FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, Aug. 24, 2007) - The Army Medical Command Noncommissioned Officer Academy's newest graduates were given a few words of wisdom by someone with more than his share of experience leading troops.

"Do not let anyone ever tell you that you can't reach your goals," Command Sgt. Maj. William Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the academy graduation ceremony Aug. 21.

Command Sgt. Maj. Gainey said to "live life to the fullest. Thirty-some years ago an NCO poked me on the chest and told me, 'You're going to amount to nothing, Gainey.' No one is ever going to do that again. Do not permit that to happen to you or to anyone else."

He urged the NCOs to pursue their dreams, but to first ask themselves five questions: "Is my dream or goal going to hurt someone else' Is it going to hurt me' Is it illegal' Is it immoral' Will it bring disgrace to my family name and the name of the service that I serve'"

If the answers to all five of the questions are no, "then go for it," he said. But first, "Reassess yourself. Why do I need to climb that mountain' Then go get trained, get the proper equipment; get certified if required. Never let another person tell you that you can't reach your goals."

Urging them to set good examples, Command Sgt. Maj. Gainey recalled a sergeant major who was arrested for driving under the influence. "His commander said, 'He's the best sergeant major I've worked with.' I looked at him and said, 'I'm sorry to say you've never worked with a good sergeant major.' He's the same person that, on Fridays, gives a safety briefing on drinking and driving. There are no part-time NCOs."

Command Sgt. Maj. Gainey also advised the NCOs to pass on the tools new Soldiers need to succeed.

"Give young men and women responsibility and I promise you, they will not let you down," he said. "Give them the authority to be responsible." At the same time, he said, "Hold your troops accountable. They hold us accountable 24/7."

But NCOs, he added, should pass on their own lessons learned to junior-enlisted Soldiers and assist them when they "stumble."

"All of you right now are standing on the top of a mountain. Not because you're better than junior enlisted, but because you're more experienced," Command Sgt. Maj. Gainey said.

Junior-enlisted Soldiers are in the valley, he added, so "throw down a rope to them-I call it the rope of knowledge. But I'm not going to pull you up the hill. Hang on to the rope and I'm going to coach, teach, mentor and train our young men and women."

When they stumble, as we all do, Command Sgt. Maj. Gainey told the NCOs to fall on one knee and give the rope of knowledge a tug. "There's no one in this room who hasn't stumbled before in their career," he said. "I call them honest human mistakes. Because you don't learn from successes, you learn from mistakes."

And when the junior enlisted reach the top of the mountain, "touch them on the shoulder and say, 'good job,'" Command Sgt. Maj. Gainey said. "Then go down the other side. We're in good hands."

(Elaine Wilson is the chief of the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)