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Army Sergeant Major Proud Of Who He Is
by U.S. Army Spc. Casandra B. Ancheta
June 1, 2023

From the prime age of 17, Konrad Nikolao decided to enlist into the Marine Corps for four years serving as an infantryman. After missing his family and his home, he decided to get out of the military but the urge to serve was still in him. So at the age of 21, after being back home for only two weeks, Nikolao enlisted into the Army as a compromise between what makes him happy and a promise he made to his mother.

Fast forward 22 years later to May 15, 2023, he is still serving and is being promoted to the rank of sergeant major at Boleslawiec, Poland.

Now, after his recent promotion, U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Konrad Nikolao, a paralegal noncommissioned officer (NCO) assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, reflected on his recent promotion and what it means to be an NCO.

May 15, 2023 - U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Konrad Nikolao, a paralegal noncommissioned officer (NCO) and command paralegal NCO assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, gives a speech during his promotion ceremony in Boleslawiec, Poland. The 4th Inf. Div.'s mission in Europe is to engage in multinational training and exercises across the continent, working alongside NATO allies and regional security partners to provide combat-credible forces to V Corps, America’s forward deployed corps in Europe. (mage created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Casandra B. Ancheta.)
May 15, 2023 - U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Konrad Nikolao, a paralegal noncommissioned officer (NCO) and command paralegal NCO assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, gives a speech during his promotion ceremony in Boleslawiec, Poland. The 4th Inf. Div.'s mission in Europe is to engage in multinational training and exercises across the continent, working alongside NATO allies and regional security partners to provide combat-credible forces to V Corps, America’s forward deployed corps in Europe. (mage created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Casandra B. Ancheta.)

“My promotion to sergeant major is a culmination of all the hard work of leaders, NCOs, officers, peers and subordinates that I have served with,” said Nikolao. “Being an NCO is everything behind the scenes, that has nothing to do with me but more to do with everyone I serve alongside.”

As a native from American Samoa, the villages of Nuuli and Utulei, Nikolao is the first American Samoan sergeant major in the history of the Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps.

“While the JAG Corps has had sergeant major in its ranks for more than 100 years, this is the first time in history that a sergeant major of American Samoan ancestry has reached the highest NCO rank in the Corps,” stated Fred Borch, the regimental historian for the JAG Corps.

Nikolao gave credit and thanks to those who have served before him. Those individuals that paved the way for him to reach this rank and his many achievements.

“Being a Samoan serving in the military means that thanks to the sacrifice of many that have served from our small island, I have this opportunity,” said Nikolao. “It was because of them that I was able to believe that I can at least attempt to get to this point.”

During the month of May and in observation of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage, Nikolao reminded those from that background to have pride in who they are.

“Be proud of who you are and what you stand for in the name of that family you bear on your right side,” said Nikolao. “Be equally as proud of that as you are on that left side that ties us all together.”

For Nikolao, having Samoan in his blood is part of who he is and wherever he goes, American Samoa goes as well.

Throughout his 17 years of service in the Army, Nikolao has been all over the globe with his family taking on various positions. From Germany as a paralegal, to Hawai’i as the Oceania security cooperation NCO and Georgia as the first sergeant for the direct commissions course, regardless of where the military has taken him and his family, Nikolao has always stayed consistent in his beliefs and roots as an NCO.

“NCOs are the pulse of the organization or whatever section you work in,” said Nikolao. “They are the trainer, the coach, the one that needs to be empathetic; they project, anticipate and look out for the wellbeing of each individual regardless of rank or status.”

U.S. Army Col. Pia Rogers, an Army judge advocate as well as the staff judge advocate for the 4th Inf. Div., recalled a conversation with Nikolao. She asked what three words best describes himself and the first two words were kind and caring.

“Kind and caring was a given, if you watch him everyday and walk around this forward operating site with him he calls everyone by name, knows everybody and knows something about everybody,” said Rogers. “If there is trash on the floor he is picking it up, he is doing all the right things; it shows that he is kind and caring because he truly cares about people.”

Nikolaos' third response was vulnerable which caught Rogers off guard. She asked him why he would describe himself as vulnerable.

“He said well ma’am to get trust in Soldiers you have to give up yourself and if you can not give up yourself no one will ever give to you,” Rogers recounts on Nikolaos’ answer.

During Nikolaos’ promotion ceremony, Rogers reminisced on a time when Nikolao recited a quote to her. A quote from Robin Williams who said “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.” Rogers went on to say that the quote from Robin Williams sums up Nikolao.

“I think that describes Sgt. Maj. Nikolao to a tee,” remarked Rogers. “He makes sure that everyone is surrounded, cared for, nurtured and never feeling alone.”

As Nikolao continues his career in the Army, he hopes to continue to have a positive impact and provide opportunities for those he serves with.

“I do it for them, I do it for you and I do it for everyone I continue to serve with because if I can do it so can anyone else that aspires to achieve this rank,” said Nikolao. “I hope through my actions that I am able to be a positive example for anyone regardless of culture.”

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