Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey knew exactly where he was going when he was a senior enlisted soldier during the Iraq War. Year in and year out, he was either preparing for one of his four Iraq deployments or he was doing one.
The Army he leads now no longer has that certainty. It is sending smaller groups of soldiers to places such as West Africa and South Korea while continuing to juggle commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, it’s also in the midst of a sweeping drawdown that’s cutting positions for tens of thousands of active-duty soldiers every year.
That’s why Dailey’s main charge as the 15th sergeant major of the U.S. Army centers on training flexible junior officers and noncommissioned officers who can prepare for the unexpected.
“If you want to build an Army of the future, especially if you have to get smaller, it’s key that we invest in people,” he said.
Dailey, 42, is visiting Joint Base Lewis-McChord this week on his first trip to a domestic military installation outside Washington, D.C., since he took office Jan. 30. He held a town hall for soldiers, visited a sexual assault response center and participated in a conference for Army medical officers from Western states.
Between appoinments, Dailey spoke with The News Tribune on Tuesday.
Q: I’m noticing a lot of anxiety about the drawdown. What do Army families need to know about serving in a small Army?
A: That’s a genuine concern for soldiers. My clear message to soldiers is there’s plenty of room in the United States Army for soldiers who want to stay.
If you want to stay, you’ve got to stay out of trouble, you have to stay physically fit, you’ve got to do well in school, and you have to go after self-development opportunities. As we draw down, everyone agrees, we have to keep the best.
Q: How are Army families doing after spending so much time apart during the long wars?
Having been a recipient of those long deployments, even myself four in a row, you feel the strains and the pressures on the family. There are some things that are irreplaceable, and one of them is the presence of a mother or a father for a significant amount of time. It takes time post-war, post-deployment, to help rebuild.
Some of the great things we’ve done to help our soldiers cope and families cope is the great behavioral health family programs and soldier programs that we’ve extended since we’ve been in this business.
We’ve broadened behavioral health services all the way down to the operational level, down to battalion level and that’s really, really getting rid of the stigma about utilization of those services.
In the old days, when you went to behavioral health, you went to the fifth floor of a hospital. Now it’s right there. Senior leaders are using it; their peers are using. It’s what I consider the day-to-day.
Q: I understand you’re telling soldiers that you don’t have priorities. You’re saying you have initiatives to meet Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno’s priorities. What are those initiatives?
A: The chief of staff’s No. 1 priority is training adaptive leaders for a complex world. The future is going to be much different (from the large Army deployments of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars). It’s going to be smaller deployments, as we see now, geographically aligned with our (foreign) partners.
We need to be able to institute mission command, delegate authority down to very low levels, as we move out now on smaller deployments with decentralized operations.
Q: What do you tell a first sergeant or platoon sergeant to prepare for those assignments?
A: First and foremost, don’t get overwhelmed with the exorbitant amount of requirements that could be out there based upon where you could end up some day. Soldiers have always and will always perform well when trained to standard on the basic requirements we need a soldier to do.
So get up every morning and make sure your soldiers are physically fit. That builds not only physical but also mental resiliency.
Make sure they can do their basic soldier skills, that they can fire their weapons, do land navigation. Those are small investments over time that have huge gains in a combat environment.
And make sure you read your commanders’ training guides. They have already delineated these are the things I need you to focus on. And then it’s pretty simple from there.
Q: In the next few years, what do you see ahead for JBLM and Army Pacific?
A: These are my boys and girls out on the Western front. It’s a critical and key piece of terrain.
The best part of it i,s families love it here. Probably one of my only problems here is getting people to leave this place. Soldiers want to live here, they want to be here.