Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey surprised a lot of soldiers at Fort Hood last week.
His presence didn’t surprise the soldiers — they knew he was coming. They knew he would be observing them train and, potentially, be asking them questions.
But what many soldiers didn’t expect was Dailey’s personality, his candid way of talking, peppered with jokes. In addition to training questions and what types of concerns they have, the highest-ranking enlisted soldier in the Army asked soldiers about their hometowns and what they liked about Central Texas.
In one exchange, a specialist told Dailey that many noncommissioned officers have their hands tied when it comes to disciplining soldiers. The “fear” factor is gone, the soldier said. Sergeants can’t “smoke” their soldiers anymore.
This is something I heard when I was in the Army 20 years ago.
In those days, there was a rumor that basic training had gotten soft because soldiers were allowed to hold up some kind of stress card if they thought a drill sergeant was being too rough on them.
I was interested to hear how Dailey would answer the question.
He said he hears what the soldier is saying, but he had to disagree with him to a point.
“We don’t lead by fear, we lead by example,” Dailey said, before going into details and examples.
He said he relies on “tough, demanding, realistic, physical training that gets soldiers ready for war.”
Furthermore, he said, “I have no more authority than a corporal in the United States Army.”
That may be true, because it is officers who have the final say when it comes to formal punishment and other decisions.
Dailey does, however, have a lot of influence.
For those soldiers who didn’t get the chance to ask the sergeant major of the Army a question, there is still a way to do so through the chain of command, said Command Sgt. Maj. Trevor Walker, the top enlisted soldier from 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which helped to host Dailey’s visit.
“He is a soldier’s soldier and values the feedback from the force,” Walker said of Dailey. “If soldiers have questions for the SMA, they can email them to their respective chains of command.
“The commands will first try and answer that soldier’s question then work to get the soldier an appropriate answer from the SMA.”