Lessons from CECOM’s first Command Sergeant Major – Command Sgt. Maj. Willie Hill, Jr.

By Susan Thompson, CECOM Command HistorianJanuary 16, 2024

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Forty years ago this month, in January 1984, CECOM's first Command Sergeant Major, Command Sgt. Maj. Willie Hill, Jr., was preparing for retirement after 32 years serving the Army.  Command Sgt. Maj. Hill was appointed as the CECOM Command Sergeant Major, taking the assignment in August 1981.

Hill enlisted in the Army in 1952 as an Infantry Rifleman and was trained as a radio operator. His initial unit assignment was to the First Cavalry Division and later, to the Wolfhound’s 25th Infantry Division in Korea as Infantry Rifleman and Radio Operator. He served as the Radio Section Chief (1952-1953) where he was responsible for the radio communications of the First Battalion, 27th Infantry (Wolfhounds.)  He fought in various campaigns during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Hill received more than 35 awards, including the Army Commendation Medal (with a “V” device for valor), Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Meritorious Service Medal, fourth award the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm device, and the Bronze Star Medal.

In an interview with the Monmouth Message Newspaper in January 1984, Command Sgt. Maj. Hill offered some lessons from his 32-year career that still have value 40 years later. "The Army has changed some things," Hill stated, "Some of which have been superficial - the uniforms for example - but some of the things that have not changed are the need for attention to detail, good and meaningful training, and integrity. And those standards or goals supersede all the changes, and thereby cause the Army to remain constant. "

Having spent time in both Korea and Vietnam he came under hostile fire many times. He discussed the first time he came under fire during the Korean War.  ''It was an awakening. I was trained and I expected that this would happen, yet at the same time, somewhere in the back of my mind, I also figured that it would never happen. And, when it did happen, it was a test at the end of some kind of training - like in a school situation where you have studied and studied and here it is test day - all of a sudden. It was my first realization that people can and do get killed and it did bring out the reality of war and the importance of training.”

“Training is very important for it becomes the preparation for the ultimate-which is war. Training prepares you before, because after you come under fire, it's just too late to worry about what you should have trained for, or what you should have paid attention to - this or that - it's there and it's real. So the time to prepare is prior to test day."

Starting his CECOM career at the same time as the Army’s first “Be All You Can Be” campaign, Command Sgt. Maj. Hill summarized one lasting lesson from a former colleague named Schiermeier. “He taught me (but in reality, he reminded me) of integrity. He was a guy that was permeated with it. If there was ever more than one way to do things – the right way or wrong way, or just less than right - integrity would come into play, and it was right there. He would demand it from top to bottom."

Hill stated emphatically that his "first love" was the role of communicator in the Army Signal Corps.

Having served in units of the artillery, infantry, cavalry, and combat engineers, “the Signal Corps has been my real joy. I love dealing with signal equipment and being a communicator."

Command Sgt. Maj. Hill retired to his home state of Florida and passed away in January 2013.