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Chairman’s Enlisted Advisor Addresses NCO Academy Grads

By Elaine Wilson
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Aug. 24, 2007 – The Army Medical Department Noncommissioned Officers Academy’s newest graduates heard a few words of wisdom earlier this week from someone with more than his share of experience leading troops.

“Do not let anyone ever tell you that you can’t reach your goals,” Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the graduates Aug. 21 at the academy graduation ceremony.

Gainey, the senior NCO in the Defense Department, said his intent is to “live life to the fullest.”

“No one is ever going to tell me again, like 30 some years ago when that NCO poked me on the chest and told me, ‘You’re going to amount to nothing, Gainey.’ No one is ever going to do that again,” he said. “Do not permit that to happen to you or to anyone else.”

Gainey urged the NCOs to pursue their dreams, but first to ask themselves five questions: Is my dream or goal going to hurt someone else? Is it going to hurt me? Is it illegal? Is it immoral as you were raised? Will it bring disgrace to my family name and the name of the service that I serve?

If the answers to all five of the questions are no, “then go for it,” he said. But first, “Reassess yourself. Why do I need to climb that mountain? Then go get trained; get the proper equipment; get certified if required. Never let another person tell you that you can’t reach your goals.”

On leading troops, Gainey advised the soldiers to pass on the tools junior enlisted need to succeed.

“Give young men and women responsibility, and I promise you, they will not let you down,” he said. “Give them the authority to be responsible.”

Along with authority, Gainey mentioned another important “A” term -- accountability. “Hold (your troops) accountable,” he said. “They hold us accountable 24/7.”

Gainey recalled a sergeant major who was arrested for driving under the influence. “His commander said, ‘He’s the best sergeant major I’ve worked with.’ I looked at him and said, ‘I’m sorry to say you’ve never worked with a good sergeant major.’ He’s the same person that, on Fridays, gives a safety briefing on don’t drink and drive. There are no part-time NCOs.”

The top NCO urged the graduates to pass on lessons learned to junior enlisted and assist them when they “stumble.”

“All of you right now you are standing on the top of a mountain. Why? Because of who you are; you’re noncommissioned officers,” Gainey said. “Not because you’re better than junior enlisted, but because you’re more experienced.”

The junior enlisted are in the valley, he said, so “throw down a rope to them; I call it the rope of knowledge. But I’m not going to pull you up the hill. Hang on to the rope, and I’m going to coach, teach, mentor and train our young men and women.”

When they stumble, as everyone does, Gainey told the NCOs to fall on one knee and give the rope of knowledge a tug. “There’s no one in this room who hasn’t stumbled before in their career,” Gainey said. “I call them honest human mistakes. Because you don’t learn from successes, you learn from mistakes.”

Then NCOs should “coach, teach, mentor and train them to get to the top of the hill.”

And when the junior enlisted troops reach the top of the mountain, “touch them on the shoulder and you’re going to say, ‘good job,’” Gainey said. “Then go down the other side. We’re in good hands.”

(Elaine Wilson works for the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)

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Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, USA

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