By Michael P. KleimanFebruary 4, 2020
Note: In observance of Black History Month, U.S. Transportation Command Public Affairs interviewed the organization's second Senior Enlisted Leader, U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Tomás Hawkins, to discuss his accomplished 33-plus year soldier career and thoughts on leadership.
While growing up in The Bronx, a borough of New York City, New York, U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) and second U.S. Transportation Command Senior Enlisted Leader Tomás Hawkins found playing basketball to be his passion and release.
Following participation in the sport in high school and college, he subsequently shifted his energy and enthusiasm from wearing a basketball jersey to an Army green uniform. Hawkins also transferred the teamwork approach necessary to succeed on the round ball court to the soldier experience, and in the process, achieved a more than 33-year, landmark Army career.
But his journey to becoming USTRANSCOM's -- and one of the Department of Defense's -- top enlisted leaders began in Kerrville, Texas, 44 years ago. After being a student at, and basketball player for, Schreiner College (now Schreiner University) from 1974 to 1976, Hawkins joined the Army and served a three-year enlistment in its Military Police Corps. Shortly thereafter, he returned to the Lone Star State to resume his college degree and basketball career at St. Edwards University in Austin. Upon receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice, Hawkins reenlisted into the Army not as an MP, but as a motor transport operator (truck driver).
"After graduating from St. Edwards University, I tried finding a criminal justice job, but the military offered a better salary. I subsequently rejoined the Army, and started my second soldier stint as an E-4 Specialist driving 18-wheel trucks throughout Europe," said Hawkins. "Although not able to return to the Military Police Corps, I nonetheless enjoyed being a soldier again, as well as being a truck driver, which was also like being the last of the cowboys."
For the next three decades, Hawkins' leadership abilities, in tandem with his commitment to the Army enabled him to transition from a truck driver to other positions with increased responsibility.
For example, he followed his driving duty serving as a squad leader non-commissioned officer, leading up to nine soldiers, and then, transitioned to working as an operations NCO. Hawkins subsequently left the operations arena to become a safety NCO. His remaining assignments presented him the opportunities to serve at two of the highest positions in his career field, with the U.S. Army Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, a component of USTRANSCOM, and with the Department of Defense as the command senior enlisted leader also with USTRANSCOM. These tours of duty leveraged his leadership experience and expertise.
Reflecting on his more than 33 years as a soldier, he recalled three specific tours of duty as highlights. First, after rejoining the Army, Hawkins was stationed in the Republic of Panama during the Panama Canal Treaty Talks, and during that Central American tour, he met his wife Rosylum. They're still happily married. Next, while stationed in Mannheim, Germany, in the late 1980s, he became a senior NCO, attaining the rank of sergeant first class. And finally, Hawkins takes pride in being the only Army member -- and transporter -- to hold the unique position of USTRANSCOM's senior enlisted leader. He called this final assignment as the pinnacle of his career, especially having the one of a kind opportunity to work with USTRANSCOM Commander U.S. Air Force Gen. (Ret.) Duncan McNabb, other command senior leaders, and a professional enlisted force.
"During our almost two years working together at USTRANSCOM, Command Sgt. Maj. Hawkins' warm smile and contagious positive attitude made all around him better. He always emphasized integrity, others first, and teamwork. His leadership capabilities not only enhanced the command's enlisted force, but also all the personnel at USTRANSCOM, including me," stated McNabb. "He is the epitome of a selfless soldier, servant, and leader, and I am proud to call him my friend and my wingman."
Regarding his USTRANSCOM assignment, Hawkins cited establishing solid relationships across the services, visiting several African nations (Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Djibouti) with General McNabb, and concluding his military service at what he called "an amazing organization" on Apr. 1, 2012.
Since then, he has resided near Nashville, Tennessee, spending time with his two children and seven grandchildren.
"I've always wanted to encourage people to be the best they could be. Ultimately, everybody is somebody, and everybody brings something to the table. They add value," Hawkins said. "It's about being the best version of you that you think you want to be, and achieving your intended potential."
USTRANSCOM exists as a warfighting combatant command to project and sustain military power at a time and place of the nation's choosing. Powered by dedicated men and women, we underwrite the lethality of the Joint Force, we advance American interests around the globe, and we provide our nation's leaders with strategic flexibility to select from multiple options, while creating multiple dilemmas for our adversaries.