The new ASA(ALT) sergeant major’s first 90 days
Change seems to be an everyday occurrence within our Army. At the helm of Army change is the Soldier, led by very capable noncommissioned officers. From the very beginnings of our Army, senior leaders have recognized the value and importance of NCOs. In 1776, GEN George Washington established the position of sergeant major as part of our first standardized regiments. Later, during the winter of 1778 at Valley Forge, PA, Inspector General Friedrich von Steuben first defined the duties and responsibilities of NCOs in a regulation historically known as the “Blue Book.”
Although the Army no longer has a “von Steuben” to define roles of newly created NCO positions such as mine, it does have a history of excellence within its NCO Corps and talented officer and civilian leaders to shape what I see as an influential role that has long been vacant. The vision of an excellent leadership team, and the advice and influence of the world’s finest NCO Corps, will define how, in this position, I can best serve our acquisition team and Soldiers.
I am honored and humbled to serve as the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)) sergeant major, and I appreciate the warm welcome I have received from the team. I am grateful to Ms. Heidi Shyu, LTG Michael E. Williamson and Mr. Gabe Camarillo for having the confidence in me to serve in such a critical and strategic position as your sergeant major.
I am often asked how I would like to be introduced during speaking events. I understand that, more often than not, this introduction is done to provide the audience a little bit of relevance and credibility as to why I am speaking in the first place. Therefore, please allow me to introduce myself to our ASA(ALT) team. I am Rory Malloy, born and raised in a small town in southern Indiana where I met my best friend, Deborah, in the fourth grade. I married her shortly after joining the Army 30 years ago. My wife and I are blessed to be the parents of two wonderful young adults and are thrilled to finally be grandparents.
I am an infantryman and have served on the line for the majority of my career, in virtually every leadership position my career field offers, from machine gunner to command sergeant major. Should you be further interested in the details, my complete biography is on the ASA(ALT) website at http://www.army.mil/asaalt.
A FIELD SOLDIER’S VIEW
Like most leaders, I have been groomed to perform an organizational assessment within my first 90 days in position. As expected, my assessment comes through the lens of a person who has viewed life and the Army through a field Soldier’s optics. My views are based not only on what I see now but also on what I saw when my Soldiers and I used the products produced by the acquisition workforce. Those views have been both expanded and tempered through my engagements with the leadership from across the Army. I truly know the value the acquisition team brings to the fight. As a battalion, brigade and division command sergeant major, I saw how the equipment provided by the acquisition team gave my Soldiers and the Army the tools for success on the battlefield. In that light, the theme for this edition of Army AL&T magazine, “Revamping acquisition,” is a most appropriate focus for my first topic.
Our sole purpose—and literally our reason for existence—is to equip our Army and the Soldier with the capability to destroy our enemies and win any war when asked by our nation. The Soldier is, and always will be, the focal point of all decisions and recommendations I may provide about products and processes. We must never lose sight of the fact that our customer is the American Soldier. When in doubt about priorities or what direction to take, ask yourself, “How does this help the Soldier?”
Feedback and communication are vital to our processes. Without effective, two-way communication between us and our customers, we will be working in a vacuum and they will be operating in a fog. My number one priority is opening up effective two-way communication. My first task in this effort is to start by communicating to the force what we do and how we do it. Secondly, I will work across all of our programs to develop ways to better receive timely and relevant input from the force we ultimately serve. Only by solidifying this critical information and feedback loop can we develop and acquire the tools the force needs to execute their missions.
This may seem like a simple enough task. However, as most of you may have experienced, there are difficult hurdles that must be overcome. I have already mentioned the first: a lack of education on our processes. The force must know our processes so it knows how and when to inject feedback into the system. The second hurdle is effectively engaging strategically important players to our process, not the least of which is the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). As the architect for the Army, TRADOC formally develops and provides the requirements that tell us what capabilities the force needs. The blueprint TRADOC draws comprises the design plans from which we must build.
Lastly, and what I hold as the highest hurdle, is receiving Soldier feedback—ground truth—about what we have done. This occurs when we both test and send to the force the products we develop and acquire. Only with this feedback can we ensure that what we have done meets that formally defined capability and the needs of our Soldiers. We must actively pursue that feedback. We must give Soldiers a voice in the process.
FROM GROUND TRUTH TO ACTION
For years, people attempted to convince me that 48 pounds of lightweight infantry gear was indeed lightweight, and perhaps even lighter than 48 pounds. Trust me, they never convinced me. I am sure all who have deployed will agree: The Army must reduce the quantity and weight of the “lightweight” equipment it expects Soldiers to carry on the battlefield.
During a recent visit to Fort Bragg, NC, I met with LTC Mark Purdy, a deputy brigade commander in the 82nd Airborne Division. We discussed several challenges his Soldiers faced during their most recent deployment to Afghanistan. His concerns ranged from personal equipment load to the Army’s ability to expeditiously deploy necessary equipment.
I left Fort Bragg with some useful recommendations. He offered a holistic approach to reducing Soldier loads by developing systems that could use universal or interchangeable parts. By fielding systems such as radios, vehicles and even weapons that could use the same batteries for power or charging, the Army could reduce a Soldier’s individual load and the need to carry more spares than necessary on missions. Obviously, there are design challenges in achieving this goal, but, by listening to these challenges, recognizing and meeting them, we could enhance the effectiveness of our Soldiers on the battlefield.
Another fruitful benefit of our exchange was informing LTC Purdy about the progress we have made in specific areas of concern to him. He was pleased to hear about our efforts to lighten his Soldiers’ load with improved rucksacks and longer-range radios. He also expressed how valuable a recent visit from a program manager (PM) was for him and his Soldiers. The visit allowed them the opportunity to provide valuable feedback on where our rubber meets their road. I was most pleased that he felt that what his people said was taken seriously by our PM. This tells me that we know how to communicate—we just need to do more of it.
I will continue to seek out and use such conversations and this magazine to discuss with the force how we can better serve and inform the Soldier. I will also reach within, to members of our own acquisition team, to do the same. My email address is email@example.com, if anyone has a concern that he or she wants to raise with me.
I live by the adage that “good enough” is the archenemy of excellence. We can always do better. By leveraging input from the force and our own internal talents, I am sure we can effectively revamp acquisition processes to serve those who deserve the best even better. Change is never easy, but if it were easy, it wouldn’t be called work.
Thank you all for what you do on a daily basis. We have the best Army in the world because of the efforts of this great team. As a lifelong infantryman, I am sincerely honored and proud to now serve alongside the Soldiers, NCOs, officers and civilians of the Army Acquisition Workforce. My promise to each of you is that I will work tirelessly with you and our stakeholders to meet the highest goals and standards that have been laid out for us. Army Strong!
SGM RORY L. MALLOY assumed duties as the sergeant major to the principal military deputy, ASA(ALT) on Nov. 5, 2014. He holds an MBA in human resource management, summa cum laude, from Trident University International and a B.S., cum laude, in business management from Excelsior University. He has served in every infantryman leadership position from team leader to sergeant major, including 12 years as a command sergeant major, drill sergeant, Drill Sergeant of the Year, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) senior instructor, operations sergeant, battalion command sergeant major (Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 1, 2003-04), brigade combat team command sergeant major (OIF 4, 06-07), Junior ROTC and Fort Polk, LA, post command sergeant major, division command sergeant major (OIF 09-10) and the 20th commandant (second enlisted commandant), U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.
This article was originally published in the April – June 2015 issue of Army AL&T magazine.