By W. Wayne MarlowFebruary 5, 2020
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- On Sept. 10, 2001, then-Cpl. Dale Frahm was serving in the U.S. Army Reserve as a Military Police officer when he received and accepted a job offer with the Bettendorf, Iowa, Police Department. Frahm eagerly anticipated moving into his new position and relished the idea of how the new role would benefit his military career and vice versa. But the tragic and momentous events of the following day left him wondering where he would be a few weeks later and if the civilian job offer would still be waiting on him when he got back. Fortunately, the police chief kept his word, and Frahm has been serving in both capacities ever since, while also maintaining a small farm.
Now, Master Sgt. Frahm is one of about 3,600 Reserve Soldiers serving with First Army, whose mission is to prepare Reserve Component forces to deploy and win on a multi-domain battlefield. He balances his three commitments by bringing a dedication to whatever he does.
Between being a police officer, Reserve Soldier and farmer, "There's not much time left for hobbies," Frahm said, laughing but not joking. However, he makes it clear, "It's an obligation that I committed to. It can be taxing at times, but you have to balance it. Everything has a season."
Frahm served on active duty from 1985 to 1991 before being coaxed back into service by a co-worker. "It took him nine years, but he finally convinced me to join the Reserves," Frahm recalled in his calm, clearly-enunciated speaking style.
Frahm had been out of the Army longer than he had been in, so he faced something of a learning curve upon his return. He credits his unit and leadership with helping him along.
"A lot of things had changed in those nine years, and when I came into the Reserves, I had to learn some new weapons systems," he said.
As to the rest of the military life, Frahm said, "For the most part, a lot of it came right back to me, and fortunately, they didn't throw me into a leadership role right away. This gave me time to be a troop again, learn these things and work my way up."
As he made his way up in rank, he also made his way around the world multiple times. His career has included five deployments to such locations as Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. He primarily conducted detainee operations, but at Bagram Airfield in 2015, he worked in customs, which he called "an amazing experience."
"We were responsible for all the equipment and gear that was being returned to the United States or leaving theater to places such as Germany and Turkey," he continued. "We were inspecting, we had to wash the trucks and make sure there's no sand up in there, make sure it's spotless. We made sure the vehicles and the equipment met the standards and that no one was trying to smuggle anything out of the country."
While he especially enjoyed the customs work, he has found his military experience, as a whole, to be rewarding and challenging. One of his favorite aspects is helping transform Soldiers into leaders.
"It's been a wonderful career. What I like most is the team building and the training," he said. "I liked being at the platoon sergeant and squad leader levels, because it allows you to set up good quality training. If you are the platoon sergeant, you tell your squad leaders, 'Here's what we're going to train on,' and you can outline the class but let them guide their squads the way that they feel is right. Give them the chance to be the leaders that they are. You tell them, 'You're in charge of these guys. I'm just telling you what I want done.' Let them run with it. It's not just PowerPoint or somebody reading out of the manual. The squad leaders get to train their guys on how we do room-clearing or whatever the topic is."
The passion came through in Frahm's voice as he delved deeper into the subject of leader development.
"Being an NCO, it's our job to create tomorrow's leaders. That is what we do. We need to make sure that we train those below us, so that they can take our place," he said. "It's not about me being power-hungry, and I don't want robots underneath me. I want to train everyone from the E-1 (private) to the other E-8s (master sergeants) because that's the way the military is set up. If I fall, you as the E-6 (staff sergeant) should be able to pick up, and we go on with the mission. We don't stop."
He cited an example of assigning a staff sergeant to give a cartography class and having a junior enlisted Soldier assist with it. "They are going to get better at the skill of map reading and better at being able to give a class," Frahm said. "This is a much better approach than saying, 'I'm the know-it-all leader so we will do it my way.' He may very well know it all, but if he gives all the classes himself, he will fail to develop subordinates on the same skills."
With a probable military retirement next summer, Frahm reflects on his lengthy career and recalls two mentors who had a profound impact on him.
One served as the provost marshal sergeant major at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. The sergeant major started a game warden section of the provost marshal's office to combat poaching.
Even though Frahm did not apply for the position, the sergeant major personally selected him for the job over those who did apply because of Frahm's demonstrated knowledge of the terrain around the ranges where hunting took place. "He thought highly enough of me to do that," Frahm said. That confidence gave the junior enlisted Frahm the drive and confidence to aim higher.
One mentor from the Reserve Component, he recalls fondly, is Col. Dominic Wilbe. "He was a big influence on me. He was a great leader. As a commander, he didn't try to control everything. He gave me a chance to be a platoon sergeant and I thank him for it."
It is such people that helped shape Frahm's career and life. "I've worked with some amazing people, and it has made me a better person," he said. Frahm added that those mentors and co-workers have kept him always striving to succeed. "You're always learning, even at my level. You're always improving your foxhole."