to do.'"
Days later, Waterhouse's unit did exactly that and fought their way to Baghdad, taking control of the country's capital and began settling the area. Several tank commanders showed courage enough to earn several accolades and one received the Silver Star.
"They just needed to get their heads in the game -- people's lives were at stake," he said. "The tough part about being a leader is letting people know the reality of the situation, but also showing them the importance their role plays in the mission."
That dedication to the people and mission is what the CSM brings to the garrison. There was a lot to learn during his first 100 days, but he's doing it all plus keeping his head on a swivel for unexpected events and relying on experts, tenants and garrison partners to assist when needed.
"The first day Colonel Edwards took command, we had an [Unexploded Ordnance] found at Smith Barracks, Baumholder. That was something no one could have predicted, but you handle it when things like that happen," he said. It also helped to have assistance from outside the gate as well. "The Baumholder mayor offered to house the Soldiers and families in Lager Aulenbach Training Range until the UXO was removed. They offered because of the long-standing relationship that was formed long before I got here. We are a family with these communities -- that's a huge advantage of our partnership that I hope we can continue to build on."