News: New 3-21st command team puts soldiers first
Story by Sgt. Michael Blalack
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska – The last of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team’s seven battalion changes of command this summer took place here July 12.
Lt. Col. Scott Schumacher replaced Lt. Col. Stephen Miller as commander of the of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment and Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Hacker replaced Command Sgt. Maj. Sherwood Gatts as the battalion’s top enlisted leader.
Miller and Gatts led the 3-21st ‘Gimlets’ through operations deep in the Horn of Panjwa’i, one of the most dangerous and volatile areas of Afghanistan.
Schumacher and Hacker come to the Gimlets as the battalion goes through the process of reset and begins training for future missions.
Schumacher, originally from North Little Rock, Ark., comes to Fort Wainwright from Joint Base Lewis McChord, where he served as the director of the Stryker Warfighter Forum.
This the first time in Alaska for both Schumacher and Hacker.
“It’s nice, it’s got that small town feel to it,” Schumacher said. “It’s a big change coming from the Seattle area to this.”
For Hacker, it’s just the opposite. “Alaska is beautiful. Fairbanks is a small town, but coming from Louisville, La., it seems like a metropolis.”
Their experience with Strykers also differs.
“I’m a new Stryker guy,” Hacker said. “I’ve known that I was coming to this unit for 16 months now, and purposely didn’t step into a Stryker. I’m going to allow the soldiers and the NCOs here to teach me about the Stryker, and I will continue to teach them about leadership. It’s also different because I’m coming from an airborne unit for the last 20 years to this type of unit. The tempo here is a little slower. It’s something new for me.”
Despite their different backgrounds and experiences they have the same goals for the direction they’re taking the battalion and how to get it there.
“I understood the brigade from my previous job, so I knew that overall it was a good unit,” Schumacher said. “And I knew it had great leadership across the board from what I could see as the director of the Stryker Warfighter Forum.”
Now, Schumacher said, the focus is going to be on the individual Soldier and small unit operations.
“When we come out of NTC we will have lethal fighting Stryker platoons. Stepping backwards from that there is the battalion’s trip to Korea, the focus coming out of that is that we have trained platoons and company command teams,” he said. “It’s a stair-stepped approach right now.”
“Before I came here I knew the 1-25th SBCT, and as I’ve come into command, it’s more apparent every day that every Soldier wants to do the right thing, and they’re trying to do the right thing every day. Everyone around here has heart,” Schumacher said, “and it’s our job to focus that heart in the direction we want to go.”
“Right now we’re doing our best to get out with the Soldiers,” he said. “Sergeant Major [Hacker] is doing a great job of that. I need to improve a little, getting the Soldiers to understand that this is a profession, it’s not just a job, and conveying that message as much as I can, so it influences their decision making process both on and off duty. Everyone here has the best intent, and that is accomplishing the mission, and that’s the important piece.”
Hacker plans on taking full advantage of the fact that the 1-25th isn’t scheduled to deploy any time soon.
“For the past 10-11 years the Army has been on such a rapid deployment cycle that some of the things we were doing prior to 9/11 have kind of dropped off,” Hacker said. “When you only have a year to turn around and head back into the fight some things get overlooked. So now we have a while to be on the ground before we go back over; if we go over. [There’s] time to do the training correctly, to be able to crawl, walk, and run at every phase, to be able to step back and do some good after action reviews … go back and retrain if necessary.
Another important focus for Hacker is getting soldiers and leaders to the appropriate schools at the right time in their career progression.
The new commander said he has clear expectations for the battalion’s leaders and soldiers.
“I expect leaders to lead by example, and soldiers to do their job and provide honest feedback,” Schumacher said. “Nothing more, nothing less. I’m going to lead by example, give them the moral path as best as I can. Do the best job I can every day. I grew up when a handshake meant something, where you would put your name against something and people knew it would get done, and that’s where I’m coming from.”
“It’s not about us,” Hacker said. “It’s about the mission and the men and the NCOs and officers need to understand that. It’s about the soldiers that are depending on us to take care of them. That’s it in a nutshell. I expect the leaders to take care of their Soldiers and the Soldiers to do their job to the best of their ability, and we will provide purpose, direction, and motivation.”