REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – A leader reflects on a career of service to the nation and to his Soldiers as he prepares to start the next chapter of life.
After serving more than 35 years in the Army, Command Sgt. Maj. Finis A. Dodson, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, will relinquish his responsibilities on March 3 during a retirement and Change of Responsibility.
“Coming into the Army wasn’t a culture shock but it was definitely eye-opening,” Dodson said. “If Soldiers understand the Army isn’t about self, but selfless service, it will go a long way in their life.
“I love being a Soldier and wouldn’t change a thing,” he added. “It has been a great experience, and I love what I have been able to do. It is always about the people and I couldn’t have done anything without those I have served with.”
Dodson’s advice for new Soldiers is to “do your job, work hard, stay focused, and don’t sway from your values. If your values are solid, stay on them. If they are not, develop some of your own. Get a good mentor who has your best interests and who you can trust and confide in.”
Dodson said Soldiers need to exceed not only their leaders’ expectations, but also to push themselves and always be ready for the next challenge.
“Don’t worry about the future, do what you are doing at your point in time and stay focused,” Dodson said. “If you are doing the right thing, leaders will recognize your abilities.”
Dodson, a native of Olive Branch, Mississippi, enlisted in the U.S. Army in November 1987 as a combat engineer and completed basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“I am a country boy from Mississippi who loves people,” Dodson said. “It has been an interesting ride because I came in the Army as an E-1 and here I am now as a command sergeant major. I never thought I would ever make it this far. When I came in the Army, an E-7 was the epitome for most people coming in. When I made sergeant first class I was happy because I was recognized for what I did and everything after was a blessing.”
He has held every leadership position from squad leader to command sergeant major during his 15 assignments in Fort Bliss and Fort Hood, Texas; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Germany; Saudi Arabia; Kuwait; South Korea; Qatar; and Japan.
“This Army journey has been a long time,” Dodson said. “The Army taught me selfless service and duty. Those are two values I have that I got to maximize and will take with me. I want to take selfless service to the community and we need more people to understand the importance of duty in our nation.
“This Army, along with the values I was raised with, kept me on the right path,” he said. “The four principles my dad always told were work hard, make sure your name means something, keep your credit right and read the Bible for yourself. Those four principle have carried me my whole career.”
Dodson said his dad is the only man he ever wants to emulate and if he could be half the man his father was he would be satisfied.
“I never want to be more than what I am as far as being humble,” Dodson said. “I know who I am and I know what I am as far as being Finis Arvel Dodson from Mississippi. Those values are who I am and who I always will be.”
Dodson earned an associate degree from El Paso Community College, Texas; a bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College, New York; and a master’s degree in education from Touro University, Nevada.
“Everyone needs a teacher and I always have had a mentor,” Dodson said. “I have been blessed to be taught, coached and mentored physically, professionally and family wise. My mentors have played a key role in getting me to where I am now.”
His awards and decorations include four Legion of Merits, a Bronze Star, four Meritorious Service Medals, five Army Commendation Medals, four Army Achievement Medals and an Air Force Achievement Medal. Dodson has also earned the Army Master Space Badge and is a member of the Ancient Order of Saint Barbara.
When talking about what he will remember about the command, Dodson spoke of the community and especially family members who serve alongside USASMDC Soldiers and civilians.
“My time at SMDC has been amazing,” Dodson said. “The people are incredible. Without fame or fanfare, the team does great things on a daily basis and excelling in every way. People in the command are knocking it out of the park. The command has been all it can be at being No. 1.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for allowing me the honor and privilege of being your command sergeant major,” he added. “Godspeed in all you do and keep up the great work. Regardless of what your position, title or job is, I really appreciate you for what you do. I will always be proud to have been a part of this team and we will always be family.”