FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. -- First Sgt. Charles Johnson, Headquarters, Headquarters Company, was in Iraq from March 2004 until February 2005.

He served with Delta Detachment 38th Personnel Services Battalion as the Detachment Sergeant, a supporting organization attached to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

He said for him it was a huge wakeup call. "We were attacked three times a day. Every minute was a challenge. I am proud to say I did not lose anyone under me," he said.

His service earned him a Bronze Star. Johnson was stationed in an area of Iraq know as Baqubah and is proud he was able to accomplish his mission. He said Fort Monmouth is a much quieter assignment, but one he is enjoying because he feels he is able to spend more "quality time" with today's very technically qualified Soldiers.

"Today's Army is a changed Army. Those joining have to have the right level of education, they have to pass a number of tests before they are accepted, there is more opportunity for education, they train on better equipment and are so technically advanced," he said.

He also said leaders are more prepared to lead than they were when he entered the service 22 years ago.

Although he was born in New York, Johnson grew up in Florida and Texas. He was always fascinated with the military, outdoor activities, camping and track and field. He joined the Army to help pay for college after an injury prevented him from competing on a track and field scholarship.

Along the way he served two tours in Germany, was at Fort Myer, Va., at Alaska's Fort Richardson and at Fort Bragg, N.C.

He came here in 2007 from Germany. "I never expected New Jersey to be such a beautiful place. My wife and I enjoy the beach, being close to the stadiums and being able to go to basketball and football games at the Meadowlands and in Philadelphia. We've even gone down to Baltimore to see the Ravens play football," he said.

He even likes the New Jersey Nets basketball team, something only a true fan would admit this year since its record is dismal.

He is passionate about music, especially jazz and enjoys going to New York City to jazz clubs. "We take the train. I can't tell you the clubs' names but I know how to get to them. Just point me toward New York and I can take you there. I love that," he said.

Trying to make a difference for Soldiers and helping them with their problems is what he likes to do most; to help them when they make mistakes. "It is all a system of checks and balances. Others helped me along the way. I try to do the same with the Soldiers I come in contact with," he said.

He said Soldiers are the same as civilians when it comes to getting taken advantage of with bad loans and promises of being able to own a car that is more than they can afford.

"One of the unusual beauties of a place like Fort Monmouth is that because there aren't that many Soldiers, I get to spend quality time with the ones that are here and get to be a part of their lives," he said.

Johnson enjoyed the Year of the Non- Commissioned Officer (NCO) celebration. Like many of the others interviewed throughout last year, he believes NCOs are the backbone of the Army.

"If the Army has been renovated, it is because of the NCOs." He was proud to be an NCO who represented the Army as a speaker at the Memorial Day Remembrance in Sea Bright last May.

His family has always supported his military career, and he knows when the time comes it will be hard to walk away from it.

Being in Iraq was a wakeup call for him, but nothing like he expects civilian life to be. "I have been all Army all the time for all these years. When it is over, it will really be a big change. The Army has been so good to me giving me an education, keeping my wife Sandra and family with me so we could stay close and a great chance to travel. I will find it very hard to walk away."


Base of the NCO ranks, a corporal serves as team leader of the smallest Army units. Like sergeants, they are responsible for individual training, personal appearance and cleanliness of Soldiers.

Typically commands a squad of nine to 10 Soldiers. Because sergeants oversee their Soldiers in their daily tasks, they are considered to have the greatest impact on the Soldier - sergeants set the example and the standard for privates.

Staff Sergeant
Also commands a squad of nine to 10 Soldiers. Often have one or more sergeants under their leadership. Responsible for developing, maintaining and utilizing the full range of a Soldiers' potential.

Sergeant First Class
Key assistant and adviser to the platoon leader. Generally has 15 years to 18 years of Army experience and puts it to use by making quick, accurate decisions in the best interests of the Soldiers and the country.

Master Sergeant
Principal NCO at the battalion level and often higher. Not charged with all the leadership responsibilities of a first sergeant, but expected to dispatch leadership and other duties with the same professionalism.

First Sergeant
Principal NCO and lifeblood of the company. Provider, disciplinarian and wise counselor. Instructs other sergeants, advises the commander and helps train all enlisted Soldiers. Assists officers at the company level - 62 to 190 Soldiers.

Command Sergeant Major
Functioning without supervision, a CSM's counsel is expected to be calm, settled and accurate with unflagging enthusiasm. Supplies recommendations to the Commander and staff, and carries out policies and standards on the performance, training, appearance and conduct of enlisted personnel. Assists Officers at the brigade level - 3,000 to 5,000 Soldiers.