ARLINGTON, Va. - Did I show them right from wrong? Did I really teach them what they needed to know? Did I do all I could have done? These are questions most parents will ask themselves when faced with a child who has ventured off onto the wrong side of the law or who has just simply found themselves in a bad situation. Similarly, noncommissioned officers in the U.S. Army feel just as responsible when their soldiers do not always live up to the Army values.
Noncommissioned officers are charged with the duty to not only supervise soldiers, but to shape, mentor and ensure that the welfare of their soldiers are always at the forefront.
Therefore, when 11 of the 45 soldiers of the Presidential Salute Battery [PSB], 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice over a period of six months in 2012, many leaders questioned where they could have possibly went wrong. However, Sgt. 1st Class Tony Henry would bring a new wave of leadership; one that would focus on getting back to the basics.
Henry arrived to the PSB in November of 2012 and was immediately charged with the responsibility of restoring order and discipline within the platoon. He explained that, unfortunately, previous leaders had lost their way and had forgotten their duties and responsibilities to their soldiers.
“I’m a big believer of the NCO creed and I believe that no one should be more professional than them,” said Henry, PSB platoon sergeant. “My mentality coming into PSB was to establish a new foundation and to conduct proper coaching, teaching and mentoring of my NCOs and to let them know what right looks like.”
Henry said it is important to lead by example by first doing what every NCO should ensure they do: get to know each and every soldier under their care.
“I really take it personally and professionally because as the senior, I look at all these guys as my kids and I want to train them in the way that they should go,” said Henry.
Henry added it was especially important for him to establish a clear understanding between him and the soldiers who were facing disciplinary actions.
“I told them that I would not ostracize them and that they were expected to assist in every way possible, short of performing in ceremonies” said Henry. “They were still soldiers who raised their hand to do this job and until the last day that they were in, they were still expected to do so.”
Henry said his next goal was to strengthen the camaraderie in the platoon. In doing so, he said it also helped bring a better balance of structure and organization.
“For the soldiers who were doing the right thing, I brought back the Top Gun competition to establish esprit de corps,” said Henry. “The soldiers would start the morning off with a uniform inspection, a question and answer period on PSB and then an actual inspection of the guns. The winner received a four-day weekend, a PSB coin and an impact Army Achievement Medal.“
He also implemented physical fitness competitions, platoon socials and monthly meetings in the hopes of establishing a greater line of communication between himself and his soldiers.
“Once a month, I would sit down with the lower enlisted soldiers and do a sensing session to ask them where they were at the moment and what would they like to see happen,” said Henry. “I would take their answers into consideration and develop a plan around it.”
First Sgt. Kevin Merriweather, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, said Henry has certainly set the example for others to follow.
“Sgt. 1st Class Henry’s leadership is old school,” Merriweather said. “But that is a good thing because that’s what we are trying to get back to; that’s what the Army is trying to get back to. With his back to the basics mentality, he has been able to build the platoon back up to where they were and even better than where they were.”
Henry said although some of the soldiers in the PSB may have made poor decisions, the vast majority of the platoon is still doing the right thing. He maintains it is this hard working group of dedicated and determined soldiers who are truly responsible for the success of the PSB.
“We are still improving but the soldiers have definitely stepped up and rallied together and pushed forward,” said Henry.