Mission Command CoE director reflects on early years and the power of service
Brig. Gen. Charles “Maz” Masaracchia says he doesn’t think he joined the Army, rather, he was born into the Army.
This statement makes sense when you consider his father was an Army senior noncommissioned officer and his mother a career Army civil servant. And that his formative experiences were on various military installations around the world, to include graduating from high school in Japan. Being surrounded by the Army shaped the way he thought about service.
Masaracchia remembers getting up early as a child to spend a few minutes with his father while he shaved before physical training. “I remember him having Soldiers over at the house and just the teambuilding, the camaraderie that was there,“ he said. “Listening to him talk to people, helping them with their problems or fixing things for them. I just kind of always knew that this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than just me. I wanted to get to a position in which not only was I leading people and building teams, but I was able to help people.”
When it came time for college, Masaracchia chose Norwich University, a senior military college in Vermont. The choice was partly for athletics – Norwich promised the high school senior he could play any sport he could walk on and make the team for, which appealed to him, but it was more than just wrestling, baseball, and football that sealed the deal.
“I needed the discipline going to school. I knew growing up in a house with a sergeant major who had alarm clocks set for when I was supposed to be home and what I was supposed to do. …I kind of knew that a military school was probably what I needed and also what I wanted. I wanted to take every opportunity I had to set myself up for success going into the military,” he said.
Masaracchia credits Norwich for giving him a solid foundation to start his career: “Number one it was the discipline, it was the standards that I learned there. It was the commitment … I think that the military aspect set me up very, very well. I left Norwich and I went to be an instructor at Advanced Camp [a precursor to today’s Leader Development and Assessment Course] and then from there I went straight to my BOLC [Basic Officer Leaders Course] and Ranger School. I think my success in those was driven by what I learned and experienced at Norwich.”
He sees the senior military colleges, and Norwich in particular, as good options for young people considering military service. However, he advises doing some research before signing on the dotted line. “Do your homework. Go visit. Find out if it’s really for you. You’re making a lifelong decision, although it’s only four years of your life. What’s on the other side of that is a lifelong decision. There’s a lot of opportunities out there, whether it is ROTC at a civilian school or ROTC at one of the senior military schools, or the academies. All of them great, all of them turn out great products. It is a lifestyle change going to a military school and you need to be prepared for that,” he said.
After commissioning in 1992, Masaracchia’s early years as an infantry officer led him to positions in the 25th Infantry Division, 75th Ranger Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, and his first company command with the 327th Infantry Regiment at Fort Campbell, Ky. He deployed multiple times in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and Inherent Resolve, and would later command at the battalion and brigade levels. In 2016 he took command of the 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade, based at Fort Hood, Texas, and would later deploy again to Afghanistan. There he was dual-hatted as the commanding general of Train, Advise, Assist Command-East and deputy commanding general-operations, Combined Security Transition Command –Afghanistan in support of Operations Freedom’s Sentinel and Resolute Support. In the fall of 2020, he became the Director, Mission Command Center of Excellence at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
If there is a common thread to his career, it’s that “people first” is nothing new. Masaracchia considers the welfare and training of his subordinates at the forefront of his responsibilities. “I think the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my career is leading Soldiers in combat,” he said. “Building that trust prior to deploying, where they knew I was going to ask them to do dangerous things, potentially put their life in danger, but that I was going to do everything in my power to mitigate risk for the greatest chance of success for the mission. When I asked them to do things, they did what was asked of them.”
This attitude carried over into the garrison environment, where in the past he may have enjoyed interacting with Soldiers and their families at a “Trunk or Treat” or other morale functions. Today he finds himself getting to know the Department of the Army civilians who make up the majority of his staff, a new experience in a career of mostly operational assignments. Keeping track of the diverse portfolio of MCCoE missions is challenging, but also rewarding in that every product, training course, experiment, and capability document has real impact to Soldiers in the field.
When asked if he would do anything differently in his career he again focuses on people. “As much as people said to me ‘you spend too much time out of the office in the field, we need time with you for decisions and briefings.’ I wish I’d have spent more time with my Soldiers. …You build that trust, that camaraderie, that team, by shared hardships in the field, on a range, on a road march, whatever it might be. You only get so many opportunities in your career to command; you have to take complete advantage of them.”
Masaracchia isn’t quitting anytime soon, not while he feels he’s still got something to contribute. “I don’t think I’ve reached my glass ceiling,” he said. “At least the Army hasn’t told me that yet. I promised my wife before we got married I would stay in the military as long as every morning when I got up and my feet hit the ground, I was excited to go to work.”
He has some additional advice for those who might be thinking about the Army. It’s a point that resonated with him more than 30 years ago: “Serve. Be part of something bigger than just yourself. Be part of a team that has to work together, a team of teams that has to work together for the greater good of the organization.”
In reflecting on his career and service, he notes that the Army gives you opportunities to learn things about yourself and other people that you would never have in the civilian world. “The people that you meet in the military, no matter what your branch or MOS is, will be lifelong friends. No matter how long it is between contacts, when you pick up the phone and call them or see them somewhere, it’s like yesterday. And that’s what keeps us doing the things we do in combat for each other,” he said.
To learn more about career opportunities in the U.S. Army, visit www.goarmy.com.