DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. — Men and women across the United States decide to join the military for a variety of reasons.
Some may join primarily for educational opportunities or travel.
Many others, such as 1st Sgt. Christopher Jackson, U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Headquarters and Headquarters Company, join for numerous other reasons.
Jackson, who grew up in the Houston area, has seen the American economy fluctuate sporadically over the past couple of decades, which makes seeking financial stability a top priority for him and his family. He saw military service as a way of helping him meet that goal while allowing him to contribute to the greater cause of helping his fellow man.
“Signing up for service gave me opportunities to excel and reach a lot of my personal and professional goals, including education and taking care of my family,” said Jackson.
When Jackson decided to enlist, he joined with a determination to do his best, succeed and advance in his chosen profession. Along the way, he learned that the process to succeed and advance would be made easier by following the guidance of those who traveled that path before him.
“I chose coaches and mentors throughout my career who have contributed to both my personal and professional development,” said Jackson. “Through the transparency of their leadership and consistent accountability, I have garnered the knowledge and experience to be a more effective Soldier.”
One of Jackson’s mentors, whom he met early in his career, was Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Reynolds, Regimental Support Squadron National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, from 2012 to 2016.
Jackson learned more than he bargained for from Reynolds for both his personal and military lives.
“Reynolds was instrumental in my development as a noncommissioned officer,” said Jackson. “His transparent leadership kept me focused, and he taught me to be a better man and a better father.”
Jackson stated that with his mentors’ help, he decided to become a sponge and soak up all they could teach him, including what he learned from Command Sgt. Maj. Sean Rice, from the 916th Brigade, also from Fort Irwin.
“I met Sgt. Maj. Rice through Sgt. Maj. Reynolds,” said Jackson. “He provided me with a lot of insights on leadership. He also prepared me for what to expect in drill sergeant school.”
Following his time as a drill sergeant, Jackson credits two individuals for their advice and mentorship that have led him to where he is today. Sgt. Maj. Felix Lassus, 8th Army G4 Plans and Exercise Sergeant, and TACOM Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Charles.
“Sgt. Maj. Lassus knew I was seeking opportunities to lead Soldiers in a position like detachment sergeant or first sergeant but that it was difficult to do from our position in the G4,” said Jackson. “Lassus provided me with the in-depth knowledge and means of how to be an asset on a strategic level within the organization.”
Jackson’s and Charles’ paths crossed in 2019, while Jackson was still with the G4 in Korea, but Charles realized how much of an asset Jackson would be when he arrived at TACOM.
“When he arrived, I quickly realized his full potential and knew this was an NCO whom we needed to invest in,” said Charles. “I knew he was going to be a good leader for our NCO corps.”
As Jackson settled into his new job, his knowledge, skills and attributes were quickly recognized by Charles. After mentoring Jackson in the soft skills, helping him understand how to deal one-on-one with the TACOM workforce, specifically civilians, Charles felt Jackson was ready for a larger role.
“Based on the structure of the command, I knew he had the leadership ability to move the organization forward,” Charles stated. “He also had the skills I felt he needed to augment the company commander.”
When Jackson took over the role of TACOM’s HHC first sergeant in November 2021, his primary responsibility became the health and welfare of all military members assigned to the unit, as well as the welfare of their family members. His newly acquired soft skills helped him dive right in.
“As a first sergeant, I feel like I’m responsible for the physical and spiritual well-being of my Soldiers,” said Jackson. “I feel responsible for their all-around well-being.”
Jackson recognizes the previous good work other first sergeants have done for the organization, but there's always more that can be done, so he has a wide list of priorities that he plans to accomplish during his tenure.
“In a nutshell, it’s people always, build community relations, holistic health and fitness, family matters, and mission readiness,” stated Jackson.
These areas can better be addressed by focusing on the three core competencies of Army leadership, according to Jackson, which are lead, develop and achieve — competencies officers and NCOs are evaluated on every year.
In his view, Jackson wants to make sure that Soldiers at TACOM can engage with leadership and communicate with leaders more effectively. He also wants them to be more involved in the community both on and off base.
Further, he wants to develop the workforce and make sure that Soldiers have more opportunities for professional and leadership development and that they are more accountable to leadership.
“Making Soldiers accountable does three things: It allows you to engage, build formidable teams, and helps Soldiers stay combat ready.”
Jackson would like to see Soldiers at TACOM, while remaining combat ready, be resilient and develop an improved work-life balance.
“We want to make sure that Soldiers get the time they need with their families. We want them to know one another so they can help each other out when needed,” said Jackson.
In support of his overall first sergeant goals, Jackson intends to employ the total Army force.
“My goal is to help our officers and NCOs as well as our civilian workforce better understand the full spectrum of the TACOM mission,” Jackson said. “We have to enhance our role and capabilities for sustainment in support of Army Materiel Command and the logistical readiness of the Army.”
Jackson has set lofty goals for himself as the new first sergeant and easily admits that the growth and achievements he would like to see during his tenure can’t happen overnight. Luckily, for him throughout his Army career he created an amazing network of mentors he can reach out to for advice and guidance.