“You, step up here.”
All eyes direct their gaze at a lean, tall and tan specialist as he walks toward the man wearing three stars on his Army Combat Uniform.
“Now, I want you to sound off and tell these people what you told me,” said the lieutenant general, gesturing to the scores of Soldiers and airmen gathered around them.
September 27, 2017 - Standing on a ramp of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane laden with troops and vehicles, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Charles D. Luckey, chief, U.S. Army Reserve, shakes hands with Spc. Sergio A. Velazquez, a transportation management coordinator assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 332nd Transportation Battalion, 641st Regional Support Group, during an aerial redeployment training mission, at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. Luckey joined Velazquez, a San Antonio, FL native and his fellow Soldiers from the 332nd on the flight to observe firsthand how the battalion planned, organized and executed a Deployment Readiness Exercise Level III. DRE Level III evaluates a unit’s capability to rapidly mobilize at its home station and deploy overseas within 96 hours. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John Carkeet IV)
The specialist faces the crowd, clears his throat, and claims in loud, confident voice:
“’The Road to Awesome’ is a mindset, not a destination.”
Those words, spoken by U.S. Army Spc. Sergio A. Velazquez, a transportation management coordinator assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 332nd Transportation Battalion, had impressed the most senior Soldier in the passenger terminal: U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Charles D. Luckey, chief, United States Army Reserve.
“Outstanding, specialist. I know generals who cannot define ‘The Road to Awesome’ as well as you did.”
Luckey, who coined the term to summarize his command philosophy, joined Soldiers from the 332nd staged at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., as they conducted a joint aerial redeployment training mission Sept. 27, 2017. Luckey's participation demonstrated the significance of the Army Reserve’s commitment to conduct realistic training scenarios.
“The most important thing for me to do today is to be here with you,” Luckey said to the troops waiting to board a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo plane. “What you do today exemplifies why America’s Army Reserve is the most lethal and capable federal reserve force in our nation’s history.”
The aerial training mission exposed Soldiers to the meticulous planning, careful coordination and flawless execution required to transport troops, vehicles and other warfighting supplies across continents via land and air. The flight stood as the culminating event for the battalion’s Deployment Readiness Exercise Level III, a multi-phase operation that assesses a unit’s ability to muster its troops, mobilize its assets and deploy to any corner of the globe within a 96-hour window.
“I didn’t appreciate the scope and scale of this mission until Luckey spoke with us,” admitted Velazquez, a Rochester, New York, native. “It wasn’t until we boarded the plane with our gear and left the ground did I realize that this mission was conditioning our minds and bodies to the rigors of warfare.”
The 332nd’s ability to deploy in less than a week reinforces his “Fight Fast” doctrine that designates key units that must stand ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice.
“The enemy gets a vote on when we go,” said Luckey. “That enemy no longer gives us the luxury of planning months in advance. We have weeks—maybe only days—to respond to these threats.”
Luckey’s “Fight Fast” initiative coincides with his “Road to Awesome” philosophy.
“I’ve read many of Luckey’s messages in various posts and newsletters,” said Vilazquez, who, when not wearing the uniform, helps recent college graduates connect with employers by serving as a career counselor for Ultimate Medical Academy in Tampa, Fla. “He states that leadership, energy and execution drive us along the Road to Awesome, which in turn drives the way we think and live.”
“Awesome is out there, just out of our reach,” said Luckey. “We never quite achieve it because it constantly moves forward. That’s why we have to keep pounding and remain relentless.”
When Velazquez and his fellow Soldiers from the 332nd stepped off the bus and onto the flight line, they were greeted with a familiar figure standing on the C-17’s ramp, welcoming the Soldiers as they made their way to their seats.
“I didn’t expect to see [Luckey] in the plane, and I was completely surprised when he motioned me to break away from the line and stand by his side,” said Velazquez. “We shook hands and he gave me his personal contact card.”
“You are a future leader,” the general said to Velazquez. “You have what it takes to inspire people to do what must be done.”
After the plane landed and Luckey bade his farewell, Velazquez joined his battalion on its convoy back to its headquarters in Tampa. As engines roared to life and wheels rolled onto the road, the 25-year old specialist began to reflect on the mission and the man who oversaw it.
“At first, I was nervous that the chief of the U.S. Army asked me to define his philosophy,” said Velazquez. “I thought, ‘I’m just a specialist. What can I offer to a general?’ But Luckey’s energy and composure put me at ease. He lives and breathes the Army values, and that makes him no different than any other Soldier in the Army. We’re one team fighting one fight, and that to me is awesome.”
By U.S. Army Sgt. John Carkeet IV
Provided through DVIDS
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