By Eric Pilgrim | Fort Knox NewsOctober 25, 2019
Amid a cool autumn backdrop beginning to change the scenery of central Kentucky, the newest Sergeant Major of the Army paid members of Fort Knox a visit Oct. 23-25.
Sergeant Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston, the 16th senior noncommissioned officer to hold the highest Army enlisted position since its inception July 11, 1966, spent three days getting to know some of the diverse units, organizations and mission sets that have become integral to the installation's overall mission, and discussing his priorities to build a more lethal and combat-ready force.
Shortly after arriving to the installation, Grinston, accompanied by newly confirmed Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, took part in a leader conference at the headquarters of U.S. Army Recruiting Command.
The conference included remarks via video teleconference by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville, as well as remarks by McCarthy and Gen. Paul Funk II, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. The conference also included an awards presentation.
In the afternoon, Grinston received a briefing from Fort Knox Garrison leaders about some of the installation's toughest challenges. He made it clear he wanted to hear as much about Fort Knox's challenges as about its successes.
Topping the list of issues for Garrison leaders were the need for a new child development center, accommodating living quarters for a growing population of Cadet Summer Training cadets beginning next year, and concerns about budget shortfalls in barracks sustainment, restoration and modernization costs.
"If I don't know across the Army what are the actual quality ratings, and that's what we need [U.S. Army Materiel Command] to help with -- to come back with some number that we can get in front of the Secretary [of the Army] and the Chief to say, 'This is what we really need over the next few years to actually get us better,' we're never going to get there," said Grinston.
After the briefing, leaders took Grinston to walk the halls of the Fort Knox Child Development Center and talk with its director, Stephanie Parris. Leaders then drove Grinston to a home in Chestnut Glen, a neighborhood considered to be some of least in demand at Fort Knox.
Grinston said, based on the house he walked through, he was generally impressed with the quality of housing at the installation.
He finished off the day walking through barracks in the 1st Theater Sustainment Command footprint.
While there, Grinston conducted what he called a successful walk-through and met two of the command's top senior enlisted leaders. He also interacted with 1st TSC Soldiers while inspecting barracks rooms for health and safety and any maintenance discrepancies.
Command Sgt. Maj. Carey A. Welsh, senior enlisted advisor, Special Troops Battalion, 1st TSC, said he received nothing but positive feedback on the inspections.
"Quite honestly, I'm very proud of our Soldiers," Welsh said. "We didn't just raise our standards because someone was visiting us. We simply just exhibited the standards we keep. … I have leaders at all levels who are doing the things that we are asking them to do and checking on our Soldiers and making sure our Soldiers are taken care of."
Grinston tweeted about his impression of Welsh and 1st Sgt. Tammy Belcher, top NCO for Headquarters and Headquarters, 1st STB, 1st TSC. Both accompanied him on the inspection.
"Command Sgt. Maj. Welsh and 1st Sgt. Belcher are an outstanding example of a strong NCO leadership team," wrote Grinston. "I just finished checking out barracks at 1st Theater Sustainment Command and you can tell these two take the time to make sure their Soldiers are taken care of!"
Grinston awarded four 1st TSC Soldiers coins for maintaining high standards of their quarters. Specialist Khari Johnson, information technology specialist, 1st TSC, was among them.
"I think the first impression we made on the new Sgt. Maj. of the Army was pretty successful," Johnson said. "If he does stop by 1st TSC again, hopefully we leave an even greater impression."
Welsh said the visit was a success and a good representation of leadership and noncommissioned officers at all levels.
"We received positive feedback on everything from haircuts to discipline to leader presence, so I was quite happy," Welsh said.
On the 24th, Grinston visited the First Army Division East and 4th Cavalry Multifunctional Training Brigade area of operations, meeting with Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Fagan, senior enlisted advisor for First Army Division East Soldiers, as well as the command teams from across the Saber Brigade.
Many were able to ask questions, raise concerns they may have had and discuss ideas that could help make the Army better.
During this discussion Grinston talked about his motto: This is my squad.
"I want us to look at everything that is positive about great organizations and focus in on what makes those squads great," said Grinston. "We still need to acknowledge that there are things that we need to fix, but the more that we turn that on its head and focus on the good, the better we will be in the Army."
Grinston also visited personnel at U.S. Army Human Resources Command.
While there, he spoke with Soldiers from the Enlisted Personnel Management Division on structure changes and challenges, the new Reserve Personnel Management Directorate, and highlighted the importance of talent management and its impact on pcs movement cycles.
"I haven't spent a lot of time at HRC. I came to HRC three times out of my 32-year career because I've always trusted HRC professionals to do their job by taking care of Soldiers," Grinston said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Lynice Thorpe-Noel, the HRC command sergeant major, welcomed Grinston to the organization and informed him about the staff and directorates' skillfulness he touted.
"HRC has five heartbeats that ensure efficiency and top level performance on a daily basis," Thorpe-Noel said. "Those five heartbeats are the Officer Personnel Management Directorate, Enlisted Personnel Management Directorate, The Adjutant General Directorate, Personnel Information Systems Directorate and the newly added Reserve Personnel Management. The directorates' mission is taking care of our greatest asset: our Soldiers."
After a detailed overview of the directorates, the EPMD director, Col. Michael McGregor, introduced a new initiative that will assist the enlisted force get the right Soldier with the right skillset to the right place at the right time -- the Assignment Satisfaction Key-Enlisted Marketplace, or ASKEM.
The rollout for ASKEM is tentatively scheduled for 2021.
Following the briefing with HRC senior leaders, Grinston awarded more than 20 HRC Soldiers with coins for excelling in a variety of tasks and dedication for going the extra mile.
"Grinston's visit is a great opportunity to get informed about different ways to implement predictability and stability, while maintaining the readiness that the nation requires of the Army," Thorpe-Noel said.
During a sit-down breakfast with several Fort Knox spouses Oct. 25, Grinston said one of his priorities is spouse employment, and he mentioned a Family Forum from AUSA, asking if anyone watched it.
No one raised a hand.
The Department of the Army is working on certifications and licensing issues for spouses who PCS state-to-state, he explained: "I'm looking for any kind of feedback.
"Is there something I need to take back? Are there things we need to do better at the Army level?" asked Grinston. "I'm also here, just to say thank you."
(Editor's Note: Brenadine Humphrey | U.S. Army Cadet Command, Lara Poirrier| U.S. Army Recruiting Command, Sgt. 1st Class LaTonya Kelly | U.S. Army Human Resources Command,
Sgt. Nahjier Williams | 1st Theater Sustainment Command, and Sgt. William G. Brown | 4th Cavalry Multifunctional Training Brigade contributed to this article.)