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General Dempsey's and Sergeant Major Battaglia's remarks at the Armed Forces Non Commissioned Officer/Petty Officer Book Rollout

By As delivered by General Martin E. Dempsey and Sergeant Major Bryan Battaglia
Washington —

SERGEANT MAJOR BRYAN BATTAGLIA:  Thanks, Megan, and good morning, everyone.  Joined by my wife, Lisa, and our chairman, let me too welcome each of you to what is a very, very special moment in our military’s lineage. 

As our MC mentioned earlier, a complimentary copy, these are in fact our first limited batch of books that we are fielding.  Naturally, as with any books, you may find a few imperfections, but it’s important to us for us to have gotten – get to you something that, you know, you have in your hands and hope that you enjoy this small token.  It is the holiday season.  It could certainly make for a nice Christmas gift.  (Laughter.)  But I’d really like it to primarily serve its intended purpose, and that’s as a developmental and educational tool.  I think you’ll see this book will serve the reader whether they serve in uniform or not. 

And why?  Well, while the book’s center of gravity is focused around the noncommissioned officer and petty officer, there’s a much larger message between these covers, a message that addresses commitment, selflessness, teamwork, trust, courage, loyalty, to mention a few.  But I must say that the work and effort went in – that went into this and the satisfaction I know that you’ll have on the back end, though, a cost-free copy to you, to us it’s nothing short of a best seller. 

So in my remarks, I want to talk a little about the book’s writing team and a little of who we are.  Obviously, this couldn’t have been done without the team.  We’re going to personally introduce them a little later, but I just need to tell you how proud I am of each and every one of them.  Like many military projects, I felt that for this one to be successful, it would require a unique blend of art and science and even some academia. 

Now, not singling out Mr. Curt Brownhill or Dr. Al Pierce, but these two gentlemen were really the catalyst and the glue in propelling it forward while holding it together, an effort that was coated with risk, challenge, excitement and opportunity all wrapped in one mission statement.  As you somewhat learned from earlier in a ceremony, back in the winter of 2011, I reached out to Curt and Al to ask them if they would co-lead this, never done before, monstrosity of a project for our NCO core.  Both of them immediately committed. 

Of course Dr. Pierce was employed and is employed at the National Defense University.  And of the team, he had the sole singular exposure to book building experience.  Dr. Pierce was involved with the development of the Armed Forces Office Book.  And it was important that these two books not mirrored one another, but meshed.  And his ability with creative thinking, his ability with team synergy was consistently utilized.  Never having been an NCO himself, he provided a special perspective.  Dr. Pierce learned a great deal about our community, and his writings and curiosities and expertise were indeed powerful. 

Chief Curt Brownhill had a wonderful career growing up through the Air Force enlisted ranks.  And his final assignment, as you heard, at U.S. Central Command came at a time when we were about to step into what we’ve been doing for the last 13 years.  I had the pleasure of meeting Curt at a joint executive course where he served as one of our senior mentors.  Curt made such an impression on me and the rest of the course, I just knew that it wouldn’t be the last time that we crossed paths. 

As a retired veteran, Curt’s investment in this book is remarkable, and it defines what is written in one of the chapters when we talk about continuing to serve.  Curt committed with all the understanding of not knowing how this would turn out and unfold, that it would be volunteer work, out-of-pocket travel, yet he committed to give 110 percent to provide our NCO and petty officer corps a book that reach all expectations.  I believe many in a retired status would have declined the offer.  Not Curt.  He saw the risk, but also saw an amazing opportunity to do something never done before and something that would better our force.  That became the posture of the entire writing team. 

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I tell you about Dr. Pierce and Chief Brownhill, not only because of the amazing work they did, but the commitment and pledge that they made with me, no signed contract, no written terms of reference, but rather a handshake and a square look in the eye, a trusting visual and verbal agreement that we have a difficult task ahead of us, but one we are committed to accomplish.  And again, I hope that you enjoy this book. 

To make up the writing team, each service senior listed advisor selected a senior noncommissioned officer and petty officer.  Special Operations, National Guard and Reserve components were also chosen as part of the writing team.  We’ll personally introduce them as well. 

However, I’d like to mention that this is the team that really did the heavy lifting, and without them there would be no book.  At times Chief Brownhill, Dr. Pierce and I drove the team pretty hard, from rescoping a particular chapter message that was slightly missed, to further research over a weekend, to detailed critiquing of each other’s chapters.  This cadre of professionals gelled extremely well together and proved yet again what can be accomplished with dedication and commitment toward a unified objective. 

My personal staff, NDU Press, our services, and the other volunteers played significant roles throughout this entire process, especially these last two hectic months, with meeting deadlines.  Dr. Jeff Smotherman, Dr. Bill Eliason, Chris Dunham, to mention a few, have played key roles in getting it ready for editing, photo selection, final print and initial rollout.  Others, some present and some not, also helped with the project, ensuring a holistic and diverse balance was achieved.

Now, I wanted to be as inclusive as possible, so we decided to reach out to the force for ideas and suggestions for a book title and a book cover, something they wouldn’t mind seeing, something they can say that they were a part of.  Through many suggestions and creative ideas, the book cover design we finally selected came from one of the graphics technicians from the United States Army Sergeant Major Academy.  Mr. Hugo Cantu and the Army Sergeant Major Academy provided full support to the book’s effort and milestones.  Hugo, if you would stand please and let the crowd see who you are and acknowledge your contributions.  Thank you.  (Applause.) 

The book’s title is simple and it’s self-explanatory.  As many of you know, the backbone of the armed forces has historically defined our noncommissioned officer and petty officer corps.  It belongs on the cover as part of the longstanding description of who we are.  From petty officers to sergeants major, from corporals to command chiefs, this book we wrote for you will serve many purposes, reach many readers, deploy with many service members in hope that it provides tutelage to all. 

It contains seven pretty inspiring and aspiring and exciting chapters about the organization and culture to which we belong, the profession of arms.  The responsibility and obligation we inherit as leaders, the ethical and moral high ground that we traverse, and the privilege to train, develop and lead America’s sons and daughters, to mention a few.

As an armed force, we are very, very fortunate to have the most highly educated, committed cadre of commissioned officers.  Our officers see the benefit and investment with empowering its enlisted leader corps to enable, to lead, to influence, train, discipline, set the example, and to march to the sound of the guns.  Chairman Dempsey will talk of it often.  It’s trust.  And we would not have the NCO corps that we have today if it were not for the trust and confidence that our officers have in us.

It’s not surprising – rather remarkable – as to how, over the last 237 years, we have grown together as a profession, as an armed force.  As our nation’s defenders, we join a different service branch under different contracts and we wear different uniforms, and yet these diverse metrics alone would lead one to believe that there would be extreme difficulties in synchronizing such a group of – into some form of unity and cohesiveness to serve for one common good and to achieve one unified goal.  It goes to show you again that, while different, there are many similarities in our ranks and files. 

For example, we’re all volunteers.  But more notably, upon our enlistment or accession we all swore or affirmed an oath to support and defend our Constitution.  Every enlisted member, every NCO, the same identical oath, no difference in its words, equal in its meaning.  And think about it:  Nowhere in any civilian occupation that would hire out of high school at the ripe young age of 18 requires such a verbal and written commitment to swear that we would honorably wear the cloth of our nation to support and defend at all costs.

We talk about the oath in this book because it’s the very beginning of this all-volunteer team, a patriotic and professional organization that our society respects and admires, and an organization that many nations in fact envy.  This profession of arms that you and I belong to is a brotherhood where our noncommissioned officer and petty officer corps has continuously evolved into our present-day formations.  Each of us carry an obligation, a responsibility, a moral and ethical bond to every American we have sworn to protect.  That’s who we are and that’s what we do.  And that’s what you find inside the covers of this book. 

What a privilege it is for each of us to serve our country.  We don’t do it alone.  We do it as a team.  And it gives me great pleasure in introducing my battle buddy, the senior officer who leads our team – ladies and gentlemen, our 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.  (Applause.) 

GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY:  Thanks.  I really am delighted to be here and to see all of you here.  It’s even more important than me being here.

You know, some of you know that there hasn’t always been a senior enlisted advisor to the chairman.  It’s kind of sometimes there is, sometimes there’s not.  When I became the chairman, the transition team said, do you want us to pursue a senior enlisted advisor to your position?  And I said yeah, of course I do.  And they said, well, why are you so – you know, why are you so definitive about it?  Don’t you want us to lay out the pros and cons?  And I said, no, not really.  I wouldn’t know how to act, actually, without a battle buddy.  And I really mean that. 

I mean, in my career – and I’ll mention one particular vignette that I think helps you understand who I am because of a battle buddy of the past – but it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t have a senior enlisted advisor to – as a confidante to – you know, to help me see myself; to help shape the future of the noncommissioned officer, petty officer corps out to 2020, just as we’re trying to shape the force.  It just never occurred to me that I wouldn’t have one, frankly.  And I hope that becomes institutionalized.  And I’m saying it in this audience so that you know, when my – when my shot clock runs out, whoever takes my place, don’t hesitate to pile on him or her to make sure that this is the routine from this point forward.

But I want to – I want to compliment my battle buddy.  When he came to me about two years ago – really, right about two years ago – with the idea for this book, I didn’t know what it would really be, to be honest with you.  I didn’t want it to be something that gathers dust on a shelf.  But then it occurred to me that actually the journey to put the book together might be more important than the book itself, because it would cause you to take a look at who you are as a group of noncommissioned officers and petty officers, and to argue – and I know there was a handful of arguments in the preparation of the book – argue about, what are the key leader attributes?  You know, what is – what’s the “special sauce” of being a noncommissioned officer and a petty officer?

So the journey has actually been really important, I think, and we’ll see what the book becomes.  You don’t know what a book becomes until you put it on somebody’s shelf, but I hope what it does – and for the group out there and wherever you happen to be, and those of you in the audience, I hope it becomes a source of conversation, discussion and even passionate arguments about who you are, what you are and what we need to be for the nation, because we’re at one of those times in our history where I think that conversation is more important, you know, than anything you might deliver tangibly.  So that’s why, you know, I want to make sure I compliment the sergeant major for having the idea to take this journey and for you all to support it. 

You probably know that – or you may or may not know that the opening chapter of this book started 236 years ago at a place of some notoriety in our history called Valley Forge, along the banks of the Schuylkill River, where the Continental Army, in 1777 – the winter of 1777-1778 had – after a successful summer campaign had kind of collapsed in on Valley Forge.  And the conditions were just simply miserable.  If you’ve never visited Valley Forge, it’s worth the visit, and especially if you visit it in the winter.  I wouldn’t recommend that, actually.  I’d go in the summer and try to imagine what it was like in the winter.  (Laughter.) 

And Washington called upon von Steuben – who was helping the Continental Army – to instill a sense of discipline.  In the harshest of conditions that winter of 1777-1778, Washington realized that what he really needed was not another – another generation of a particular cannon or a new musket, or even a new uniform.  He didn’t need any of – I mean, he did; he needed all those things, but what he really – what he recognized was that he needed to appeal to the soul of his army, and he did it through the establishment of a noncommissioned officer corps.  And he did it through this effort to instill a sense of discipline and purpose and commitment and selflessness among those who were leading.  And here we are today, you know, 236 years later and publishing this book, which I hope captures a bit of that historical soul. 

And then successive chapters have been written throughout our history.  And you know well that history, but you also know that we really are who we are, different than everybody else because of the noncommissioned officer corps.  And so this physical volume that we’re going to sign and hand out and put online today kind of captures some of that, but as I said, what I really wanted to do is to challenge us into the future.

So I said I would tell you just one quick story about, you know, a battle buddy of my past.  So I – you know, I can remember every one of my first sergeants – sergeants major all the way up through the – through the ranks, but there was one particular one – and he just passed away about two months ago, which is why I want to remember him here today.  He was my battalion command sergeant major.  His name was Don Stockton.  And I was commanding a tank battalion in Germany. 

And some of you know – I know Sergeant Major Chandler knows that, as a tank battalion commander, there were – there were – you know, there were, at various times in our history, 58 tanks in a battalion.  Then there were 44 tanks in a battalion.  But anyway, there’s a lot of tanks in a tank battalion.  And the commander has one of them and he has to qualify on that weapons system just like everybody else. 

And normally he’d kind of – this is going to shock you noncommissioned officers – we kind of stacked the deck.  You know, we’d look around the battalion and we’d say, OK, who’s the best gunner?  OK, come here; I want you on my tank.  (Laughter.)  Who’s the best loader?  Come here; you’re on my tank.  Who can drive the best?  OK, come over here; you’re driving my tank.  And so generally speaking, it’s – you know, you stack the deck. 

Well, my first tank gunnery I decided I wasn’t going to stack the deck.  You can see where this story is probably headed.  (Laughter.)  And the way this works is you shoot 10 engagements.  You get a hundred points per engagement.  For a thousand – the goal is always to shoot a thousand, but you have to shoot 700 in order to qualify.  And so there were, in this particular gunnery, seven engagements during the day and 300 – I mean three at night.  So you had 700 points in the table during the day and 300 points for the evening.

And after I came off of my day run, I had – I had to maximize – I had to shoot a perfect score that night in order just to qualify.  (Laughter.)  So I was unhappy, but I was also scared to death.  Now, mind, you know, here I am a 42-year-old lieutenant colonel – you know, battalion commander of a tank battalion commander about to disqualify on my tank.  So I heard that the sergeant major was looking for me, so in my mind I’m playing out the scenario where he comes up and he boosts my confidence and, you know, talks me through the night engagements and – (laughter) – you know, and he – and so – and this was like it’s dark now and, you know, I’m trying to get myself ready. 

We’re going through the dry runs for the engagements that night, the three engagements, and the sergeant major finally finds me.  And so I’m waiting for this pep talk and he said, sir, I’ve just one piece of advice for you.  And said, what’s that, Sergeant Major?  He said, if you fail to qualify, do not come back to the tower.  Just keep on driving because you are done.  (Laughter, applause.)  And I said, wow, that was really inspiring, you know?  (Laughter.)  But, you know, we did – by the way, we did max the night engagement and I qualified by one point.  You know, I got 701. 

But you know what?  I’m more proud of that than I was of any time in the future – when I did stack the deck, by the way.  (Laughter.)  But I was more proud of that than anything I’ve ever done as a – as a tank commander anyway.  So this is really a great moment for the noncommissioned officer and petty officer corps.  And besides recognizing my current battle buddy, I want to also recognize those in the past, and in particular Don Stockton (sp), who passed away a couple of months ago.

Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry, thanks for being part of this, you know?  I mean, you sacrificed – everybody has sacrificed a bit over the last 10 years.  You in particular sacrificed a bit more, and some of your battle buddies made the ultimate sacrifice.  And so, you know, you being here lends a sense of – another degree of importance to this ceremony.  By the way, you’re terrific about giving of your time for all kinds of events, and I just want to personally thank you, and your family by the way, who we had the privilege to meet when I was the – the chief of staff of the Army for that lengthy period of time back in 2011. 

And I see Ranger Jones over there.  Ranger Jones was Chairman Shelton’s battle buddy.  There wasn’t a SEAC [senior enlisted adviser to the chairman] in those days so you were probably really the unofficial senior enlisted advisor to the chairman, General Hugh Shelton.  And again, another guy who even in retirement has spent most of his retirement trying to help soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, Coast Guardsmen and their families. 

So let me end there just by thanking you for everything you do and encouraging you to keep it up.  It’s not going to get any easier.  But the truth is – and I remind anybody who will listen, which is pretty much you and maybe my staff.  (Laughter.)  Other than that not many people are listening these days.  But I do remind anybody who will listen that we all came in the service for different reasons. 

It’s almost impossible, actually – you know, if you’ve been in Recruiting Command – and some of you I’m sure have been – it’s almost impossible to figure out all the different reasons that people come into the military, but it’s not impossible to figure out why they stay.  They stay because of good leadership and they stay because they want to be like someone that they’ve seen or experienced or served with and have the chance to lead as well.

And so for those of you that have achieved the pinnacle of your professions, first, congratulations; second, thanks for doing it; and third, jus always remember that if you ever wanted to lead when it made a difference – you know, it’s easy to lead when everything is kind of going great and you’ve got all the money you need and the world is peaceful and, you know, the biggest challenge is to figure out, you know, how much PT is going to be balanced against how much rifle marksmanship and against how many steaming hours and flying hours.  We’re not in that world.  We’re in a world where there’s more uncertainty than certainty, more risk than peace, and less resources than, frankly, we should have.  But it’s a time when your leadership makes a bigger difference.

And so I compliment you.  And by the way, I mean, you – you who wear the uniform and those of you who are here supporting them and have served just as much over these many decades, as your spouses have.  So God bless you all.  Happy holidays.  And I’m proud to be your chairman.  Thanks.  (Applause.)