Senior Enlisted Advisor Tells Graduates What's Expected of Them
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
NEWPORT, R.I., Apr. 7, 2006 The senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke about servicemembers' expectations of their senior enlisted leaders and the need for jointness during graduation at the Navy's Senior Enlisted Academy here yesterday.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses the graduates of the Navy Senior Enlisted Academy on April 6 in Newport, R.I. Gainey spoke to the graduates about what their subordinates and services expect from them as senior enlisted leaders. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Sean P. Houlihan, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey spoke at the graduation of 63 Navy, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard members of Class 123. "With all the technology we have in this world ... the most important thing - the core value of our services - is the young men and women we have the honor to lead," Gainey said during his remarks.
The sergeant major serves as the eyes and ears of Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace throughout the world. As the first person to hold the position, Gainey is the voice of the servicemember back to Pace.
Gainey spoke about the privilege senior enlisted leaders have to work with today's young servicemembers. "We must realize here tonight just how lucky we are to be a part of their team," he said. "They are not our team, we are on their team."
The sergeant major said today's servicemembers have hopes, dreams, desires and commitment. "They have the sense of loyalty and honor. And they have a sense of integrity and honor (that is) beyond reproach," he said. "And they have something that is supremely important to us: devotion to duty."
Senior enlisted personnel owe these young servicemembers leadership, of course, but also something more, Gainey said.
He said today's servicemembers want to shoulder responsibility. "Load them up (with it)," he said. "Pack their sea bag full of it. We've got to be willing to give them responsibilities."
But it is not enough to give responsibility if there isn't the concomitant authority to be responsible. He said too often people give responsibility for a unit, a program or a piece of equipment and then not give the authority to use their judgment.
"If I give you responsibility for something and then say don't do anything about it unless I give you permission, I ain't given you nothing," he said. "I might as well do it myself."
Gainey told the senior enlisted leaders that they have to be willing as leaders to take chances on their people, "to take gambles and give servicemembers the authority."
He told the class that their people want to be held accountable for their actions, "both good and bad." He said the military is often very good about holding people accountable for the mistakes they made, "but we're not good about giving them credit when they deserve it. That's accountability too."
He wants the leaders to assist their people. He told them they "are at the top of the mountain right now." When they get back to their duty stations, he wants them to "throw down the rope of knowledge" to young NCOs still climbing up. "Like I tell my folks, 'Here's the rope, but if you think this gray-haired, 50-year-old is going to pull you up the mountain, you are absolutely wrong,'" he said.
"What I'm going to do is coach them, teach them, mentor them and train them to get to the top of the hill."
He said that as the young noncommissioned and petty officers climb the mountain, they will stumble. "Everybody in this room has stumbled," he reminded the students. And when the NCOs do stumble, "you are going to take that rope of knowledge and pull on it and bring them back on their feet. And they will continue to climb up the hill."
He tasked the senior enlisted leaders to train their servicemembers every day, like there is no tomorrow. "It's better to watch them sweat in training - and complain sweating - than it is to watch them bleed in battle," he said.
And he asked the leaders to allow their people to be educated - to go to service schools. Leaders have to give young servicemembers the time it takes to go to school.
Gainey said there is nothing that irritates him more than hearing a young enlisted troop being held back from education. "We have got to invest in our young servicemembers now, or we will lose them later," he said.
The sergeant major flatly stated that "joint is here to stay." He said none of the services can do it alone, and the synergies the armed services provide make an unbeatable force.
"I saw it during my 13 months in Iraq," he said. "I saw everybody come together and just kick butt."
He said joint service is like oil and vinegar. Separate, they are both pretty good, he said. But mixed together, they are even better. "No service fights alone, so no service should educate or train alone," he said.
The Senior Enlisted Academy is a six-week course to prepare senior enlisted leaders to better fulfill their leadership and management responsibilities. Airmen, soldiers, Marines and Coast Guardsmen attend the course alongside their Navy cohorts.
The academy began conducting classes here in 1981. The first class consisted of 16 students. Roughly 8,000 students have graduated from the course since. The academy itself will grow in the coming months and years, said Academy Director Command Master Chief Petty Officer Steven Juskiewicz.