READING, Pa. - Soldiers may find themselves holding many different jobs and responsibilities over the course of their military career, but leadership has always remained the driving force behind the integrity and success of the US Army. No matter their rank or position, soldiers are expected to display the quality of leadership in everything they do.
The US Army Reading Reserve Center in Reading, PA is home to three US Army Reserve units: The 333rd Engineer Company, the 733rd Transportation Company and the 326th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
Unfortunately, over the last few years, these three units have lacked leadership in some form. Even though Non-Commissioned Officers have done a great job of taking care of individual Soldiers and making sure day-to-day operations run smoothly, Commanders provide a unique ability of understanding the bigger picture and place their Soldiers in the best possible situation to successfully achieve the mission at hand.
While many exceptional NCOs have served in these units, they have struggled to receive consistent guidance and direction from a Unit Commander. This lack in direction was not due to any one commander’s inability to lead, but the Reserve’s constant battle to provide assigned leadership for these units. Previous commanders assigned to the units here, at the Reading Reserve Center were part-time soldiers who were not assigned to their units for adequate periods of time to make an impact on the unit.
Over the past year, the Army Reserve has made even greater strides to ensure that soldiers receive solid leadership on a consistent basis. The Reserve’s commitment to leadership has been supported by their action to place the three units with their own full-time commanders, marking the first time there has been three full-time commanders at the Reading Reserve Center at one time. The Army Reserve has acknowledged the importance of providing each unit with the consistent command leadership in order to ensure administrative and mission-ready tasks are completed.
The mission of the 733rd Transportation Company is to provide ground transportation for the movement of containerized cargo and other bulk cargo, ammunition, and bottled water on palletized load system flat-racks. When equipped with tank racks, the 733rd can also transport bulk petroleum products. Missions such as these generally require a lot of oversight and logistical considerations that a commander must be responsible for.
Leadership within the 733rd is of great importance and a top priority of their new Commander, Cpt. Edgar Borgella who stated that good leadership throughout his career has encouraged him to stay in the Army Reserve. “At first, I joined to help pay for college and I only intended to stay in for a few years but here I am 13 years later,” Borgella said. Borgella initially enlisted in the Virginia National Guard but was encouraged to consider becoming an officer after his Drill Sergeant at basic training believed he possessed exceptional leadership qualities.
After completing the Senior Reserve Officer Training Corps., at Virginia State University and earning a degree in sports marketing, Borgella was assigned to the Army’s Human Resource Command in St. Louis, MO where he was surrounded by numerous senior-ranking officers. “It was great because it was a place where leaders helped other leaders,” said Borgella. At this point in his career, Borgella said he was uncertain about his future in the Army Reserve but gained direction from mentors who took the time to invest in his life. “I actually got to sit down and talk with my career counselor. She helped map out my entire career path in the Army,” said Borgella. “I am thankful for the people that saw more in me than I saw in myself.”
Borgella stated that he remains close to his mentors, as they have helped him think through the decisions he has made in his military career. He attributes good leadership as the primary reason he has served in the Army Reserve for so long and now finds enjoyment in providing mentorship for his Soldiers. “It is interesting to see where the path goes and seeing your impact on people,” Borgella said. Borgella has found satisfaction in the gratitude he has received from Soldiers he led in other units and stated that he hopes to continue to mentor and develop well-rounded Soldiers in the 733rd. “It is a privilege being able to affect Soldiers,” Borgella said.
The 333rd Engineer Company specializes in horizontal construction and is capable of performing missions such as repairing, maintaining or constructing air and ground lines of communication, emplacing culverts, hauling equipment and conducting limited clearing operations.
1Lt. Rebecca Wilson assumed command of the 333rd in July 2012 and like Borgella she too places great emphasis on leadership. “I’m here to empower my staff to be able to accomplish our mission,” Wilson said. “They work really hard for me.”
Wilson said she understands the importance of leadership due to her experience as an NCO prior to becoming an officer. She was encouraged by her commander to consider becoming an officer after he saw Wilson consistently display exceptional leadership qualities while serving in the New Jersey National Guard (NJNG). Wilson graduated from Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga. in November 2009, making her the first female soldier in the NJNG to graduate from the federal school.
After fulfilling some part-time responsibilities as a platoon leader in the NJNG, Wilson began seeking a full-time position due to her belief that leadership requires a daily effort. “Some commanders are very engaged but some don’t fully understand the big picture of what needs to happen on a daily basis,” said Wilson. “That’s not to say that they don’t care, it’s just that they can’t fully grasp what is going on with their company.”
Understanding her company well affords Wilson the opportunity to see the mission in greater detail and get a better grasp of everything that goes on in the unit on a daily basis. This comes at no better time as the 333rd has been designated for deployment this spring.
“I know everything that is going on in the company. It’s good, especially since we are getting ready to mobilize, there is a lot to get done,” said Wilson. “If I was trying to balance a civilian job with my family life and then try to make decisions for the best interest of the company prior to a deployment it would be a real challenge. I’m able to focus my energy.”
With a planned deployment coming, Wilson believes it is good for her to be a constant presence at her unit as it gives many of her soldiers confidence in the mission and a leader they can depend on. “I think it puts the Soldiers at ease because they know that there is someone here who is acting in their best interests and really advocating for them.”
This sentiment was echoed by 326th MPAD Commander, Maj. Mary L. Olodun who took command of the unit on August 26th, 2012. Olodun is one of only four full-time Public Affairs Commanders in the entire Army Reserve. “We are aware of what our Soldiers are going through and dealing with, and they have 24/7 access to us,” said Olodun.
The 326th MPAD provides direct public affairs support to units in support of Army, Joint, Combined or Unified operations. Public affairs fulfills the Army’s obligation to keep the American people and the Army informed, and helps to establish the conditions that lead to confidence in America’s Army and its readiness to conduct operations in peacetime, conflict and war.
“We help change and shape the way people see the military,” said Olodun. “We help memorialize the sacrifices of our nations sons and daughters.”
Olodun stated the decision to employ three full-time officers at the Reading Reserve Center was done to bring leadership back into focus. “As officers, we are trained and tracked to be leaders,” said Olodun. “It is extremely honorable but carries great weight. The calls you make can mean life or death.”
Olodun has seen the great need for full-time commanders and believes the Army Reserve’s commitment to leadership has allowed the 326th to run more smoothly. “We can be an asset that is always ready to deploy,” Olodun said.
“Rome was not built in a day, but brick by brick,” said Olodun, acknowledging the difficulty of completing tedious assignments with limited time for commanders who can only honor their commitment along with their soldiers during one weekend a month when most of her soldiers are present.
Part-time work may be suitable for some vocations, but as the mission of the Army continues to grow and take on new roles, the Reserve is being asked to take on even greater responsibilities. Leadership that understands the mission and the unique dynamics of their units is now of even greater importance. The three commanders at the US Army Reading Reserve Center embody this kind of leadership, looking to shape and challenge the next crop of leaders coming up through the ranks.
“The greatest contribution I can make as a commander is one that impacts our unit in a positive way that will last a lifetime,” Olodun said. “The best way to accomplish this is by doing my very best every day.”