Sensing session
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston discusses Soldiers' concerns during a sensing session at Fort Hood, Texas, Jan. 7. In addition to conducting two sensing sessions, the Army's top noncommissioned officer visited with more troops during a tour of unit barracks on the Central Texas installation. (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas -- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston came here with a mission, Jan. 7: find what improvements Soldiers have noticed since the implementation of the People First initiative in October, as well as what issues still need to be addressed.

“The purpose is to see if we’re moving in the right direction,” he explained.

As the Army’s senior enlisted leader, Grinston used his visit to speak with Soldiers of all ranks throughout the day. He asked the Soldiers to explain changes – the good and the bad – they have seen in their own units.

The Soldiers were happy to report that communication has improved, squad leaders are more involved, noncommissioned officers have done a better job prioritizing their time, and that the leader’s book has helped them greatly.

Barracks issues were the biggest focus on areas that still need improvement. NCOs said their Soldiers do not have enough space and no way to secure their high-value items. Soldiers questioned how the People First initiative would be sustainable in the long-term, when they simultaneously have to prepare for upcoming rotations overseas.

“It shouldn’t be one or the other. It shouldn’t be people or mission,” Sgt. Maj. Julie Guerra, one of the Army’s tri-chairs of the People First Task Force, explained. “People are the mission. We can’t do our job without people.”

Guerra, who also serves as the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-2 sergeant major, said some people are looking at the People First initiative the wrong way. The goal of People First is to put Soldiers and their families first. She added that the mission of the People First Task Force is to develop sustainable programs that take care of the health, well-being and care of Soldiers and their families.

Grinston said Soldiers worry about having a safe place to live, good child care and health care. If Soldiers have problems in those areas, they may not be ready to deploy.

“When I say ‘people first,’ that doesn’t mean we don’t want a ready, fit, disciplined, well-trained organization that’s part of a cohesive team,” he stressed. “It means that, yes, we do want all that. Because we are the Army, our people are first and they’re ready. That’s building readiness.”

Barracks visit
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston speaks with his team regarding living conditions for Soldiers after touring a 3rd Cavalry Regiment barracks at Fort Hood, Texas, Jan. 7. During his tour, the Army's top NCO promoted two Soldiers on behalf of the Chief of Staff of the Army. (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

During his visit to the Great Place, Grinston also took the opportunity to tour the 3rd Cavalry Regiment barracks, which are still in need of renovation. He was impressed by how much care the Soldiers put into their rooms. Two Soldiers, in particular, impressed him so much he decided to promote them on behalf of the Chief of Staff of the Army.

“Soldiers are out there doing great things,” Grinston said. “I was inspired when they said they wanted to be here and they like it.”

Pfc. Kaitlynn Willoughby and Spc. Heavenlee Trip, 4th Squadron, 3rd Cav. Regt., were shocked by their promotions.

“I was so nervous, I was shaking,” Tripp said.

Grinston said human interaction is an important aspect in connecting with Soldiers and being more engaged in their lives and their overall improvement. He said one of the things he always recommends is for Soldiers to write down their goals and for some of those goals to be self-improvement.

“My overall goal is to always have goals to achieve,” he said. “I’m in the Army because I always want to get better.”