FORT POLK, La. — On March 20, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael C. Henry assumed responsibility as the senior enlisted Soldier at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk.As he neared the end of his first three months on the job, Henry looked back at what brought him to the JRTC and Fort Polk, his impressions of the installation and what it takes to be a sergeant major in today’s Army.“I took no time off after I left my assignment as the deputy commandant of the Non-commissioned officer Leadership Center of Excellence (at Fort Bliss, Texas) and reported here, and I did that on purpose,” Henry said. “I didn’t want to take 30 days off — I wanted to keep up with what we were doing in the Army.”Henry said reporting quickly to Fort Polk allowed him to avoid transportation issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.“I luckily came in under the March 6 radar when they started talking about the stop-move order in the Army due to COVID-19,” he said. “I came into a fluid environment where the Army was rapidly making strategic decisions to protect its force.”Each day the environment continued to become more dynamic and constrained, Henry said, because of the need to keep Soldiers safe yet maintain an Army that could fight and win its battles.“I saw the most important piece was communicating what was needed to protect the force,” he said. “On top of that, we had to remember we’re the Army; we need to maintain and be ready.”As that related to the JRTC and Fort Polk, Henry said the question was this: How do we continue our role in training large combat formations for large-scale combat on multi-domain operations?“It’s about communication, reading and disseminating information in a manner that’s achievable,” he said.In his role as the senior enlisted advisor at JRTC and Fort Polk, Henry said it’s incumbent upon him to actively listen, observe and understand how JRTC and Fort Polk commander, Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Frank, and his staff need the information distributed so it can be understood.“I recognize the areas I will put an emphasis on, especially when it’s affecting our Soldiers’ and Families’ quality of life, and there are other areas where I recognize elements are already taking the lead,” he said. “And I must ensure I’m meeting the commander’s intent.”As the deputy commandant of the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence, Henry said he was part of a team that developed training for the Army’s NCO Corps. He said there’s not a large difference between being at Fort Bliss and Fort Polk.“It all boils down to communicating effectively,” he said. “I’m still learning the organization (JRTC and Fort Polk) and not trying to get too far ahead of myself.”Henry said his only prior experience at the JRTC and Fort Polk came as a Soldier in a rotational unit.“I had never understood or been in or around the installation,” he said. “I assumed it was bigger, but you can actually drive around it in one morning. When you do drive around here, you see what a great little piece of the world this installation is and how tight knit it is. It is a team. The people that have been here and been a part of the community, they understand the advantages, challenges and kinship available here. What was expressed to me by people who have been here — that Fort Polk was a great duty assignment — was validated.”Henry said his biggest challenge to date has been the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on not only the JRTC and Fort Polk but the military as a whole.“I’ve learned to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” he said. “There has to be a lot of patience. I’m glad I’m experiencing it (COVID-19 pandemic) in my senior time in the Army. I’m not sure I would have been as patient a few years ago.”For younger Soldiers who are contemplating staying in the Army long enough to earn command sergeant major stripes, Henry said enjoy having a say in assignment selection now.“When you become a sergeant major or command sergeant major, you no longer have a choice in your assignment,” he said. “You have to understand the meaning of selfless service, because, as a sergeant major, the Army has to place you and your skill set at the right location to be an effective piece for the senior leaders of the Army.”Henry said sergeant major positions are nominative assignments.“There is a process senior Army leaders do at the Pentagon to present to the senior mission commander five names they believe are the best from their talent management pool and have the skill sets needed for that specific position,” he said. “I was interviewed and chosen by General Frank.”Since he’s just completed three months at the JRTC and Fort Polk, Henry said he’s not looking too far ahead, wondering where the Army might choose to send him next.“I just want to be relevant and maintain the ability to have the opportunity,” he said. “As long as I maintain relevance, through education and understanding the needs of our Soldiers and Families; I remain technically and tactically proficient; and I understand how to communicate that to our senior leaders, then I’m in the conversation.”As for what it takes to earn sergeant major stripes, Henry summed it up in one word: Commitment.“On my second day in the Army, October 6, 1992, I made a commitment and said I’m going to do this for 20 years,” he said. “Once you commit, you have to own it. With that commitment comes ‘How am I going to do it?’ As I continued through my time in the Army, I always set goals, and the key was exceeding those goals.”Now that he’s passed the 20 year mark, Henry said the next questions are how long to serve and why.“Those are adjustments you make,” he said. “Whether it’s providing guidance to others or shaping larger pieces of what we do. It’s neat looking back at how far you’ve come, what you’ve accomplished, the mistakes you’ve made, what you’ve gained and earned. I’m still the same ‘Hooah’ I was on the second day in the Army, I’ve just got a bit more experience.”