In most tales of adventure, discovery or heroism the main
character faces many challenges throughout his or her own journey.
Good, bad, right or wrong, each choice he or she makes will
ultimately determine how others perceive them.
the character will come across mentors who offer inspiration,
identify drive or focus determination to help them see the potential
within themselves. For example, when Qui-Gon Jinn takes in young
Anikin Skywalker as an apprentice in Star Wars: Episode 1 – The
In the film, Qui-Gon said to Skywalker,
“Your focus determines your reality,” and although they are
fictional characters, some meaning can be taken from this statement.
On Nov. 17, 2016 ... one Soldier's focus to become a leader
was realized when the U.S. Army's most senior enlisted leader, Sgt.
Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, promoted him to the rank of
November 17, 2016 - U.S. Army's most senior enlisted leader, Sgt.
Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey (right) , promotes a junior enlisted
Soldier, Spc. James Sheridon, one of U.S. Army Africa's command
drivers, to the rank of Sergeant in front of the USARAF headquarters
on Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy. The promotion to sergeant marks
a pivotal role change in a Soldier's career from one who is given
tasks to one who gives tasks. On this day, Sheridon also celebrates
his tenth year of military service, which includes 3-years as active
duty and a combined 7-years with Michigan's Army and Air National
Guard. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds)
Sgt. James Sheridon, a driver for U.S. Army Africa's
commanding general, Maj. Gen. Joseph Harrington, stood
before his friends, coworkers and fellow Soldiers as Dailey
welcomed him to the coveted Noncommissioned Officers Corps
in front of the USARAF Headquarters on Caserma Ederle.
Dailey was here to discuss his Army-wide leader
development initiatives with the Soldiers assigned to U.S.
Army Garrison-Italy tenant units.
“By being here today, it
is saying something. He is setting an example for all NCOs
to follow,” Sheridon said.
Sheridon also celebrated
his tenth year of military service, of which the last three
years have been active duty. The halfway point marked an
important achievement in his journey, which is to continue
his family's legacy of military service.
hails from a long line of service members that dates back to
the 8th Commanding General of the United States Army, Gen.
Philip Sheridan, who was noted for his rapid rise to general
during the American Civil War.
“Timing was perfect,”
Sheridon said about the day's events being so close to
Veterans Day. “It felt like they were with me.”
Sheridon said as a child growing up in Wayne, Michigan,
located on the outskirts of Detroit, he always knew he
wanted to be in the military.
“I was that kid,
always playing soldier,” he said. “When I saw a person in
uniform I knew they were someone special… I was drawn to
Sheridon is the youngest of his siblings; so
much so that he said he might as well have been an only
child. He admits that he was spoiled to an extent, but was
still expected to earn the things he wanted by doing chores.
This simple transaction was Sheridon's first taste
of responsibility and served as the foundation of a strong
work ethic that he carries with him to this day.
Another character trait he picked up in his youth was a
“never give up attitude” something that his football and
powerlifting coach, Craig Hnatuk, instilled in him while
attending Wayne Memorial High School.
“I was 115
pounds playing varsity football against 200-plus pound
guys,” Sheridon said. “I literally got the crap beat out of
me… but I just kept getting up.”
Sheridon said coach
Hnatuk trained and mentored him, both on and off the field.
That investment of time in another person was something he
placed in his mental tool kit.
In 2004, Sheridon
competed in his first powerlifting competition, but was
disqualified for not performing the event to the specified
guidelines of the competition. With the never give up
attitude he learned from his coach, Sheridon returned the
following year and took 1st place in his weight class at the
Texas National Powerlifting Championships.
who currently teaches at Stevenson Middle School, was the
first to mentor and influence Sheridon, but he would not be
Sheridon said he knew he wanted to join the
military, but became hesitant upon graduating high school.
According to mythologist Joseph Campbell's breakdown
of a hero's journey, this hesitation could be attributed to
the “Refusal of the Call” phase. First described in
Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), this phase
is the moment in time when the hero realizes his or her
mission, but doubts whether or not he or she is up to the
On Nov. 17, 2006, nearly a year after
graduating high school, Sheridon joined the Michigan Army
National Guard. There he would serve for five years until
the unit he was in deactivated. This did not sway Sheridon,
who was fully committed to his journey; so with his never
give up attitude he transferred to the Michigan Air National
There he would meet his next mentor, Capt.
Robert Mclean, commander of the Michigan Air National
Guard's 127th Wing. Sheridon described Mclean as a leader
who could inspire others to achieve more.
“He took me
to a whole different level of thinking,” said Sheridon,
comparing his experiences at both organizations. “He showed
me how to look beyond the mission and ask myself what more
could I do.”
According to Sheridon, Mclean's
one-on-one mentorship style of leading significantly
contributed to a positive work environment. Sheridon said
this too went into his mental tool kit.
prove to be so inspirational that in 2013 the young
guardsman decided to go active duty and enlisted in the U.S.
Army in pursuit of a prestigious green beret.
wanted to be a green beret,” Sheridon said. “Special
Sheridon got his wish and began training at
Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Unfortunately, Sheridon said he
was unable to make it to the selection phase.
injured and the doctors told me that I had done enough,”
Disappointed he would not be able to
continue on his current path, Sheridon recalled the advice
of his former coach and did not give up.
reclassified from special forces candidate to infantryman
and was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy.
While assigned to the 173rd Sheridon was placed on a
6-month driver's detail, which he said turned out to be a
blessing in disguise; describing it as if fate had parted
the heavy fog of self-doubt and earlier career
disappointment revealing the path he was meant to be on.
Nearing the completion of the detail, Sheridon found out
that he would remain in the position as a result of his
professionalism and dedication to the task he had been
given. He has since laterally transferred from the 173rd to
his current position as one of USARAF's command drivers.
“I like USARAF,” said Sheridon. “When I started this
position, I was driving for (former USARAF commander, Lt.
Gen. Darryl Williams) and he was all about dignity and
“You respect your Soldiers and they will
respect you,” he added. “That is what we have here in
Sheridon said the benefits of being in
USARAF go far beyond a positive work environment.
have had opportunities here that I didn't even know I
wanted,” he said.
Sheridon, upon William's request,
traveled to Tanzania, a country in eastern Africa, in
support of the 2016 African Land Forces Summit.
meant that (Williams) trusted in me and that I could handle
what needed to be done,” said Sheridon. He added that being
a part of such a high-profile event, where 37 land forces
chiefs came together to discuss regional problems and
solutions, would be an experience he would never forget.
Being a part of this organization is important because
it is an opportunity to be part of something bigger, he
added. A sentiment shared by the Sergeant Major of the Army.
“Every time we send our Soldiers to train with our
foreign partners is an opportunity for leader development
and to build relationships internationally,” said Dailey. “I
have talked to Soldiers who have been to Africa and they are
overwhelmed with the experience.”
“Italy has extended
us a hand… I encourage you to get out and enjoy the
culture,” Dailey said. “I think this is one of the best duty
Since his transfer to USARAF, Sheridon has
earned a SCUBA diving certification in Croatia, learned to
snowboard on the mountains of northern Italy, and traveled
to Rome, Naples and Germany.
“Being here has ignited
a passion for traveling I didn't know I had.” He said.
Sheridon said he is grateful for the opportunities that
have been afforded to him to include being promoted by the
sergeant major of the Army.
“It is an absolute
pleasure and a big deal to me when we promote someone to the
rank of noncommissioned officer, because we are investing in
the future.” Daily said.
Following the promotion
ceremony Sheridon gave thanks to all those who had helped
him over the years.
“This day would not be possible
if I didn't have great leadership and great mentors,” he
It was an honor to have Dailey take time from
his schedule to be here, said Sheridon. He added that by
doing so, Dailey showed him how NCOs should treat their
“If the sergeant major of the Army can make
the time, we can too,” he said.
“(Dailey) set the
example. Now I have to set the example,” Sheridon said. “And
the last thing I want to do is fail a Soldier.”
described the whole experience as that moment when the Jedi
master Yoda shows Anakin's son, Luke, the ways of the force
in Star Wars: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back.
“Do. Or do not. There is no try,” said Yoda when teaching
Luke that even the largest of objects can be moved if the
mind is focused.
According to Sheridon, the promotion
did not mark an end to his journey; it was the beginning of
the next episode.
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds
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