|By Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff
appreciative audience of several hundred Warrior Leader Course (WLC)
graduates, Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Academy staff, Family members
and friends listened to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston talk
about the future of the Army at a Nov. 19 graduation ceremony at the
Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell NCO Academy at Fort McCoy.
Preston, the 13th sergeant major of the Army, also had the opportunity
to tour the NCO Academy’s WLC training site to inspect the tent setup
and dining areas, said Command Sgt. Maj. M. Kevin Dubois, NCO Academy
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O.
Preston (center, front) is flanked by NCO Academy Commandant
Command Sgt. Maj. M. Kevin Dubois (right), and NCO Academy
Director of Instruction Sgt. Maj. Steven D. Dryer. Preston spoke
at an NCO Academy graduation ceremony.
(Photo by Val Hyde)
Dubois said he approached Preston during an October Senior Reserve
NCO conference in Phoenix about having him be a guest speaker at the
academy. Preston’s staff was able to make the visit work even with his
tight schedule, which included him leaving for a previously planned
overseas trip after the graduation ceremony.
As the Sergeant Major of the Army, Preston serves as the personal
adviser to the Army Chief of Staff on all enlisted-related matters,
particularly those affecting Soldier training and quality of life.
Preston devotes the majority of his time to traveling throughout the
Army observing training and talking to Soldiers and their Families.
“For all of us who have served, Families out there are our motivation,”
Preston told the WLC graduates. “As I look at the Army that I came into
a long time ago, it was different. The attitude then was if the Army
wanted you to have a Family, they would have issued you one. We’ve come
a long, long way.”
Today, 236,000 Soldiers are deployed to 80 countries, he said. A total
of about 1.1 million Soldiers serve, with 568,000 active-duty troops,
362,000 Army National Guard and 206,000 Army Reserve Soldiers.
“With about 50 percent of the force in the reserve component — the Army
National Guard and Reserves — we could not do today what we do without
the contributions of all our citizen Soldiers,” Preston said. “When you
look at the Army Reserve, we have about 48,000 Army National Guard and
12,000 Reserve Soldiers currently mobilized and serving in those 80
In looking back to the events of 9/11 through the present day, the Army
has been at war longer than any other era in its history, he said, and
the current conditions indicate it will continue for the foreseeable
The basis for the conflicts have included globalization, and people
using technology, such as the Internet, cell phones, satellite
television, etc., to allow people who used to be isolated from world
events see how others live and their quality of life. Preston said this
helped increase the use of violence by state/non-state sources to
accomplish political and non-political goals.
Competition for the limited, available resources also is a contributing
factor to conflict and violence, he said.
Terrorist groups, which number more than 1,000, will continue to seek
weapons of mass destruction and will use them if they get them, he said.
The U.S. needs to keep training and taking care of its security needs.
Four roles for the U.S. Army were outlined in the most-recent
Quadrennial Report, he said.
First, the Army needs to prepare to prevail in counter-insurgency
campaigns, such as in Iraq or Afghanistan. Second, the Army needs to
engage with other countries to carry out missions in the 80 countries
where it is deployed. Third, the Army needs to prepare to participate in
humanitarian relief efforts, such as for earthquake survivors of the
devastation in Haiti. Fourth, the Army needs to prepare to defeat
NCOs need to incorporate these roles into their goals and missions, he
Preston told the WLC graduates the most-important role they now have is
to grow their Soldiers.
“You need to pass this information back to your Soldiers,” he said. “Be
the standard bearers, and enforce those standards when you return.”
Like the Soldiers who came before them, current Soldiers need to better
themselves by incorporating and learning from the lessons of their
To become great Soldiers, they need to help establish and enforce
standards to ensure things are done correctly, he said.
In his experience, Preston said any time a Soldier has been injured on
duty it always could be attributed to the lack of senior leaders and
NCOs enforcing standards.
“I’ve seen a lot of good organizations that didn’t train to training
standards, didn’t enforce standards,” he said. “When you do get
mobilized, get deployed, it’s too late because at that point in time
(the enforcement of standards is) fragmented across the battlefield. If
the NCOs down to the lowest level don’t understand the standards, at
that point senior leaders can’t fix it.”
Dubois thanked Preston for taking time out of his busy schedule to
address the WLC graduates.
He presented Preston a Certificate of Appreciation and a Commandant’s
Coin and told him the story of the academy’s namesake. Cornell, an Army
Reserve Soldier from Menomonee Falls, Wis., was serving a tour of duty
in Iraq when he was killed in the line of duty in 2004.
Dubois said Preston also spoke to graduates of the First Sergeant Course
during a question-and-answer session the night prior to the WLC
graduation. Preston answered questions the students had prepared in the
week leading up to his visit and focused on the “reserve” side of
training, deployment, and relevant senior NCO issues.
“I was very pleased that he (Sergeant Major Preston) took time from his
busy schedule to reinforce the “one Army” message to our students and
staff,” Dubois said.