One of the hallmarks of exceptional organizations is that it learns, grows, refines and develops itself over time. This is certainly the case for the United States Army. Over the past 233 years, the role and purpose of the Army has not changed. It is still the force which was established by our founding fathers to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, to secure the Nation. However, what has changed is how the Army accomplishes its purpose.
Over the centuries, many outside factors have changed that have served to make our Army better. Specifically, we have seen significant changes in our doctrine, organizations, training, material, leadership and education, personnel and facilities (DOTMLPF). Within our leadership ranks, and in particular our Non-Commissioned Officer Corps, we have witnessed significant changes in the role and purpose of the Command Sergeant Major. The following is a summary drawn from one of the best reads available regarding the Non-Commissioned Officer Corps; The NCO Guide by CSM(R) Daniel Elder. In my estimation it is a must read for all enlisted personnel who aspire to be a professional, committed and competent leader.
When Frederick von Steuben assisted General George Washington on the initial design of the Army in 1774, the role of the Sergeant Major was one which principally served as an extension of the Adjutant. As noted by Elder, the role of the Sergeant Major was “that the Sergeant Major was at the head of the noncommissioned officers for his Regiment. Von Steuben noted that he should be well acquainted with the disciple of the regiment, keeping rosters, forming details and every other business of the adjutant.”
Over the succeeding years, the role of the Sergeant Major evolved from an administrative role to principle instructor to the sergeants and corporals, to a conveyor of orders throughout unit formations. After World War I, in a Congressional cost savings measure, the ranks of Master Sergeant and Sergeant Major were deleted from our Army’s enlisted ranks. It would be nearly 40 years later in the late 1950’s before the ranks of E8 and E9 would be reinstated. As the NCO Corps pursued more professionalization while the Army was engaged in combat operations in Vietnam, the position of Sergeant Major of the Army was established as well as the Command Sergeant Major program. Certainly, the Army experienced growing pains through the 1970s and 1980s where the role of the Command Sergeant Major was both controversial and being further refined. It wasn’t until 1990 that the role of the Command Sergeant Major and Sergeant Major were finally codified in Army publications. It was a result of the efforts of the Leader Development Task Force that helped truly define the core competencies of the Command Sergeant Major as “Be, Know, Do.”
Meat was put to bones on the core competencies during the crucible of combat during Desert Storm. CSM(R) Elder reveals that combat hardened Commanders had multiple comments on the effectiveness of Command Sergeant Majors and their being all over the area of operations, de-conflicting administrative and logistical problem sets, ensuring Soldiers were trained and ready for combat. The following is a summary Elder ultimately assessed as the five emerging functions of the Command Sergeant Major:
- Ensuring understanding of the Commander’s intent throughout the formation.
- Battle Field Circulation.
- Enforcing discipline and standards.
- Employing the NCO support chain to help solve Soldier problems.
- Communicate Soldier feedback to the Commander and staff.
So why the history lesson? Why wax on about the role of the Command Sergeant Major? Because, this will be the last issue of the 108th Training Command’s Griffon with Command Sergeant Major Robert Riti serving as the 108th Training Command’s Command Sergeant Major.
CSM Riti has served the Command as a shining example of what right looks like. He epitomizes and personifies the core attributes of “Be, Know, Do”. CSM Riti has spent 20 of his 40 year distinguished career in the position of Command Sergeant Major having served at every level from Battalion through his current position as a nominative two-star level command CSM. Moreover, he has served as Command Sergeant Major in both CONUS and deployed environments. Indeed, over the past two decades, CSM Riti contributed greatly to the defining of the position of Command Sergeant Major.
Throughout my career, I have had the distinct pleasure of serving with a number of Command Sergeant Majors; all excellent in their own right. But, as I’m sure you will agree, there is no one better than CSM Riti. I could not have asked for a better Battle Buddy with whom I would have the privilege of commanding alongside me at the 108th. CSM Riti was my trusted senior enlisted advisor. He was always close when I was faced with making difficult decisions affecting the Command, its Soldiers, Families and Civilians. I could always trust he would give me the unvarnished truth for which I was always grateful. Further, he actively communicated my intent on achieving Command readiness through leader development. He maintained his personal fitness, discipline and deployable status ready to take a PT test any day and was green in every readiness indicator. CSM Riti is a professional, trained and proficient in his warrior tasks and battle drills as evidenced by his achievement and wearing of the Combat Infantry Badge. His commitment to excellence and care for Soldiers and leaders as he worked through the NCO support chain to solve problems will serve as a lasting legacy for others to emulate. His impact and investment in others truly will be realized for decades to come. Honorable and humble, CSM Riti leads from the front as America’s Drill Sergeant! This We’ll Defend!
In sum, Command Sergeant Major Riti embodies and lives the Soldier’s Creed and Army values daily. It has been said, “old Soldiers never die, they just fade away.” Leaders come and go, but the Army keeps rolling along. Command Sergeant Major Riti has my highest respect and admiration as he culminates a career full of distinction upholding the highest traditions of the U.S. Army. He is a SOLDIER FOR LIFE.
I am an American Soldier. I am a warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army values. I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade. I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment, myself. I am an expert and I am a professional. I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. I am the guardian of freedom and the American way of life. I am an American Soldier.