By T. Anthony BellMay 31, 2012
BLACKSTONE ARMY AIRFIELD -- Leaders who empathize with Soldiers and their missions, will likely reap benefits far beyond a "feel-good moment," said Command Sgt. Maj. James Sims, Quartermaster Corps regimental command sergeant major.
That's why he makes it a point to show his face in the schoolhouse and at training sites on a regular basis.
"When you have presence from the leadership, it permeates across an organization," he said. "It shows the leadership cares from the top all the way down."
Sims was showing his concern for Soldiers May 24 when he visited Fort Pickett to talk with students and participate in airborne operations there. The school's Aerial Delivery and Field Services Department conducts airborne operations there twice a month for rigger advanced individual training and basic officer leader course students. Although he visits twice monthly to jump himself, the opportunity to connect with Soldiers is never taken for granted.
"I've been doing this thing for more than 28 years," he said, "so I can tell you that the greatest gift for me is to give back -- that's priceless -- to give to someone else all that I've learned from mentors, battle buddies, bosses, commanders, warrant officers, noncommissioned officers and Soldiers alike."
On the Blackstone Army Airfield tarmac, the troops were inclined to keep their bearing as they awaited their lifts. They stood at a rigid parade rest as Sims made rounds to engage groups of Soldiers but softened their postures as the conversation evolved into banter. He was clearly enjoying himself.
"It's always a good day be out here among these young warriors," he said. "To be a part of it, there's no greater gift."
Not far from where Sims stood with the troops, his commander, the person whom he calls "battle buddy," was busy getting instructions for a jump. Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham, the Quartermaster School commandant, was on her first visit to Blackstone in that capacity. Like Sims, she had also engaged the troops but was minutes away from making her first tandem jump, one in which an inexperienced jumper is attached to an experienced jumper via a harness. She joined about 77 other parachutists who were eventually dropped from the sky by a C-130 aircraft.
Minutes after landing, she appeared charged, saying it was a thrill all of its own.
"Now I know why my husband put his knees in the breeze 77 times," she said, referring to her husband Patrick, a former airborne Soldier. "It is enjoyable. I'm glad I did it. Now my husband and I have something to talk about."
She also has a better take on the parachute rigger course (military occupational specialty 92R) taught at the schoolhouse and the students who undergo the training.
"I wanted to experience what our Soldiers experience," said Bingham. "These are 92 romeos and I'm not an airborne Soldier, so I wanted the opportunity to feel like I was a part of their world for one day in the life of a quartermaster general. For one moment in time, I feel like I was a part of their world."
The Quartermaster School graduates roughly 800 riggers annually. Riggers pack, maintain and repair parachutes for individuals as well as for equipment. The lack of roads and treacherous terrain make them a critical part of the logistical efforts in Afghanistan where airdropping supplies and equipment is commonplace.
"What they do is phenomenal, and God bless each and every one of them," said Bingham.