By Mr Mark Diamond (SDDC)March 2, 2012
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- In January, the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command sergeant major celebrated the two-year anniversary of his assignment here. And in less than two weeks, during a change of responsibility ceremony March 9, Command Sgt. Maj. James E. Riddick will hand that responsibility over to a new senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Cedric J. Thomas.
As his time to leave SDDC approaches, Riddick took a few moments to reflect on the past two years with this command. He also offered some valuable advice for SDDC Soldiers and civilians, and even a few words of wisdom for the incoming sergeant major.
About his time at Scott Air Force base, Riddick said, "I've loved it. This has been my best assignment. Most Soldiers say their last assignment or their next assignment is the best; they never talk about their current assignment. But I can tell you this assignment has absolutely been the best."
He said although working at Scott Air Force base certainly has its perks, it was the people and the mission that earned this assignment the No. 1 spot.
The sergeant major said he devoted much of his time ensuring SDDC Soldiers stayed focused. He said being stationed in an office environment away from an Army post could lead to complacency. "Ensuring Soldiers maintain their fitness and continue to focus on their soldier skills is not only good for the Army and for SDDC, it's good for the Soldier," he said.
In addition to keeping SDDC Soldiers fit and ready, Riddick said he spent much of his time educating others on the importance of this command's global mission.
"Not everybody understands how important this command is, but I think we're getting there," explained Riddick. "I think more and more people -- within this command and throughout the Army -- are really starting to understand the importance of SDDC. Without us, [our nation] doesn't win wars. Without SDDC, our troops can't get the equipment and supplies they need. This is a very important command and I absolutely love being a part of it."
As he leaves SDDC prepared to tackle a new job as the U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command sergeant major, Riddick provided some parting advice to his fellow SDDC Soldiers, and a few words of wisdom for the incoming command sergeant major, as well.
To his fellow Soldiers, Riddick offered advice on a topic he said he's had to discuss a lot the past two years ... enlisted promotions.
Riddick said SDDC Soldiers sometimes feel it's harder for them to get promoted in this command. "They feel that their contributions to the mission aren't taken as seriously as [those of Soldiers outside of SDDC]."
Riddick said that's a mindset SDDC Soldiers need to avoid.
"The Army promotes on three pillars: position, performance and potential. You can't control your position; you can't control where the Army sends you. But you can control your performance and your potential. No matter what job you have, you have to be successful at it. If you can do that, there's a good chance you'll get promoted. If you work hard and do well in the job that you have, the rest will fall into place."
As for his advice for the new sergeant major ... "The Army gave SDDC a sergeant major because they understood this command needs a sergeant major. He's not just the general's sergeant major, and he's not just the Soldier's sergeant major. He's everybody's sergeant major. He's the command sergeant major. You do have to treat civilians and Soldiers differently, but you care for them just the same. Like I mentioned earlier, everybody in this command -- Soldier and civilian -- looks to the sergeant major for leadership."
Riddick said it's important for people to know the sergeant major cares equally for everyone in the command.
"I always want people to understand that when I talk to them, at that moment, they are the most important thing to me. I don't care whether they are civilian or military. If you make others feel like they are important, then you're going to be okay, and there's going to be a place for you here."
Helping SDDC service members and civilian employees understand their importance to the nation and its Warfighters is something he credits to SDDC's commanding general, Maj. Gen. Kevin A. Leonard.
"I can honestly say that General Leonard has done a wonderful job of changing people's attitudes about their jobs here, and helping them understand that at the end of the day it's all about that Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine on the front lines."
Riddick said he would be remiss if he didn't mention another important element General Leonard brought to this command, the motto, "One Mind, One Heart, One Purpose."
"Bringing that mindset to SDDC made all the difference," Riddick said. "I think people are really starting to believe in those words. They know they are making a difference. That's the key.
"I think people -- no matter who they are -- truly want to make a difference. I think everybody lives to make a difference. They just need to be reminded every now and then. And we can credit the CG for that; for bringing that focus to this command. I just tried to deliver that message whenever and wherever I could."
In addition to caring about others, Riddick said people also need to care about themselves.
"When I first interviewed with the CG, I told him I would never forget the excitement I felt when I got this job, and I wanted to make sure that on the day I left SDDC, I still remembered that feeling," the sergeant major said. "I truly believe If you make that a priority, you will never get to a point where you hate your job. If you can keep that in focus, if you can remember the excitement you felt when you first got your job, the job will never get old."
Although he has nothing but good memories from his time at SDDC, the sergeant major said he's looking forward to his new position as the CASCOM command sergeant major.
"It's a perfect job for me; on the lines of mentoring and helping people. To be honest, that's one of the big reasons I stay in the Army. There's not another job where you can influence people's lives like we can here. When I was a young Soldier, I had leaders who really changed my life. They changed my life because they cared. Returning the favor is the least I can do. That's why I'm still doing what I do; there's no better feeling than caring, teaching, mentoring, and helping others obtain their goals."
In that regard, Riddick said he and the incoming sergeant major are alike.
"Sergeant Major Thomas is a caring and professional Soldier," Riddick added. "I could not be happier with my replacement. I know the kind of person he is. He's a good man, and he's the kind of person this command needs."
With that, Riddick reiterated his commitment to this command and to the people who make the mission happen: "I just want everybody to know that I absolutely loved working here, and I love the people in this command. For me, SDDC was a great place to work."