Feb, 15, 2012 - Command Sgt. Maj. David Thompson, command sergeant
major of the 101st Sustainment Brigade, stands proudly next to the
Designated Unit Insignia he created for the brigade. Photo by Army
Sgt. 1st Class Peter Mayes
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (2/18/2012) - From the moment he arrived at the
101st Airborne Division in 2007, the 101st Sustainment Brigade was
the unit that Command Sgt. Maj. David Thompson said he wanted to
"I was so happy to be at Fort Campbell, but looking
across the post as a logistician, I was always looking for the
sustainment brigade. That was the dream brigade job, and we all know
as far as logicians go, the 101st Sustainment Brigade is the
premiere sustainment brigade," he said. "There were 12 of us
interviewing for this job ... I felt just blessed because it was a
dream come true."
Twenty-six after he first took the oath of
enlistment, Thompson has finally arrived at the finish line,
preparing to look at life beyond the Army and his "dream job" this
week when he steps down as the Lifeliners brigade highest ranking
senior non-commissioned officer during a Change of Responsibility
Ceremony at the Brigade headquarters.
His philosophy of "Surrounding himself with Excellence"
and sharing that mindset with his fellow senior
non-commissioned officers prior to their year-long
deployment to Afghanistan in 2010- helped pave the way for
the brigade's successful mission. The philosophy paid
handsome dividends for the "Lifeliners" as the brigade set
records for aerial delivery to forward operating bases in
Regional Commands, East, North and Capitol, while also
helping lay the groundwork for coalition forces' exit from
Afghanistan in 2014 with the Northern Distribution Network.
The ease in which Thompson speaks of the Lifeliners is
effortless. Since arriving to the brigade in August 2010,
the command sergeant major has focused on two agendas:
working with Brigade Commander Col. Michael Peterman in
leaving the footprint better than they found it, and
continuing to instill pride in the unit.
said getting the brigade to buy into the philosophy was
challenging, considering the deployment team was not fully
formed when he arrived. Being a sustainment brigade in an
Army unit as storied as the 101st Airborne Division meant
always proving yourself to units who might not always fully
comprehend the importance of your mission.
say 'surrounding yourself with excellence,' I mean making
decisions on ensuring that our main mission on this
deployment was doing everything we had trained in our
careers for and really shine as a brigade," he said. "I
think that's why I personally thrive during deployments and
I always had mixed feelings when it came to the [Transfer of
Authority] when leaving, because everyone's excited to get
back home and see family and normalcy, but the mission of
our headquarters downrange was over."
"I can't say
enough about the accomplishments of this team. They exceeded
the expectation of [Peterman] and myself. The phenomenal
assets we have in this brigade, both officers and NCO... this
is the "A Team", and it made a huge difference with all of
our missions downrange," he said.
inevitably turns back to relinquishing responsibility of the
brigade, and life after the Army. Thompson said he has the
same mixed feelings about the end of his career that he had
during the TOA ceremony at Bagram Air Field: excited at the
start of a normalcy, but realizing that this chapter of his
life will be complete.
"You don't what hits you when
you start spreading the gear out that you've accumulated
after 26 years and realize you've got to take name tags
off," he said. "I pulled a footlocker out and found two
field jackets - the old Battle Dress Uniform field jackets -
that I hadn't seen probably in 10 years. It was a rush of a
memory down memory lane. Then I started thinking about
coming in and being amazed that somebody saw fit to take a
country kid and make him a command sergeant major, and at
the 101st Sustainment Brigade at that. It's a huge sense of
pride of an accomplishment that I was able to achieve."
He said he considers himself, "a country kid from West
Virginia," although he has roots in Ohio. Thompson graduated
from Marshall University and enlisted in the Army in 1987 as
a Specialist. With his college degree, he could have easily
began his career in the officers ranks.
"When I came
in, the last rip of the officers drawdown had begun, so they
weren't knocking door to take soldiers into the ranks," he
said. "During that Cold War period, we had reduced numbers
down so much I didn't realize then what my degree was worth
and what other possibilities were out there. I had jut
pinned Sergeant, and once I became an NCO, there was no
Thompson also said during that time,
NCOs were not pushing their soldiers through the ranks.
"They were great coaches, teachers and mentors, teaching us
all the basics of the Cold War Army, the attention to detail
things, but they were not educated. My sergeant could not
read nor write, and I wrote all of the counseling statements
for his platoon. He would put his finger on the top of the
pen when I had to sign his name," Thompson said.
was not until 1989 when the Army mandated that Soldiers have
at least a GED, Thompson said. "To see the Army's
non-commissioned officer corps go from leaders who cold not
read nor write to one where today's NCOs have masters
degree's, and in some cases working on their doctorates, is
Thompson said he prided himself on now
allowing himself to fall behind the changes in the Army.
"When we first went to computers and digital forms, I made
sure I stayed relevant," he said. "I didn't want to be that
CSM who was not literate enough to communicate down and up.
I didn't want NCOs to be looked down upon any longer,
because they were back in the 1980s. It was odd then how the
officers looked down on the enlisted corps, and I found it
to be embarrassing. And I saw the embarrassment on the NCOs
at that time at not being able to communicate effectively."
Does he think it's still that way?
"No," he said.
"Today's Army is an extremely literate and educated force.
That is no longer a stigma on the NCO Corps," he said.
In terms of unit pride, Thompson continued the legacy
began by his predecessors. He ensured there was a "Deathstar"
emblem all across the brigade' footprint in Afghanistan, and
continues to do so back at him with the newly erected
Deathstar emblem located in the Brigade Headquarter's
quadrangle area. Thompson's most enduring legacy, is the
brigade's Designated Unit Insignia, which he designed to go
along with the Lifeliners recently designed Combat Patch.
The DUI includes the Deathstar, as well as a parachute and
rotary emblem which pays homage to the 101st Airborne
It started as a weekend project for
him, Thompson said. "It's about being proud of who you are,"
he said. "Having that mentality, and knowing that pride in
your organization, I think, has meant a lot and has made a
huge difference in this brigade. We have in the past 12
months done extensive research to ensure our lineage and
history was documents and recovered. There were eight battle
streamers that were missing from our flag because no one in
the past took the initiative to track those things. It's not
about competing with who has the most battles streamers
during a division run; we remember all of those Lifeliners
who've gone on before us, especially those who gave their
Thompson's replacement as brigade command
sergeant major is Command Sgt. Maj. Eugene Thomas, whom he
describes as a "phenomenal NCO. "He definitely has the right
pedigree to be the new Lifeliner Seven," he said. "He will
definitely ensure that everything we started here will
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Peter Mayes
101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st
Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs
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