By By Steve Arel, U.S. Army Cadet CommandSeptember 7, 2012
He did all he set out to do.
He mentored the Army's future leaders. He inspired high school Cadets to be better citizens. And he strengthened Cadet Command by enforcing standards and touting the value of service as an officer across the country.
After a little more than six years as the organization's top enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Hershel Turner had one final task Friday: hand over his responsibilities to a successor.
Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Howard became Cadet Command's eighth command sergeant major in a ceremony Friday in front of the command's Fort Knox headquarters. He joins the organization after serving as command sergeant major for the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, N.C.
The actual process of changing responsibility took mere moments, with Turner passing the Cadet Command colors to Maj. Gen. Jefforey Smith, the commanding general, and Smith passing them to Howard.
Howard, a Goodman, Miss., native, pledged to carry on the tasks of helping develop young people to be Army leaders and to be better citizens. And as post sergeant major, he plans to team with other Fort Knox leaders and units to continue providing a solid quality of life for those who live and work on post.
In saluting Turner, Howard described his transition as one similar to that of his predecessor. He had to pull up roots for his new position, leaving Bragg after 22 years there as a paratrooper. But Howard is eager to face the challenge.
"We look forward to serving you and embracing everything that is good and right about our community," he said. "We are content with our current station in life."
The event marked the end of Turner's historic tenure. No other senior enlisted Soldier in Cadet Command's 26-year existence has held the command sergeant major position longer.
His stint began in 2006 when the command was based at Fort Monroe, Va. He helped lead its transition to Fort Knox as part of the most recent Base Realignment and Closure process and its evolution earlier this year as the post's senior command.
Turner offered the dozens in attendance Friday a brief history lesson of his time in Cadet Command, from the commanding and deputy generals with whom he served, to the advent of centralized boards to select brigade commanders and command sergeants major, to organization restructuring, to a mission increase to 5,350 from 4,100 annual commissionees, to the introduction of professional programs such as Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency, to significant growth among Junior ROTC.
"Cadet Command has come a long way since 2006," he said. "We tell our Cadets they receive the best leadership training to prepare them to be the best officers our Army will have. The leadership training they receive today will help them for the rest of their lives -- no matter if they stay in the Army or leave and join the corporate world. They will be successful because of the leadership training they received in Army ROTC."
Despite being based at the Cadet Command headquarters, Turner spent considerable time on the road visiting Junior and Senior ROTC programs nationwide and abroad and speaking to countless civic leaders and educators about the lifelong impact of service.
His constant presence at national athletic competitions, recruiting events and in classrooms made him arguably as popular as anyone within the command.
When she departed last month, former deputy commander Col. Peggy Combs referred to Turner as a "rock star." She -- and several other senior leaders since -- said that when she would tell groups of Cadets she was with Cadet Command, oftentimes the students would ask immediately if she knew Turner.
Even Smith experienced a slight from time to time.
"No matter where I went to or who I talked to, the Junior Cadets always knew who Sgt. Maj. Turner was," he said. "They would ask me, 'Is he coming? Where is he? Why are you here?' I kind of knew my place in what we were doing and how important he is to our program."
Smith, the fourth commanding general who Turner served alongside, said Turner's positive impact on the command would be long-lasting. The length of service such a position is rare, Smith said, but comprehensible.
"That's is in large respect … to Command Sgt. Maj. Turner's leadership qualities and what he brings to the organization and the kind of leader, developer and trainer he is," he said. "That Command Sgt. Maj. Turner has been here for six and a half years is a phenomenal representation of how good and how high-quality he is, and our officer corps is forever indebted for his leadership.
"He has made a difference with all he has done. … He has been so instrumental, it's hard to put into words the contribution he has made."
Turner, a native of Lawton, Okla., will remain at Fort Knox for the next several months undergoing various medical screenings, seminar and other planning in preparation for retirement. He hasn't settled yet on a new career, but he said he hopes to continue working with impressionable young people in some capacity.
Turner on Friday encouraged brigade leaders within Cadet Command to ensure Cadets have all the tools they need to succeed.
"I would ask you to give our Cadets the training they need to be resilient, to get through the tough times they face, no matter what the issue is," he said. "Let them know they have to make up their minds, be determined and have the courage to walk right through their fears. ... Give them the leadership to have confidence in themselves so they will be able to make sound decisions and think critically.
"Brigade commanders and CSMs, if these Cadets are to be successful, then it is up to you to make sure your cadre at every battalion is on the team. Train our Cadets to be No. 1."