FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The 14th Military Police Brigade held a change-of-responsibility ceremony on Friday at the 795th MP Battalion headquarters, where Command Sgt. Maj. Paul DeSanto relinquished his role as the brigade’s top enlisted leader to Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Neikirk.
Col. Kirk Whittenberger, 14th MP Bde. commander, spoke on DeSanto’s ability to quickly delve into his role 28 months ago — despite the pandemic — to help enable the brigade’s subordinate battalions to effectively train the Army’s next generation of MP professionals.
“He readily understood how to exercise engaged leadership, build effective teams, network amongst peers and challenge others to accomplish more than they thought possible,” Whittenberger said.
DeSanto, Whittenberger noted, once described the primary role of the brigade command sergeant major as the organization’s “chief environmentalist.”
“Put another way, he saw it as his personal responsibility for establishing and maintaining a positive unit climate, developing others and showcasing the talent of the brigade’s Soldiers, NCOs and officers,” Whittenberger said, adding a thank you to DeSanto for his candor, passion and commitment to the organization. “You both enabled and challenged me to be a better commander. I consider myself fortunate and blessed to have served with you.”
To Neikirk, Whittenberger said welcome back — Neikirk previously served here as a drill sergeant with Company D, 795th MP Bn.
“You carry an impressive reputation, and will no doubt ensure the continued success of the mission,” Whittenberger said. “I look forward to serving with you and can’t wait to see your impact on the organization.”
Moving on to his next role as the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence NCO Academy commandant here, DeSanto thanked Whittenberger and the entire brigade team for making his time with the unit successful.
“Your candidness, your dedication, your caring and concern — all of it — if it weren’t for you, my time here would not have been nearly as successful or as easy as it was,” he said.
DeSanto offered a quote from author Simon Sinek to help describe the value of great people to an organization.
“‘It’s not the genius at the top, giving directions that makes the people great. It’s the great people doing all the work that make the guy at the top look like a genius,’” DeSanto said. “I think of this quote quite often, as it always reminds me of one thing I know for sure. It’s that you, the people of the 14th MP Brigade made the organization successful in the past; you make it successful in the present; and you will continue to make it successful in the future. The knowledge and experience of all of you combined is what makes this place run so well.”
DeSanto also welcomed Neikirk back to Fort Leonard Wood.
“I hope you find, as I did, that this is the hidden gem of the Army,” he said.
Neikirk, originally from West Salem, Illinois, comes to Fort Leonard Wood from his most recent assignment at Fort Drum, New York, where he served as the command sergeant major for the 91st MP Bn. He said he is “super excited” to be back at the home of the MP Corps.
“There are legends in this room; there are people who have had massive impacts on my career as I’ve moved forward — I’m only here because of them,” he said.