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    Soldier jumps six pay-grades in one ceremony

    Soldier Jumps Six Pay-grades in One Ceremony

    Photo By Sgt. Jason Adolphson | Maj. Joseph Fleming, a Mobile, Ala., native and Birmingham, Ala., guardsman, is...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Jason Adolphson 

    Joint Sustainment Command - Afghanistan

    KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — As Soldiers promote throughout their time-and-service they follow a structured succession of ranks. Oddly enough, one Soldier serving in 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command had a promotion ceremony April 16 that went a little something like this:

    "Attention to orders!" a Soldier announced before reading aloud. "The secretary of the Army has reposed special trust and confidence in the valor, fidelity and professional excellence of Joseph Fleming. In view of these qualities and his demonstrated leadership potential and dedicated service to the U.S. Army, he is, therefore, promoted from sergeant first class to major."

    Promoting from a senior non-commissioned officer to a field-grade officer is something you don't hear of every day, but then again, neither is Fleming's story.

    The National Guard Soldier, dipping in and out of the Individual Ready Reserve, has more than 30 years of service under his belt. Fleming enlisted into the Guard in 1979 and transitioned to officer ranks a few years later.

    As a captain in 1995 he served as a company commander in the Louisiana National Guard. After completing a two-year stint in command of about a hundred Soldiers he returned to IRR status before deciding to join the Alabama National Guard as an enlisted Soldier.

    Fleming said there were no positions available in his pay-grade, but considering he was a sergeant before becoming an officer, he could accept an enlisted position. Suddenly, he had returned to his original military occupational specialty as a power plant repairman, serving as a peer alongside the same ranking "Joes" he had once served with during his original enlistment — and once commanded.

    Within two years of accepting a six-year enlistment contract, Fleming received word from the Army Human Resources Command that his officer status, sitting in the IRR, had promoted him from the rank of captain to major.

    Fleming said he initially thought he could transition back to being an officer after his contract without any issues.

    "I thought I had dual status, but as it turned out, that was no longer in effect," Fleming said. "They cut my discharge as major from the IRR in 1999. I started seeking out opportunities [to reacquire officer status] but had to finish my enlistment contract with the Alabama National Guard."

    Fleming went on to perform many duties on the enlisted side of the house and started advancing in rank. After the atrocities of 9/11, Fleming was activated from Mobile, Ala., to man his unit's armory.

    The high-speed Soldier was promoted to staff sergeant in 2004 and sergeant first class just two years later — taking on the responsibilities as a first sergeant until 2008.

    From about the time Fleming pinned sergeant first class, he said he applied for a certificate of eligibility to be reappointment as a commissioned officer and had been applying for positions until the 135th agreed to take him on as an officer.

    "I was excited that I finally achieved a goal," Fleming said.

    By not returning to the officer ranks for 13 years, Fleming has comrades he trained with in his earlier years who are now lieutenant colonels and colonels. Still, he said he wouldn't consider one avenue better than the other.

    "I was quite content ... it was exciting to work with Soldiers," Fleming said. "We are what we are — and as my brother-in-law once said — 'We are the sum of everything that we accomplish.' My experiences have been enlightening and phenomenal and I wouldn't trade it for the world."



    Date Taken: 04.16.2010
    Date Posted: 04.20.2010 10:07
    Story ID: 48402

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