Among the small percentage of service members who attain the rank of E-9, the military’s highest enlisted rank, a few exceptional individuals serve in an even higher capacity. In the Army, the command sergeant major, or CSM, is the most senior enlisted leader in the command, assigned to advocate for the enlisted soldiers and advise the commanding officer in all matters pertaining to enlisted personnel.
The Defense Logistics Agency’s senior enlisted leader, Army Command Sgt. Major Charles Tobin, addressed about 60 senior enlisted personnel at the Combined Arms Support Command in Fort Lee, Virginia, Feb. 16. The group consisted mostly of E-8 and E-9 service members representing the quartermaster, transportation and ordnance specialties. Topics of his discussion ranged from a DLA overview, to advice on navigating the joint environment to thoughts on military life and career.
“I had no idea I would become the command sergeant major for DLA,” Tobin said. “It’s not something you can really plan for.”
He went on to advise the soldiers not to worry about their next assignment. “Just do the best you can in your current position. Always give 110 percent and one day, you may be selected to become a CSM.”
Tobin went so far as to predict that someone sitting in the audience would one day serve as CSM for CASCOM. “Always bring your experience with the warfighter to your job,” Tobin said. “And be ready to make the right decisions when you become a sergeant major.”
Tobin shared the four principles he has used to guide his 34-year career:
- Trust: Show confidence in the folks around you.
- Relationships: Respect everyone and maintain strong relationships.
- Reputation: Take care of your people and give every assignment your all.
- Credibility: Your integrity and trustworthiness are your most important assets.
Tobin also advised the group to adopt his “three A’s” style of leadership: approachable, accessible and available.
In telling the DLA story, Tobin described the agency as a desirable joint assignment for enlisted soldiers with logistics backgrounds. To emphasize his remarks, Tobin invited Army Sgt. First Class Yadriana Kavitz to address the group about her job working in the Joint Logistics Operations Center at DLA. Kavitz, in the 12th year of her Army career, started working for DLA about six months ago.
Tobin warned about soldiers getting too comfortable at DLA, however. “If you serve time at DLA, I will not extend your stay here and I don’t want you to retire here,” he said. “I want to send you back to your service so you can take the DLA story back to your units.”
Tobin ended his 90-minute presentation with a personal story about the importance of family to a military career. “I want you to go home tonight and thank your family for the sacrifices they make for your career and for our country,” he said. “It’s important that we always remember to do that.”