As a junior NCO, visiting the command sergeant major’s office at the corps level can be intimidating. The corps CSM is responsible for thousands of enlisted Soldiers and their welfare, their readiness and their mission. The position alone commands respect.
Just meeting V Corps’ Command Sgt. Maj. Philip Blaisdell and walking into his office, his experience is undeniable. From the Combat Infantryman Badge and Ranger tab on his uniform to the multiple awards and collection of coins in his office, this man has obviously seen and done a lot over the span of his 31-year and counting career. It’s obvious why he was chosen as the senior enlisted leader for the U.S. Army’s forward deployed corps. I couldn’t help but be excited and nervous to sit down and talk to him about his role here at V Corps.
Blaisdell met me with a smile, waved me in and ushered me to sit down in the “comfortable” chairs. Regardless of the fact this guy is obviously high-speed, it’s apparent he’s a people person. Looking around his office I could also tell he’s a big hockey fan, something that made me feel more at ease, even though he’s a Boston Bruins fan. (Go Avs!) His demeanor and his office made this one of my favorite interviews to date.
“When I was in D.C. I played roller hockey in front of the White House every Saturday. In Alaska, I played ice hockey with my soldiers. I love hockey… I love all sports,” he said. “Anything New England.”
We’ll forgive him for that.
His signed Bobby Orr Boston Bruins poster hangs proudly among the memorabilia he has collected over his years in the Army. It is easy to see he likes his office to be a comfortable place, one where he can gather his thoughts, but also talk with Soldiers on a personal level.
“I think that ‘people first’ is misunderstood sometimes,” said Blaisdell. “It’s about readiness. It’s about warfighting. It’s about training. It’s about being physically fit. It’s about taking care of your Soldiers and knowing your Soldiers…and their families.”
I, like many other Soldiers, have heard this before from leaders, but the glint in his eye and the warmth in his voice as he told me about the Soldier in Alaska told me he meant it.
One day, Blaisdell had to run to his office on a weekend. As he was walked up the path, he noticed something move out of the corner of his eye.
“I was just running in to get something, and I saw a head in the bushes,” he says. “I looked and said, ‘what are you doin’?’ It was a Soldier and she said, ‘I’m pulling weeds, Sergeant Major.’” He laughed and said he asked her, “What did you do?”
She responded, “I got in trouble. I’m on extra duty.”
He said he looked around, saw there were a ton of weeds and said to her, “I bet this would be a lot easier if you had some weed killer, huh?” She agreed and he told her he’d see her later.
I was expecting him to say he walked away, but he confirmed my initial suspicions, that he truly cares for his Soldiers.
“I left. Drove to my house, got the weed killer out of my garage and went back and gave it to her. I told her to ‘kill those weeds.’”
Along with his many achievements, he’s also had his troubles. He admitted he has also had 45 days of extra duty. He used his experience to show empathy and get to know his Soldier.
Now, his most prized possession, out of everything on display in his office, is a little gold trophy for the “45 Club Avengers” placed on his windowsill. A gift that that Soldier presented to him at his change of responsibility.
“When I first came in, I was having a bit of a tough time. My first sergeant, Frank Ashe, who recently passed away, refused to give up on me,” he said somberly. “He wasn’t easy on me by any means, but he saw something in me and wouldn’t let me give up.”
He continued, “He was hard on me, but he was also the first person I wanted to tell when I made the sergeants major list. He would always tell me I can be better and do better. [He] was the kind of leader that has really inspired me and the kind of leader everyone needs at least once in their career.”
It is impossible to have the career that Blaisdell has had without experiencing the stress of Army life. He understands this life isn’t for everyone, but for those that want to make it a career he has some advice to pass along:
“Do the best you can and always give the job you are at 110%,” said Blaisdell. “Never worry about the next job, it will come. It may be hard sometimes, but in the end, when you give it your all, you can walk away knowing you did your best and it will all be worth it.”
He is excited about being a part of V Corps and getting to know his team. He said not to be surprised if he comes up to talk to you, and from my experience with him, he will. His passion for the Army is driven by his passion for his Soldiers.
My interview with Command Sgt. Maj. Blaisdell is one I won’t forget. Normally, it’s my job to make sure the interviewee is at ease, but talking to him felt so natural it was just like talking to someone I’ve known for years.
For more information on Command Sgt. Maj. Blaisdell’s career, check out his bio! https://www.vcorps.army.mil/About-Us/Leadership/Article-Display/Article/2825713/command-sergeant-major/