Written by Crystal Blackwell Tyson on November 20, 2020.
The Army has a way of connecting two of the most unlikeliest people to make a great command match! Months ago, I met the Garrison Commander, COL Pick, and noted how his personality and demeanor is what is needed for the Fort Gordon Community. And now, I've had the opportunity to meet the right-hand man to the commander, Garrison Command Sergeant Major, Brent J. Smith – a perfect match for the Command Team. His message is simple, "We are Gordon!"
Hailing from Waldo, Arkansas, CSM Smith served 3 years in Arkansas' Army National Guard before going active duty in December 1992. Serving as a Combat Medic until April of 1999, he then decided to reclass as a 25B – Information Technology Specialist. CSM has hit every rung on the leadership ladder, from squad leader to BN CSM, spending much of his time on Fort Gordon in different trainings and duty assignments. Not only is he the Garrison CSM but he is also a student, currently completing his Bachelor of Science degree in Information System Security with a concentration in Cybersecurity Management. His wife Cassandra, also from Arkansas, has been along for the journey from day one, impressing on him a sense of community and family values. CSM and his wife have been married for 29 years and share 3 sons and 3 granddaughters.
CSM's southern charm and humor was on display during the interview while we laughed at the friendly photoshoot competition as photographer, Dante Burgos, was jokingly instructed to make CSM’s photoshoot better than COL Pick's. Even office employees displayed a sense of respectful humor while completing tasks and receiving orders. The environment was light but busy. As we walked through to the conference room, you could tell there was a shift of seriousness when we began to discuss things that were important to CSM. In that conversation, his message of "We are Gordon" became visibly clear.
CSM spoke of the disruption and changes of everyone's lives with the 2020 COVID pandemic. "Fort Gordon is a great place. This is a great community. The installation and community did a wonderful job adapting to the many changes and trials that came along in 2020. We are about to go into a huge transition in 2021. What I need the entire Fort Gordon Community to know is we must go into this together as a team, with a strong sense of community. Moving forward, together as a community, we will be able to tackle what’s to come."
What are some things to come [in the near future]?
Fort Gordon is starting to transform with buildings and gates going up. Waves of new people coming in. Traffic patterns will be changed coming soon. We are modifying some roads and with the new gate, we have to start looking and planning how it will affect both on and off post. We have to be patient with one another, as it will be frustrating. But bring your neighbor forward. If we all work together, it will become less irritating. We can’t go back to the way things were, but [we can] prepare for a "new norm".
What does bring your neighbor forward mean?
Bring your neighbor forward means to take care of one another. Help where you can. If you see you can lift someone up, do it. Start to communicate between one another. A lot of things were closed because of COVID. We are trying to open up as much and as safely as we can. Start enjoying some of those things. We need to grow together and flourish together. Attend events and start to share new ideas on what we can do and how to make things better. It’s important to share our feelings on what’s going on. That’s huge to me. My intent is to get out in the community and talk to everyone, observe things, and see what I can do to assist things in growth relations.
What would you say is your job as Garrison CSM?
I would say being Garrison CSM is a little bit of everything. It involves the community. I say community because you have your units, operations of TRADOC, management, assisting COL Pick with balancing priorities across the board – providing him feedback – being his eyes and ears of what I observe. And then, as I’ve said before, making sure to build on the relationship of Fort Gordon and our outside partners: civic leaders, the towns of Augusta, Grovetown, Hepzibah, Harlem and Evans. Even Aiken, so a lot of the CSRA. I can’t stress community enough.
If you could create a theme while in the position, what would it be?
I think coming in, [after] being here for a little while, I want people to have a sense of representing what Fort Gordon is and will be. "We are Gordon!" That’s the motto I want to move forward with. We – not I. Working together to uphold the standard and abide by guidelines.
You’ve been married your entire military career. You have 3 boys and now 3 granddaughters. Do your granddaughters get CSM or is it just Papa?
Oh, my babies get the nice easy-going side of Papa. I think I’ve only taken one or two pictures with my granddaughters in uniform. By time they are teenagers, I’ll be retired and they will know that I was in [the Army]. But when I am with my family, it is complete downtime. I step away and give them their time.
Seems like family is very important to you.
Family is very important. I would not be here today, if it weren’t for my family. Sometime you can have conversation with your family that you can’t have with your battle buddies. There’s times when you get up in the morning and just feel like you can’t do it today. Waking up to your spouse, getting those hugs and kisses from your loved ones, that makes all the difference in the world and how you go about your day. That’s why I stress the importance of the community and DFMWR. Not only is it my job to take care of soldiers. But I need the families taken care of to assist in taking care of the soldier.
You have history here (Fort Gordon)?
Yes, I do. My history started here in 1999. I graduated as a 25B and moved on to Fort Stewart, then to Belgium, Fort Campbell, back to Germany, Fort Bliss, Peterson Air Force Base and Fort Carsen, and then back here in 2015.
What’s been your favorite role in the many duty stations you’ve had?
(Thinking for a while) I wouldn’t say favorite. I would say I really hit my growth point in the last 2 years as SSG. Things started to click with me when my mentors start challenging me about knowing how to take care of myself while taking care of soldiers. Pulling me out of my comfort zones, there was a growth in that. Encouraging me to mentor and guide, while holding me accountable. Giving me corrections and push when I needed. They invested in me. I start to pay it forward with my soldiers and others [soldiers], helping to shape them. It was very impactful for me.
SO what is your leadership style?
I’m not going to say I have any particular leadership style. I think you have to know how to lead compassionately, diplomatically, and sternly. Being able to compromise, while some may say you shouldn’t compromise, it’s important to be able to listen and alter how you need to if needed.
What programs are near and dear to your heart?
There is a lot for me to choose from. I talked about things to do in the community and (DF)MWR is a big part of that. We have a lot of people (that) don’t know about what’s to do here. Pointes West, fishing, horseback riding, bowling. For me, when I was a young SSG, Child & Youth Service was where I volunteered and coached. Got my kids involved in baseball and it helped out in so many different ways with them being able to socialize. When the time comes, we will be able to do that again. (Laughing) Dinner Theatre opened back up and that’s a great way to ditch the kids for mom and dad.
There was much more to this interview. The sum being, "Be a good steward of the Army, of the military really - we have joint services here. We have to make sure we support the MPs, emergency servants, and DDEAMC. Just the entire community. If we all take on the motto, ‘We are Gordon’ I think we will go far!"