FORT MEADE, Md. –
With tears filling her eyes, 1st Sgt. Tomeka Johnson-Nunn addressed a formation of Soldiers at the 200th Military Police Command, Headquarters and Headquarters Company’s Change of Responsibility ceremony, Sept. 8, 2018, Fort Meade, Maryland.
Johnson-Nunn served as the first sergeant of the unit for the last two years.
Johnson-Nunn believes in the “Be, Know, Do” model, an old-school approach to leadership, according to her: Be who you are and live your personal core values, Know the job expected of you, and Do what’s required.
Johnson-Nunn attributes her father, a retired command sergeant major, and mother, a former member of the Women’s Army Corps, for shaping her into the woman she is now.
“The values my family instilled in me at a young age, such as put God first, be honest, and treat others how you would like them to treat you, were instrumental in forming the leader I am today,” said Johnson-Nunn.
The first sergeant is a company’s highest-ranking enlisted member and is responsible for ensuring that a unit’s Soldiers train and prepare for deployment.
“The first sergeant is the lifeblood of the Army; there is no substitute of the position or any question of its importance,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jenifer Zitzke, third platoon sergeant and ceremony narrator. “Their principal duty is the training of Soldiers. When they are exceptional, their units are exceptional.”
Johnson-Nunn was selected to serve as HHC’s first sergeant to aggressively improve Soldier readiness numbers. Besides her old-school approach to leadership, Johnson-Nunn also brought self-awareness to the role.
She would often ask herself, “Are you well-rounded enough to be able to handle the things that arise as the senior advisor at this level?
“If you can’t put the mirror to your own face and look at yourself, then that’s a problem. You have to be able to recognize your strengths and your weakness, and be able to fix yourself,” said Johnson-Nunn.
This was her second time as first sergeant of HHC. She previously held the position in 2010, a time when she was new to the senior enlisted ranks. She saw an opportunity to grow into the leader she wanted to be.
However, the increasing demands of an advancing civilian career and personal family matters impeded her ability to grow as much as she wanted in that role.
“I don’t like to half-perform. Either I am going to do it, and I am going to do it with everything that I am, or I am not going to do it at all.”
In 2016, Johnson-Nunn was asked to return to improve the company in its monthly and quarterly statistics, which provide a snapshot to higher echelons of the Army. She immediately set her focus on identifying areas where she could make the most impact.
“I came back into the situation and saw how people were currently operating, identified changes that needed to be made and determined the best method to approach Soldiers in a way that would motivate them to meet standards.”
Adages like, “when you always do the harder right versus the easy wrong you are going to come out on the right side,” “work smarter, not harder” and “be firm but fair,” are staples in her value toolbox when undertaking difficult situations.
“It has been difficult but always gratifying,” she said.
Johnson-Nunn attributes her staff and her Soldiers in the overall success as first sergeant.
She relied on her Soldiers in those subtle moments when the road ahead seemed difficult. Moments such as when one Soldier yelled, “Good morning first sergeant” at the top of her lungs at first formation, or the Soldier who sought her guidance on personal life decisions.
Johnson-Nunn often shares her belief of “it takes a village,” which refers to the people in your life who help you reach your potential.
During the ceremony, she tearfully thanked her village: Soldiers she led, peers she depended on, leaders who mentored her, and the family and friends who supported her.
“Thank you for challenging me and making me want to be a better first sergeant,” she said.
To the incoming first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Zachary Wriston, Johnson-Nunn said, “I leave to you one of the best units in the Army. May you continue to help us improve, taking us from where we are to where you see us going.”