FORT STEWART, Ga. -- Many were in attendance in order to bid farewell to Command Sgt. Maj. Jefferson Moser, the outgoing senior enlisted leader of the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Spartans”, 3rd Infantry Division, and to welcome Command Sgt. Maj. Stanley Varner, the incoming senior enlisted leader for the 2nd ABCT, during their Change of Responsibility ceremony held at the Marne Garden, Oct. 25.
The ceremony was exemplary of the time-honored tradition that is the CoR, as well as it was relatively brief and to the point. Knowing the no-nonsense nature of the out going Spartan 7, I sat down with him the day before and asked him a few questions about the time he served as the Command Sergeant Major of the Spartan Brigade, his observations and thoughts about the current state of the Corps of Noncommissioned Officers, and any other advice and wisdom he wanted to share.
Here is what he had to say.
Q: To start of with Sergeant Major, what was your goal when you first became the senior enlisted leader of the 2nd ABCT?
A: My goal was simple. I wanted to bring the NCO Corps within 2nd ABCT back to being responsible for leading Soldiers. I wanted to put ownership back into the hands of NCOs, and I wanted to lead from the front as the senior noncommissioned officer of the brigade and always show what ‘right’ looked like.
Q: What do you mean by the phrase ‘what right looks like’?
A: I look at myself as a role model, however I don’t see myself this way because of my position, I’m a role model because of what I stand for. I stand for what’s right and what right looks like. I don’t do what I do because I’m looking for the spotlight, or recognition. I do what I do because it is my job and duty to lead and train -- I do what’s right. That’s the best way I can put it. I think there is more to it than just being a role model though, I try to be a mentor as well, and that is something we need more of in the Army.
Q: What is the difference between being a good example and being a mentor?
A: Mentoring is about more than the Army, and it’s more than being a role model. It’s about being the person a Soldier wants to go to if they need advice or guidance about anything in life, and in turn providing sound guidance to that Soldier. We need to get back to that. We’ve lost too many mentors in the Army over the last few years. Bottom line, it’s about passing down wisdom and sound advice for me, and then following through to show Soldiers you actually care.
Q: You mentioned earlier that you wanted to ‘bring back’ the NCO Corps. How did it falter?
A: It’s simple. We just promoted some people that should not have been promoted. We marginalized the NCO ranks during the last decade-plus of heavy deployment because we needed to. We needed more NCOs then what we had, because we needed to sustain a war for so long. We did it to ourselves -- that’s just what we did. I can say that because I watched it happen. People who would not have been promoted before 2003, people who would have been held back and with the proper tools, been groomed properly for a leadership position, were not held back. We were told as leaders ‘No, you will promote them now’.
On top of that we made the requirements for NCO schools less stringent because we needed higher passing rates, which marginalized the corps even more. There was not a lot of thinking back then as to what this was going to cost us in the long run. It was just a quick fix right then right there for what was needed.
Now we are living with the result. We have NCOs who can’t lead from the front. However we are finally getting to a place where we are weeding out those people and saying ‘Thank you for your service, you did an awesome job, but you really don’t have a future continuing to lead Soldiers’, and that is where we need to continue going with the issue.
Q: How else can we improve the ranks and continue our forward progress as a corps?
A: I believe a great deal of the answer lies in our junior leaders. They need to get on board with the future of the Army. The Army has been at war for more than 10 years. A lot of midgrade NCOs have been promoted through a career of on-off-on-off-deployment. What junior leaders face now is different then what the mid-grade NCO’s faced, their road to success will be different.
Q: What guidance can you give those junior NCOs to help them along to success?
A: Stay disciplined. Continue to better yourself through education, self-improvement and self-assessment. Basically just look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are doing things right. Ask yourself ‘Are you cut out to do this?’. If the answer is yes then get out there and lead the way, and be hungry for it!
Q: What do you mean by ‘be hungry for it’ Sergeant Major?
A: Prove to everybody that you are the right person to advance. A hungry NCO goes out of their way, and finds ways to rise above their peers. No one is going to hand it to you. A hungry NCO figures it out, sees what it takes and then gets after it and goes and does it. Competitive boards are great tools for the aspiring junior leader to use; PT is another forum that the junior leader can shine in.
Q: Speaking of Physical Training Sergeant Major, I know PT is a large part of your life, what are your thoughts about PT in the Army?
A: PT is the hallmark of every Soldier. You cannot be out of shape and maintain a well trained, highly ready force that can fight anyplace anytime anywhere, under any condition. Also, I personally believe, and this is just me, Jeff Moser speaking, that physical fitness can help you mentally through many of the challenges and pitfalls that life brings you. Physical fitness has helped me through a lot of heartache and stress that I can see other Soldiers experience as well. However the stress takes their body over, and they don’t know how to deal with it, so they become even more out of shape, and more stressed. I believe through physical fitness you can condition your mind and body, and in turn get through life’s hardships in a better way.
Q: Awesome Sergeant Major, shifting gears a bit, you’ve had many years experience with the 3rd Infantry Division. What does being a ‘Dog Faced Soldier’ mean to you?
A: I first came to Fort Stewart in 1992 when I had a permanent change of station from Korea, I’ve PCS’d a few times since, been reassigned numerous times within the division, and advanced in rank and position, but even when I’ve left, I’ve always came back to Fort Stewart…It is part of me. It definitely is. Four rotations to Iraq with the Dog Faced Soldiers and one to Afghanistan -- I have nothing but the utmost respect for all the Soldiers and families that have endured what this installation has endured.
Q: So Sergeant Major, you’ve lead the Spartan Brigade for some time now, yet now your moving on and PCS’ing to Fort Hood, Texas. What message would you like to leave to those Spartans you’ve served with?
A: To the 2nd Brigade Soldiers: I truly want you all to understand that this has been a privilege, an honor, and I was blessed to be able to stand in front of you as Spartan 7. I charge you all to stay focused, stay diligent and be ready for anywhere, anyplace, anytime, and don’t get caught short. God bless you guys and thank you for everything you have done, and your support. I hope I’ve left you in better conditions then when I met you two plus years ago. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.