Story and photo by Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Lawn
1st Sustainment Command (Theater) Public Affairs
KABUL, Afghanistan – “As a sustainer, now is the time to be here,” said Sgt. Maj. James M. Lambert, the 1st Theater Sustainment Command’s senior enlisted adviser for the 1st TSC, Afghanistan.
Lambert joined the 1st TSC, June 24, 2013. His duties as the sergeant major not only encompass the sustainment and retrograde mission, but also entail all enlisted soldier matters, which include Soldier training, leader development, family readiness and the individual Soldier’s quality of life.
Command Sgt. Maj. Charles M. Tobin, senior enlisted soldier for the entire 1st TSC, described the complexities of the 1st TSC and the active component and reserve soldiers that comprise the forward element of the command. Tobin is clear about his decision to bring Lambert to Afghanistan.
“The 1st TSC is a diverse organization. It is a split-base operation between three locations; Fort Bragg, Afghanistan and Kuwait, and covers six million square miles,” said Tobin.“Due to the complexity and spread of the command, I realized that I needed a senior enlisted leader to assist me to stay connected with our soldiers and strategic partners.”
To help manage the command, Tobin needed someone to be the right-hand man for the 1st TSC Deputy Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Duane Gamble, who was also selected to lead the command in Afghanistan. Tobin needed a senior enlisted leader forward, someone with command level leadership experience.
Lambert is by all rights and definition, an Army leader. He is a 30-year veteran of the Army Reserves prior to arriving at the 1st TSC. He served as the interim command sergeant major of the Army Reserve and United States Army Reserve Command in the Active Guard Reserve program, the most senior enlisted position in the Army Reserve.
Professionally he had held the highest position or rank an enlisted reserve soldier can attain and he had accomplished his career goals, he wasn’t ready to retire. “I was hoping to have a follow-on assignment,” Lambert said. When the position for the sergeant major of the 1st TSC (forward) came open, he jumped at the opportunity to continue to serve soldiers.
“I personally selected Sgt. Maj. Lambert from a pool of candidates,” said Tobin. “He was selected due to his leadership ability, character, passion and commitment to continue to serve,” Tobin added.
Being an adviser to Gamble, and heading to Kabul, he was well aware of what he was getting into. Lambert said he knew what the 1st TSC was getting ready to go through.
“I was in Afghanistan on a recent visit and received an overview of the force projections,” he said.
Lambert compared the upcoming mission to some very large buckets that needed to be filled. The soldiers of the 1st TSC have a number of large and complex missions coming up, – Sustain the forces, retrograde and redeployment, and base closure and transfer of authority,” he said.
Lambert not only needs to succeed at his concept of mission accomplishment, but he also has to follow through with the 1st TSC’s assessment.“It’s straightforward; we will remain vigilant, disciplined and maintain our standards,” Tobin said. I remain optimistic that we will be successful as we execute, both sustainment and retrograde throughout the Combined Joint Operational Area-Afghanistan, said Tobin when discussing his expectations of Lambert.
“It’s fascinating to see and be part of the planning and coordination of the sustainment and retrograde mission in Afghanistan,” said Lambert. The focus from the media is usually on the individual warfighter. Lambert described how the sustainment mission and soldier is something that is often overlooked. The individual warfighter stands out, what most people don’t see is what goes on behind that soldier to make him successful in his or her mission.
“One of the best things about being here is being on the ground with soldiers, serving soldiers,” said Lambert.
Lambert said his goal is to see that the soldiers in his charge accomplish the sustainment and retrograde mission in the most cohesive manner and to make sure that higher headquarters objectives are met. While helping soldiers grow personally and professionally.
“His (Lambert’s) door is always open,” said 1st Sgt Rebecca Gerber, company first sergeant, headquarters company, forward. She added, “Sgt. Maj. Lambert is one of the better sergeants major because he truly cares for his soldiers.”
Gerber said that as the first sergeant it is her duty is to take a lot of the day-to-day unit taskings off of his plate, to allow him to focus on the mission and provide her guidance or soldier mentorship.
“He really does care about your career, Soldier Self Development modules, college, plans and goals,” said Gerber.
For Lambert, soldiers growing personally and professionally mean more than just college and schools, it means being well-rounded, and includes a variety of assignments and experiences. He also discussed values and respect. In this, Lambert was resolute; 1st TSC leaders and personnel must treat everyone with dignity and respect. For Lambert, respect is the most important Army Value.
“Respect is absolute; the one value I talk the most about, every discussion, every brief, regardless of rank or position; treat everyone as a human being,” he said.
Lambert feels that it is his duty to encourage and remind senior leaders in the 1st TSC that we are here to lead and to serve our service members, civilian personnel and units. Lambert has zero tolerance for harassment and toxic leadership toward the unit’s soldiers and leaders.
For Lambert, all soldiers, enlisted and officer alike, active and reserve, represent the 1st TSC.
“Lamberts’s biggest challenge, will be to find the time to visit every soldier on the battlefield. Tell them how proud the we are of their service and sacrifice,” said Tobin.
“One of the truly great things about the 1st TSC in Afghanistan is its unit cohesiveness, Lambert added. “Active and reserve, truly do merge into one organization to be the 1st TSC, Afghanistan. In passing, you can’t tell who is active component and who is reserve. The active duty value the reserves capabilities, they appreciate what the reserve forces bring to the table, in experience, and know-how,” Lambert said.
For Lambert, the active-duty and reserve soldiers of the 1st TSC have a task, he has no doubt the soldiers can accomplish.
1st TSC must manage the responsible retrograde of U.S. equipment from Afghanistan, while continuing to sustain the “train, advise and assist mission.” Accomplishing the retrograde is vital to the success of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and preparing U.S. forces for future operations.