Senior Enlisted Advisor Speaks to Pacific Command
By Tech. Sgt. Sean P. Houlihan, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii, Dec. 15, 2005 The senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff spoke to more than 100 senior enlisted leaders at a U.S. Pacific Command seminar heretoday, telling them military service is all about "US."
Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses more than 100 senior enlisted leaders of U.S. Pacific Command at their conference at Camp Smith, Hawaii, on Dec. 15. Gainey spoke about his priroties and goals. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Sean P. Houlihan, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"As I go around talking to servicemembers I tell them to cover up the individual service. The younger folks do it really quickly and the elders are a little more reluctant," Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey said. "There is a fear about losing your individual service identify or disgracing it, but instead I am making the point that sometimes it is more important to be about 'US.'"
Gainey said that he doesn't expect people to lose their pride in their individual service, but instead acknowledge that by working jointly there is no way the United States military can be defeated.
The sergeant major is at U.S. Pacific Command headquarters attending a two-day seminar for soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen and Coastguardsmen holding senior enlisted leadership positions throughout the command. The seminar is the first for the command.
Gainey said that during his first 30 days in office he was in listening mode, learning as much as possible about his duties and responsibilities as the first enlisted senior advisor to the chairman, a position that took more than 15 years to establish. The next 30 days he has spent traveling to combatant command headquarters to learn of their priorities and concerns. Now, as he enters into the third 30-day period, Gainey will go into a traveling mode, meeting with senior officer and enlisted leaders, as well as visiting enlisted servicemembers.
"Those first 30-days I did nothing but listen to people," he said. "I had been able to stay out from the Pentagon for 30 years. I know there was a need to establish a relationship with individuals in the Office of the Secretary of Defense to let them know I was going to need their help in order to be successful."
He said during the initial days he received the advice to work on things that had a monetary value to servicemembers and not protocol-type items.
The sergeant major spoke briefly about his priorities of strengthening the relationship between senior enlisted advisors for combatant commands, the services' senior enlisted advisors, and the Joint Staff; Joint Enlisted Professional Military Education; safety throughout the force, and quality of life for servicemembers and their families.
Gainey said each time he gives his briefing he is often asked, "Why is quality of life the last priority?"
"Quality of life is the foundation for everything every one of us must stand for, regardless if you're a soldier, Marine, sailor, airmen or Coastguardsman," he said. "Enhancing quality of life for our servicemembers is never-ending and should be focused on 24-7."
Gainey answered questions from fellow senior enlisted members pertaining to Tricare benefits, special duty pay for assignments, permanent-change-of-station allowance difference for enlisted and officers, and the perception that Pentagon leaders would rather fund equipment than quality-of-life initiatives.
"People are the center of the corps," Gainey said. "Everyone knows that we need the people to use the equipment." He said personnel officials are not saying equipment is more important than people because they are working hard for servicemembers and don't want to promise a lot and only deliver a little. Everyone loses credibility in that instance, Gainey said.
In fact, Gainey said David S.C. Chu, the undersecretary for personnel, has asked him to ask servicemembers about Tricare benefits, tuition assistance, special duty pay for assignments, weight allowance for permanent-change-of-stations moves, and travel dislocation allowances. Gainey said he has asked to get service-specific data on each of the five items as well.
"Doctor Chu wants me to bring back concerns and comments about what people are telling me on these subjects," he said. "So what I need from each of you is to write down your concerns on these items, and I will get them back to him."
Gainey told the group that when the joint chiefs chairman, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, asked him to accept the position he told the general that he was like the Patrick Swayze character from the movie "Dirty Dancing." Swayze's character used the line, "Nobody puts Baby in the corner." Gainey said he told Pace that if he accepted the position the general must realize that he and the enlisted members would be the same way. "Enlisted soldiers don't sit in the corner," Gainey said.
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sean P. Houlihan is assigned to the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.)