FORT BLISS, Texas -- Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Schultz, U.S. Army Reserve Command, traveled from Washington, DC, to New Mexico last week to spend Thanksgiving with Soldiers from four soon-to-be Army Reserve units. Soldiers from the 305th Military Police Co., Wheeling, W. Va., the 314th Military Police Co., Irvine, Calif., both assigned to the 200th Military Police Command, and the 668th Engineer Co., Orangeburg, N.Y., and the 822nd Movement Control Team, Boston, Mass., found themselves at McGregor Range, N.M., for their pre-deployment training before deploying to Guantanamo Bay and various locations in Afghanistan.

For Schultz, it was a chance to thank the Army Reserve Soldiers for their service to the nation, but also a chance to listen to their concerns and a similar message: they were happy to be doing their part, but wished they could be home with their family and friends on Thanksgiving.

"It was sad to leave," said 20-year-old Spc. Corey Dennis, 314th Military Police Co., from Temeculah, Calif. "Being away at Thanksgiving is not my choice, but my family understands."

Dennis' platoon leader, 1st Lt. Hunter Jacobson, echoed that sentiment: "I'm sure my wife would rather have me at home for Thanksgiving, but she is very supportive and knows how important this training is."

Schultz acknowledged their sacrifices and told them that he came here to see them for a reason. "It's my responsibility as a leader to come here and be with you and other Soldiers. I need to be here to tell you that I appreciate your service," he said. "It's important for NCOs to be with their get back to the talk to them and get to know them and to encourage them."

Schultz told them a story to drive home his message. "Yesterday I was taking a fitness test. After I finished, I didn't leave the test because I was done. I stayed there to coach them and run alongside other Soldiers. I encouraged them until they were all done, and then we left as a team," he said, adding that all of the Soldiers eating lunch with him had the same

He reminded them that deployments were a great opportunity to develop those types of leadership skills, and told them to be on the lookout for ways to keep Soldiers keep them safe and keep their spirits up.

"I will be retiring soon, and then someone else will carry the torch. We can talk about leadership all day, but what we really need to apply it to be a good leader," he said and then asked for feedback.

For the next 30 minutes they talked about the challenges they know they face as they prepare for deployment. Some talked about concerns for fellow Soldiers, and others discussed their unit's mission and sought advice. The common message was clear: they were ready to meet the challenges of this deployment, energized by the support and encouragement of Schultz' visit.

Spc. Phillip Rhamadas, 668th Engineer Company, said he knows some Soldiers who want to take on more leadership responsibility, but sometimes NCOs won't support them. "Those NCOs should be mentoring us and preparing us to take over their jobs when they get promoted or retire. They need to trust us," he said, which drew a smile from Schultz.

When the lunch was finished, Schultz thanked each Soldier personally and then took time to recognize the support of the dining facility staff who made Thanksgiving special for those about to deploy.