FORT SILL, Oklahoma (June 18, 2020) -- Only about 17 percent of the U.S. Army’s enlisted force complete the full 20 years needed to retire, but Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill Command Sgt. Maj. John Foley is still going strong as he approaches his 31-year mark July 12, 2020.Retirement is not even a consideration at this point. If all goes according to plan, he will by then be on the ground at Fort Knox, Kentucky, preparing to step into his new role as command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command July 23.His change of responsibility/retreat ceremony July 1, 2020, on the Old Post Quadrangle. His successor has yet to be named.Foley said he had to interview for the position at Recruiting Command. He competed with four highly qualified candidates who were selected to go before the Sergeant Major of the Army’s panel.“I feel really humbled in being selected by the incoming command general,” said Foley, who went through the Army Recruiter Course at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis in 1994, and did a stint as an Army recruiter in Fayetteville, Arkansas, home to the University of Arkansas. It was a very challenging and rewarding assignment for the then 23-year-old staff sergeant. His efforts to recruit were mixed. He admits to experiencing successes and failures, and he learned to take rejection and overcome adversity.“You’re going to fail, but it’s how you overcome that failure that will mean your success later on,” he said.His upcoming assignment will be his sixth as a command sergeant major, starting at the battalion level and moving on up.“You look back, and you kind of do some reflection. What does it take to be a command sergeant major? It’s a career’s worth of hard work and dedication to the Army and the nation. Just to be a command sergeant major one time is a humbling opportunity. It’s an honor to do that, to be able to lead Soldiers and families, lead them into combat, take care of them, and look out for their welfare. But to be able to do it over and over again, to be selected to do that, that’s just gravy to me.“So what have I learned? I learned that you have to change on how you lead when you go through and you assume responsibility at higher echelons, but you can’t really change who you are. You have to be able to know your audience, and you’ve got to be able to empower your subordinates to lead at their levels of responsibility,” Foley said.“Have strong moral character, have strong values, have a strong presence out in the workforce. You’ve got to remain fit. You always have to be fit, no matter where you move to, you’ve got to remain healthy. People have to know that you’re transparent, and they also have to know that you’re approachable,” he advised.Influencing people to be better is critical, he added. His time as a battalion CSM lasted four years, and he thought he’d done pretty well until he moved to take on a higher position. There he observed four or five other battalion CSMs who made him realize he wasn’t as good as he thought, because he saw a lot of good leaders who did things differently, and probably better than he did.“So I learned to get better by observing and watching and providing feedback to my subordinate organizations. And every time you go up an echelon, you learn more,” he found.He also learned to listen to his juniors, because they have all the new ideas.“They’re going to tell us how to do it. We’ve just got to be able to listen and be open to change, to innovation, and how to get better.”Foley gives three primary reasons why he joined the Army.“No. 1, I did at a very early age, at the age of 17. So actually 38 days after my 17th birthday, I decided to go down to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) to join the Army,” Foley said.Military service was for him a family tradition. His father served, and his two brothers joined the Air Force. He took a different path.“No. 2, I wanted to leave home and do something for myself to make a difference, to try to accomplish something on my own. I thought that was very important to me.“The third reason is, I joined for college money. Back in 1988 when I first signed up, we had this thing called the Army College Fund, which does not exist any more. It was a combination of the GI Bill, which was $14,400, plus the Army College Fund, which was another $10,200.”He’s a native of Panama City, Florida, but by the time of his senior year at Niceville High School his family had migrated a little farther west to the Fort Walton Beach-Destin area of the Florida Panhandle. He rode a bus over to the Montgomery, Alabama, MEPS on Maxwell Air Force Base to enlist under the Delayed Entry Program (now called the Future Soldier Program) and then went back to school to graduate with the Class of 1989.Now, 31 years later, he says the reason he continues to serve is, “I do it for the people around me. I do it to make people better, I do it to make organizations better, and I do it to make the Army better. And so that gives me great gratification to say, ‘Hey, you know what? I’m a positive influence. I’m trying to impact lives of others so that they can excel and can be better people, and be better than me, to make a change in our Army and our world.'”Foley waited until he had been in the Army for 17 years to pursue his college education, but once he did, he finished a four-year degree in about 2½ years. His bachelor’s degree from Trident University is in business administration with a human resources emphasis.Foley said he and his wife Ella have lots of favorite memories from their time here at Fort Sill.“I had been here several times TDY, but my wife, who is a retired Soldier, and my two boys had never been here. So there was a lot of anxiety as we moved from Hawaii here. In their minds, nothing can top Hawaii because of the exotic location, right? But when we got here, people are so cordial, so nice, very helpful. And so that’s a long-lasting memory that we’ll always have about Fort Sill.“As far as things that we’ve done here, I think one of the biggest things with the community of Lawton was the (Lawton Rangers) Rodeo. Two years in a row I’ve had the privilege of riding out in the rodeo on a horse. I had never ridden a horse before. Mr. (Gerald) Stuck (chief of the Army Artillery Half Section) gave me some lessons with the Half Section over there, and the first year Gen. (Wilson) Shoffner and I rode out, and then last year Col. (Michael) Konczey and I rode out. And I had the chance to re-enlist about 300 trainees, reaffirm their oath, and then provide the oath to about nine or 10 future Soldiers. And then addressing the crowd. So that was a big adrenaline rush for me.”Other highlights included Meet Your Army Day at the University of Oklahoma when the Sooners played West Point. He was excited to see the score tied at the end of four quarters and the game go into overtime.“Almost beat ’em in Norman,” he relished the thought. “That was a great environment, very nice people.”The memories the Foleys have really go back to the people at Fort Sill, who live and work here, as well as to the Lawton community for supporting their military partners – the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce, Cameron University, Great Plains Technology Center, and many more, plus neighboring communities like Medicine Park, Elgin, and all the rest.“We really just love the people here. It’s like no other place I’ve ever been stationed before,” he said.Many members of the Lawton Fort Sill community will be saddened by the Foleys’ departure, in large part because of what the senior enlisted man’s wife, Dr. Ella Foley, brought to the table. She has shared her love of cross-stitch through the classes she teaches and The Stitching Syndicate network she provides on Facebook.In addition, she founded the Kindness Society that surprises people with unexpected boxes of cookies and other random acts of kindness.“Pray, Love, Serve” has been the mantra she lives by, and before the COVID-19 outbreak put a stop to the practice, she prepared food on Saturdays and Wednesdays for the service members who visit the Fort Sill USO Center.“You know, I’m popular because of her,” Foley grins. “She’s an amazing person. She joined the Army the year before I did, and she retired in 2010. And she has a human resources background in the Army. An incredible Soldier, an incredible spouse, and just an amazing mother. When you look at her body of work and what she’s able to do for our nation, for our families, and continues to do, I don’t know how she has the energy for it.”Foley expressed confidence that volunteers here will continue the good work of the Kindness Society and that when the Foleys get to Fort Knox Ella will do all those things there that she did here.