Command Sgt. Major William Allen grew up the son of an Infantry Soldier, an Airborne Ranger and future Army first sergeant. His father, Roy Allen, served in Vietnam, and retired in 1980. The Allen's settled in Aurora, Colorado, when Roy retired from Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center. After being wounded twice in Vietnam, Roy continued to serve in patient administration. After all taking care of Soldiers is what noncommissioned officers do.
Allen, the command sergeant major of Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center, Fort Gordon, Georgia, enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1985 while still in high school. Roy had to sign the documents giving him permission to go to basic training. Allen completed his training during the summer between his junior and senior year.
"He (Roy) always encouraged me to go into the medical field, since these skills would more easily convert to civilian jobs after the Army, Allen remembered. "He offered very little advice about the Army, I suspect he knew the Army would take care of me, and those lessons learned by oneself are always the ones that stick with us the longest."
Allen completed his advance individual training as a field combat medic the following summer at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He chose to make the Army his profession and go active duty in 1990. Three decades later and after serving in multiple assignments stateside and overseas, he still calls Aurora home, became a die-hard Denver Broncos fan; bleeds orange and blue mixed with Army green.
Growing up William couldn't help but notice the airborne wings perfectly positioned on his dad's uniform.
"He spoke many times of his pride in being airborne and his service to his country," Allen said. "The war left him emotionally unable or unwilling to talk about very many of personal combat experiences, but he recalled vividly the day he was wounded in action. I remember thinking how heroic his story was, which left me longing to serve my country in combat myself."
Forty years following his dad's retirement and 35 years after enlisting in the Reserves, Allen earned his airborne wings Jan. 31. It's not hard to do the math, he's 52-years-old.
Allen's wife, Marie, remembers what their son Marc (Montellano) said when Allen decided to attend Airborne School and train for three weeks on how to jump and successfully land out of a perfectly good airplane.
Marc said that he was "crazy," she recalled. "You are already a CSM, why?"
To be accepted, Allen had to meet the Army Physical Fitness Test standards for Soldiers between the ages of 17 and 21. He also had to get a waiver to attend as the maximum age to attend is 36.
Crazy or not, Allen reported to the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, Jan. 13
ready for the challenge. At least that's what he thought anyway. Throughout his career, Allen knows the importance of maintaining physical fitness and to set the example for his Soldiers. However, his fitness was challenged every day during airborne training.
It was a reminder for Allen. Being combat ready is definitely not the same as performing well on the Army Physical Fitness Test, which is a two-mile run as fast as you can, and perform as many pushups and sit-ups as you can in two minutes, per event.
"It was physically harder than I thought it was going to be, he admitted." Running every day in boots, your Advance Combat Helmet and uniform is much different than me throwing on my Broncos hoodie and running five miles."
Allen was able to complete the physical rigors of Airborne School due to training for the Army's new physical fitness test, the ACFT or Army Combat Fitness Test, which will be replacing the Army Physical Fitness Test October 1 of this year.
"The APFT is more about maintaining fitness, said Allen who deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and before that Operation Joint Guardian-Kosovo and Operation Joint Forge-Bosnia. "The ACFT tries to emulate what muscles and cardiovascular endurance are required in combat. After my experiences here, I know the ACFT will ensure Soldiers are ready to fight and win on the battlefield."
Allen made it a personal and professional goal to lead from the front and inspire his Soldiers to accept opportunities outside of the typical training opportunities for medical Soldiers. He hopes this accomplishment motivates his Soldiers to accept the challenges of attending the Army's elite training programs.
"Airborne, Air Assault, Sapper have to be intense and challenging," he said. These schools increase the lethality of the force. "It increases the advantage that we have over our adversaries."
Eisenhower Army Medical Center's Commander Col. Carlene Blanding agrees with Allen in regards to Soldiers-first mentality. She said it also validates medical Soldiers in the eyes of Soldiers in the combat professions.
"It is important because as we engage with our Army counterparts in the operational environment," she said. "It lends credibility to who we are as Soldiers. It is a great demonstration of both our tactical and technical expertise."
Blanding couldn't be more proud of Allen and thinks his efforts will motivate future Soldiers to attend these schools in the future.
"I believe junior Soldiers are always inspired when they see their peers and leaders not afraid of trying something new and succeeding," she added. "CSM Allen is a good leader, because he is not afraid to engage in the difficult. He models his words."
According to Marie, a retired Army first sergeant. Allen believes that Soldiers need to be inspired. This was his opportunity to do that.
"This was extremely important to him, said his wife of 14 years and mother of five, "He truly believes that Soldiers need something or someone to look to for inspiration. He wanted them to know that anything is possible, even "age" should not and is not a deterrent."
In regards to inspiring Soldiers, Allen had four Eisenhower Soldiers with him in the medical center's initial class. Capt. Gayle Benton Spc. Andrew Myer, Spc. Joseph Parmenter and Spc. Donald Hamilton also earned their wings that day.
It meant a lot to Allen to participate in this journey with these Soldiers, seeing them giving their all to earn the highly-coveted airborne wings.
"I am so proud to share my accomplishment with them,' Allen said. My hope is that they understand the intent was that we start and finish together as a team and leaders lead from the front. I hope earning my wings is enough to motivate other senior leaders to continue to grow and show our subordinates that leadership never takes a knee."