The Command Sergeant Major Never Smiles…

By Master Sgt. Dave Thompson | 4th Expeditionary Sustainment Command | March 28, 2016

March 28, 2016 — He is the ruthless enforcer of all things Army, the wisest of them all, the leader of Soldiers. The CSM calls down the thunder, his decisions are irrefutable, his voice resounds long after he’s left the room.
Legend has it that the command sergeant major never smiles. This is not entirely true. Within the storied history of the U.S. Army, Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Swanson, Senior Enlisted Advisor with the 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) is perhaps the one exception to this myth. Or is he…?

The 4th ESC, an Army Reserve unit from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, has been deployed for over seven months as the Operational Command Post for the 1st Theater Sustainment Command. They provide logistics support and sustainment for all U.S. and allied warfighters within the Central Command region. Swanson travels extensively across the battlespace visiting his Soldiers spread over six countries throughout the Middle East.

Here, he stands resolute, hand on hip, trademark coffee cup held closely and guarded. With his eagle eyes shrouded from the sun, he keenly scans left to right, searching his subjects; looking for that one poor wretched soul with a string dangling from a pocket or patch positioned a hair’s breadth off center.

His hat – battered and creased into his version of a ranger roll – is a warrior’s hat, proudly emblazoned with the star and wreath insignia of The Command Sergeant Major. Competence is his watch-word, his very awe-inspiring image wreaks of a man in charge of something…of many things.

Yet, beneath the battle-tested rugged exterior and blustering shrieks, lies a beating heart that truly cares. Swanson personifies care and compassion for his troops. They know it without question, they believe in him and they follow him wherever he leads. He tells them that he loves them and his promise to bring each of them home safely is his driving passion. He aims to make good on his words.
He speaks often about dignity and respect and takes the time to ask his Soldiers how their families are doing back home. He recently strapped on a 25 pound ruck sack and powered through 15 grueling miles along a dusty road march trail flanked by two of the youngest Soldiers in his formation.

“I’m no spring chicken,” he said after completing the road march, his face sweaty and sunburned. “But it was important for my Soldiers to see me out there suffering along with them.”

And the smile…. Well, it’s difficult to know if it is even a smile. While it may look like a smile and to all appearances most would agree it’s a smile, he is the Command Sergeant Major, and it’s only a smile if he says it’s a smile.