FORT LIBERTY, N.C. -- The 16th Sergeant Major of the Army, Michael A. Grinston, conducted a four-mile esprit de corps run on July 27, 2023, with dedicated non-commissioned officers (NCO) from across Fort Liberty, North Carolina, during his first and last visit to the post since the installation’s recent redesignation.
Fort Liberty’s NCOs were formed up and ready to conduct their preparation stretch drills at the crack of dawn. Their formation was led by XVIII Airborne Corps Operations Sgt. Maj. Walter E. Kirk and at exactly 6:31 a.m. -- after saluting the national colors -- they began the run.
The four miles could be felt across the installation as the rhythmic feet of those in formation fell in cadence and broke through the morning fog, with Grinston at the helm leading the pack. Grinston, who throughout his career has led critical advances emphasizing the importance of improving physical readiness to build Soldier lethality, held true to his ethos in his first and final run at Fort Liberty.
An Indiana native, Grinston has a comprehensive military resume, including several combat deployments, a Combat Action Badge, Ranger tab, Master Parachutist Badge, and a Bronze Star Medal with Valor. His rich tapestry of experience in diverse settings, through both peace and conflict, has shaped his leadership style, marked by empathy, resilience, and a focus on mentorship.
“I wanted to do the best at whatever task I was given. So after two years, I’m going to be the best I can be and then I’m getting out,” said Grinston. “Obviously that didn’t happen. If I chose to do something it’s my obligation to give it my best. What gets me up everyday is helping Soldiers. Helping someone with Tricare, getting someone the right assignment, and trying to get our suicide numbers to zero - that’s why.”
Today, after his last formation run at Fort Liberty, Grinston went to meet with Soldiers from across 18th Airborne Corps to lead a candid discussion on the 75th Anniversary of the Integration of Armed Forces.
During this discussion, Grinston left an impression as a mentor and leader of soldiers, drawing upon his vast military experience to share with the next generation of warriors.
One soldier profoundly influenced by Grinston's leadership was Specialist Araya Ayala, a Team Leader with Alpha Troop, 5-73 Cavalry Squadron, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
During the panel discussion, the Soldiers talked about what integration meant to them during their time in service. Ayala felt the term 'inclusion' reflected the Army's ethos, stating, "Everyone is included, regardless of your race or who you are, or what you're viewed as. It's about waking up and striving to be great at what you're doing and what your job is."
Grinston's emphasis on professional excellence and personal connection with Soldiers resonated with Ayala.
"The main thing is waking up and being great at what you do. Knowing your Soldiers on a personal level helps your professional level, fostering inclusion and camaraderie," Ayala relayed.
Grinston's legacy is defined by his commitment to build readiness, their mental and physical health, and improve the overall quality of life for each Soldier within our Army.
This may have been Grinston’s last run at the Home of the Airborne and Special Operations while serving in uniform but his impact on our U.S. Army will remain for many years to come.