Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Charles, from Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, believes that one of the primary responsibilities of a command sergeant major is to provide career advice and professional development to lower ranking Soldiers whenever possible.
His belief was evident when he spoke to a group of non-commissioned officers during his recent trip to Fort Benning on Jan. 20.
Charles started the session talking about some of his personal experiences during his 26-year Army career. One thing he stressed was selecting a good mentor.
"Someone who is currently in your rating chain is not truly your mentor," he said. "If your mentor does what you do, you probably need to choose someone else, because they will see the world similarly, and someone outside your job will give you a totally different perspective."
He also encouraged them to find some diversity in a mentor as well, including choosing someone of the opposite gender.
Other than mentorship, Charles wanted to make sure that the Soldiers knew more about understanding their career paths and choosing career broadening assignments.
"You don't have to follow a specific career path that worked for someone else to reach your goals," said Charles. "Drilling, recruiting, and instructor duties are not the only career broadening opportunities we have in the Army."
Charles also dismissed the myth that to make sergeant major that you had to first complete first sergeant duties.
"Not all Career Management Fields provide opportunities to be a first sergeant," he said. "While first sergeant is a critical and key assignment don't be discouraged if you don't get the opportunity to serve in that billet." He went on to add "you can still receive a favorable consideration if you are not a first sergeant, because there are other things you can do within your career that will still allow you to be competitive."
Charles advised them not to get "tied to duty titles" and look at what they are going to be responsible for and to excel at any assignments and responsibilities they are given and to make sure they were properly documented in their Non-commissioned Officer Evaluation Report.
The NCOER was another area Charles discussed with the Soldiers cautioning them about writing their own.
"You have a unique writing style that doesn't change over time," he said, "This begins to show in your evals and they all start looking the same."
He told them they should be an active participant in getting their NCOER done, but that their supervisor should do the actual writing.
Master Sgt. Alein Lopez, senior logistics NCO for the Maneuver Center of Excellence, invited Charles to provide the professional development briefing to his Soldiers and had some advice of his own.
"Have your mentor look over your NCOER, they will look at it totally different than you or your supervisor will, and they can give you valuable input," Lopez said.
Finally, Charles stated that there is a common belief that duty stations matter in the promotion process, which is simply not true.
"There is a perception by NCOs that if you get a certain post that you will get promoted quicker than other folks," he said. "Several Army Centers of Excellence and Human Resources Command conducted a deep dive into promotions over the past few years which identified that roughly 10 to 13 percent of our NCOs get promoted regardless of where they were stationed."
The bottom line according to Charles, NCO's should look for opportunities to lead and then excel when given that opportunity.