FORT BENNING, Ga. – The U.S. Army Infantry School observed a military tradition Feb. 22 during a change of responsibility ceremony here for the unit’s senior enlisted Soldier and principal advisor to the commander.
Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Gunn became the Infantry School’s 36th top NCO assuming the responsibility from Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Fortenberry, who served in the position since 2019.
Brig. Gen. David Hodne, chief of Infantry and school commandant, presided over the ceremonial passing of the colors and spoke during the ceremony about the spirit of the bayonet and inspirational leadership.
Hodne said Gunn’s previous positions show he is well-suited for this responsibility in today’s and tomorrow’s dynamic and turbulent environment.
Gunn’s most recent assignment was the command sergeant major of Joint Modernization Command at Fort Bliss, Texas. He was selected for that position before he had the chance to interview for the Infantry School job.
While immersing himself in Army modernization, Gunn said he watched as Fortenberry took the reins of the school position and worked with Hodne to modernize the Infantry School while nurturing its legacy for generations to come.
With the conversion of one-station unit training to 22 weeks, the revamping of basic rifle marksmanship and the First 100 yards, Gunn said, “I felt my pride grow as an Infantryman, knowing that my beloved branch was continuing to become even better. … All of this could not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Command Sgt. Maj. Rob Fortenberry.”
Two years ago Fortenberry was in Afghanistan when the Infantry School commandant interviewed him for the job.
Hodne said, “I was inspired by his obvious enthusiasm and I was inspired by his proven record of performance in (Training and Doctrine Command and Forces Command). I was inspired by his personal courage and example. This is a leader who always sets the example for others to follow.”
Inspirational leadership is essential in building lethal Infantry Soldiers, the general said. Fortenberry has been invaluable to the school and to the branch.
Fortenberry said it’s been an honor to serve the Infantry School, an organization that has defined him for nearly 30 years.
Displaying a M1905 bayonet, Fortenberry called it a simple tool. However, “the spirit of the bayonet is a metaphor that describes many of the different attributes of a competent, confident, professional Infantry Soldier,” he said. “It speaks to the shared hardship of our branch, the heroic sacrifice and the commitment of our Soldiers and leaders to be something bigger than themselves. And affirms their accountability to each other in the darkest of times.”
Fortenberry spoke briefly about the chance encounters with leaders who shaped his ideal of what an Infantry Soldier should be – retired Cols. Lewis Millet and Ralph Puckett.
“Two men, examples of true servant leaders,” he said. “They gave of themselves to inspire a greater level of a commitment in a Soldier they didn’t even know. That is what the spirit of the bayonet represents to me.