Lt. Col. D. Kelvin Green and Command Sgt. Maj. Darris Curry grew up listening to the same music and watching the same television programs and movies. The South Carolina natives graduated from high school a year apart--Green from Orangeburg Wilkinson High School in Orangeburg, SC and Curry from Eau Claire High School, about 45 miles away in Columbia, SC.
Green transferred command of 54th Signal Battalion to Lt. Col. Joel Lindeman in a ceremony at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait; Curry relinquished his responsibility as the command's senior enlisted advisor to Sgt. Maj. Ulysses Rayford in a separate ceremony.
Though the two Army leaders had never met prior to being selected to lead 54th Signal Battalion's critical communications mission in Southwest Asia, they worked well together right from the start. "It was almost automatic," Green said. "We share a common perspective on 'what right looks like' that made it much easier to get along and manage the inner workings of the battalion."
"That common background made our relationship as a command team so much stronger," Curry explained. "We value the same things and we treat people the same way."
Since they assumed leadership of the battalion in 2009, Green and Curry have overseen one of the most active periods in the units' history. With communication sites in Kuwait and Qatar, missions in Bahrain and Afghanistan, and a significant role in the U.S. Forces-Iraq withdrawal from that nation, the 54th has impacted operations across the region.
In addition to an expanding mission, 54th Signal Battalion has achieved a number of significant milestones under Green and Curry's leadership, including the 2010 ARCENT (Army Forces Central Command) Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, and NETCOM (Network Enterprise Command) Soldier of the Year and Command Supply Excellence Award.
"I would say the most rewarding accomplishment would be our recent Dept. of the Army Inspector General Information Assurance inspection (DAIG IA)," Green said. "When we passed the 14-focus area, 141-issue inspection, I think the unit kind of came into its own and realized how good we really are." With their success, the 54th Signal Battalion became the first deployed unit to ever pass the DAIG IA inspection.
Both leaders cited change as the biggest challenge they faced during their tours in Kuwait. "If there's one constant in this theater, it is change," Green said. "Change in mission requirements, change in personnel, change in different levels of competencies as we new personnel come in--changes like that have presented our biggest challenge. But that challenge is probably also one of our greatest strengths."
"We're able to take an individual and get the best out of them," Curry said. Put them in a position, get them the amount of attention they need, the amount of development they need, to get the absolute best out of them."
During his farewell remarks to the troops, Curry expressed gratitude for those who contributed to the battalion's success. But he saved his strongest words for his biggest supporter: "To my beloved Mother, Mrs. Lila Bell Curry, who I lost just over a year ago, who was truly my rock for the first 26 years of my career: I miss you tremendously every single minute of every single day."
"My Mom didn't understand any of the Army jargon I would throw at her," Curry said. "She didn't know the difference between a squad or a battalion, and had no idea what an NCO (noncommissioned officer) was. No matter what the situation was, Mom would always say, 'I raised you to be an honest man and to treat others with dignity and respect at all times. Do what's in your heart that you know is right and leave the rest up to the Creator.'"
Two days after Command Sgt. Maj. Curry relinquished his responsibilities, the battalion conducted a Change of Command ceremony to say farewell to Lt. Col. Green. After reading a long list of achievements for each company under his command, Green proudly declared, "What can I say--the 54th Signal Battalion ROCKS!"
"My intent was to take the battalion, and the Soldiers and civilians, to the next level of success," Green said. "I wanted to build the bridge to get you there. I guess one could say I saw myself as that bridge builder, which is also the title of my favorite poem."
After reciting W.A. Dromgoole's poem The Bridge Builder, Green told his troops, "If I built a bridge for one Soldier or civilian to cross, then I have achieved mission success. If I have built two or more, that's icing on the cake."
The 54th Signal Battalion's former Command Team now shares much more than the common bonds of their youth; Green and Curry now share the bond of strong leadership, friendship and successful mission accomplishment in a region far away from their native South Carolina.