This article was a submission to the 2022 Cove Competition.
My mates call me Vinnie and these are my reflections of my posting as the Company Sergeant Major (CSM) of Alpha Company (A Coy) in 1st Recruit Training Battalion (1 RTB). I am writing this reflection as a story, so it flows. It is honest, it is brutal and is better read in the narratorial voice of Morgan Freeman. For this reflection to make any impact, I must start at the beginning when a young university student got recruited by a Vietnam veteran to join the Army. Standing in the hallways of A Coy, 2 Platoon (PL), this person who now is the CSM of A Coy, was questioning his life choices of whether he had made the right decision to join the Army. Fast forward from 2004 to 2022, now sitting in the CSM’s chair looking out the window, I can see most of 1 RTB, but more importantly the birthplace of this soldier, being A Coy lines.
They say, “It’s the journey that matters and not the destination.” To get to where I am today, I had to do some hard yards. I completed a posting to 1 RTB as a Corporal (CPL) and then as a Sergeant (SGT). Later in my career, I completed a posting to Army School of Health (ASH) followed by a posting to Royal Military College – Duntroon (RMC-D). Throughout these postings to training establishments, which were mostly as a result of service needs, success strongly tied into doing the right thing. A simple example being, treating the trainees with respect. Success also required a high standard of all-corps subject knowledge and an exceptional level of physical fitness to make a lasting impression on Army’s brand-new trainees. All these required hours and hours of practice, which to me meant the pursuit of excellence. Excellence is elusive, as I got better, I raised the bar higher. This meant that excellence is something that I will never snare. If someone says they have grasped excellence please refer them to me, and I will very respectfully assess their standard of excellence.
The CSM Chair
Before I commenced my role as a CSM at 1 RTB, I got congratulatory emails and phone calls from people with more rank than me. I did not celebrate this career milestone, as an opportunity to be a CSM in RMC-D was taken away from me even when I had cleared SM PAC. My mentality now was that I needed to be in the role for at least six months before I acknowledged that the job was truly mine. How was the job to start off with? Well, this is the magical bit. The RSM of 1 RTB created a culture of collaboration, cooperation, and authentic mateship. I am a tough person to break through to. I listen, I am obedient as these are requirements of being a good soldier. However, I am not easily influenced as a human. To me, being influenced is when someone changes your mindset or your belief system. It is when you go home or socialise with your mates and talk about the positive things a person has done to make the organisation and its people better.
How Did I End Up in This Role?
I know for a fact that I was a good medic. I wanted to continue being a medic, however, I have a good understanding that as a medic I can save one life or maybe three lives at the point of injury. For me this would have been an easy path. A path well-travelled and of the least resistance, however, as a result of service needs and potential identified to work in future roles, I have ended up as a CSM in an all-corps environment. In my current role, I can have a positive influence on forty-plus staff and two hundred-plus trainees, which puts me in a position to make numerous lives better thereby making a greater impact than being a lone medic on the ground.
The Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2) cohort at 1 RTB collaborate and cooperate. They go out of their ways to help each other. They do not hide information, they share it. Emotional intelligence is seen as a strength rather than a weakness. The young officers listen, they want to develop and grow. The PL SGT’s heavily invest in their recruits and CPLs. The CPLs work extreme hours to develop recruits, to support their peers within the company and the battalion. The recruits are the reason why we are employed here. It is the start of their soldiering journey, just like mine described above. Throughout their training, the recruits learn, make mistakes then learn from their mistakes. It is an exceptional privilege to have an input into the final product that marches off the parade ground upon completion of recruit training.
Information that is not true is fraudulent and fabricated. Due to the honesty in this reflection, there is an element of directness and a lack of humility. I was a slightly above average recruit. I was a good CPL because I was always in the trenches with the soldiers. I was a confused SGT, I supported command, yet I stuck up for the soldier in the trenches. As a CSM who enjoys reading and leading, I feel at least three thousand years old in my mind (Sir BH Liddell Hart). One of the many reasons why I have had success in my career is because of good people like the RSM mentioned above, who saw human potential and gave it an opportunity to grow and thrive.
These human investment dividends were evident in physical form during 1 RTB’s first march out parade of 2022. These brand new soldiers for Army, marched out from A Coy, 2 PL. 2 PL is where my career began. The parade commander for that parade was in the cohort of Staff Cadets (future officers) that I instructed whilst I was posted to RMC-D. That same afternoon, medics that I trained at ASH gave me my third vaccine for COVID-19. Invest in your subordinates, the future belongs to them. Leave the future in safe hands.
I had the honour of serving with Vinnie at 1RTB when he was a CPL, and he was well above the rating of 'good'. Pure humility.
Thank you for sharing your journey and knowledge with us mate. The staff and recruits who serve and work with you are the lucky ones.