Thursday, June 9, 2016

Command Sgt. Major Christopher Kepner Named Top NCO of Army National Guard

In a ceremony yesterday one of my favorite people in the Army was named the top sergeant of the Army National Guard.  Christopher Kepner is now the Command Sergeant Major of the entire Army National Guard.

He will move to Arlington, Va., and serve full time in his new job.  You can read my interview of Kepner here. He is a strong leader and has strong opinions on leadership.  The fist time I heard him speak it was at a leadership meeting for all the sergeants in the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade:

He led an NCO Development course for all the sergeants in the brigade.  He began that course saying,
“You need to do only two things to be a leader in the United States Army. 
First, keep the men safe as much as possible.
Second, make sure your soldiers maintain standards in every area.
And how will you know if you are doing these two things?
You will eat lunch by yourself for the rest of your career.”

Book 14 of 2016: The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

Dorothy Parker
In 1978, Clint Swift, a staff writer on the Stars and Stripes newspaper in Darmstadt, West Germany, acted on Dorothy Parker’s advice and gave me a copy of The Elements of Style.  Click on Clint's name for a longer version of that story.

In the four decades between then and now, I have re-read Strunk and White at times when I start to learn a new language and when the self doubt common to all writers starts to attack my mind.  The Elements of Style, like a good coach, reminds the player that practicing fundamentals is the way to stay at the top of one’s game. 

I also start to use “one” as a pronoun after re-reading Strunk and White because it is the original and best gender-neutral singular pronoun and is a lovely, if stuffy, way around saying “he or she.”

If you are not a writer, or don’t aspire to be a writer, reading this book is like reading about the specific rules for a sport you don’t actually play.  It can be interesting, but will be not captivate. 
For a writer who has wrestled the alligator of grammar, the wit and brevity of Elements of Style will help you navigate the choppy waters of fluency.  

Who Fights Our Wars? CSM Donald C. Cubbison, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division

In the fall of 1977, 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division got a new Command Sergeant's Major.  Donald C. Cubbison, veteran of the Vietna...