January 7, 2016 –
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - - Command Sgt. Maj. Luther Thomas, Jr., 12th Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army Reserve, and wife Deloris, bid farewell to colleagues and friends during a dinner in his honor at the Iron Mike Conference Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 7, 2016.
Over the past three years, Thomas has been the top enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve, serving as the principal adviser to Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, commanding general, U.S. Army Reserve, for all enlisted matters
As Thomas moves on in his military career, positioned to serve as the senior enlisted adviser to the assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs, he reflected fondly on his time in command.
“What I'm most proud of are the Soldiers of the U.S. Army Reserve. The men and women, 199,000-plus strong, who stand ready to mobilize and deploy anywhere in the world,” Thomas said.
Thomas gave quick reference and admiration to what he calls, the best Soldiers in the military.
“Gen. Patton once said 'the Army is only as good as its Soldiers' and our Soldiers are among the best in our Army, and if people ever question that, I'll always remind them that two of the last three years the Army non-commissioned officer of the year came from the United States Army Reserve Command,” he said.
As Thomas smirked about the winners of the Best Warrior Competition, guest started to fill the dining room.
In attendance were Lt. Gen. Talley, who served as host, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Russell Smith, command chief warrant officer, U.S. Army Reserve, and a host of others to include some former U.S. Army Reserve Command Sergeant Majors like Sgt. Maj. Michael D. Shultz, 11th Command Sgt. Maj., U.S. Army Reserve.
The meaning of the position held by Thomas and Shultz remained a significant factor and point of highlight.
“You are representing the enlisted force out there,” said Shultz. “Its serving at a strategic level and now more than 50 percent of the Army is in the Army Guard and Reserve.”
Thomas was quick to concur with Shultz, adding the benefits he gained personally while in the position.
“It helped me grow immensely,” Thomas said..
“At this level you begin to see things that you don't see as a non-commissioned officer at any other level,” Thomas said. “You get to see how strategy is formulated, how it is worked out, how the resources for that strategy are planned, and it helps you to be able to go to the field , and explain to Soldiers when they don't understand something, why things are the way they are.”
When asked what made Thomas successful at his position of Command Sgt. Maj., Shultz replied instantly, as if it's a formulated recipe for positive outcomes.
“The bottom line is, whatever your leadership style is, go with your leadership style. Don't try to be like anyone else, use your leadership style that got you to where you are and continue to do that to be successful, and thats what he did during his tenure,” Shultz said.
Thomas will relinquish command to Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Wills, who will succeed Thomas as interim Command. Sgt. Maj. of the U.S. Army Reserve, at a change of command ceremony Jan. 8, at Fort Bragg.
One request to the Soldiers he feels so proud of lingered before Thomas prepared to leave his position.
“I would ask every Soldier to ask themselves one question, are you ready? You can't have trained and ready units without trained and ready Soldiers, so I'd ask every Soldier to take personal responsibility of their individual readiness and to be ready to deploy and defend our nation at all times,” said Thomas.
His new position as senior enlisted adviser to the assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs should provide an opportune vantage point to gage if the Soldiers rise to the challenge of his question.