Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Question and Answer with SGT. MAJ. Jamison L. Johnson

New Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Director Brings Warfighter Perspective to ECBC


Q: What was your previous role prior to joining ECBC?
A: I was a command Sgt. Maj. for a training support battalion at Fort Dix in New Jersey since 2007. I was responsible for overseeing all of the mobilization training for the Army Reserve, National Guard, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard. Folks that were mobilized to go overseas came to Fort Dix as their training platform where they got validated prior to going overseas. My battalion specifically ran all the training lanes, which included: HMMWV drivers, combatives, land navigation, MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected) training, and roll-over training with simulator machines. We also did small CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives) classroom training and individual movement techniques.

Q: When did you decide to join the Army?
A: Halfway through my senior year of high school in Howell, N.J. I met a recruiter after lunch one day. College didn’t interest me but serving my country and seeing the world did.

Q: Where have you served during your career?
A: I went to Germany for seven years when I was 18-years-old. That was the first place I went after my training. While I was over there, I ended up deploying to Bosnia for a year and then Kosovo for six months. I deployed to Iraq for a few months in 2008. I got to see how people in other countries live and when I came back to the States, I definitely had a greater appreciation for what we have, especially basic infrastructure like paved roads and electricity.

Q: What was your experience in Iraq like?
A: It wasn’t too bad because I escaped without having to go over for a year like a lot of folks. I was sent over there to gather the latest tactics and techniques on how to combat IED (improvised explosive device) threats. My job was to meet face-to-face with soldiers on the front lines who were either hit by IEDs or out on the street clearing IEDs, and bring that information back to implement into the training lanes so soldiers had the latest defense techniques to better prepare for what they would see overseas. It was an incredibly valuable and important job that impacted many lives. There were a lot of things we came back with that we didn’t have before, and it gave a heightened level of credibility to emerging threats in near real-time. IEDs were the number one killer of U.S. troops at the time and defending against the threat was a constant back-and-forth that required up-to-date information so we sent teams over there pretty frequently to gather what we needed for training. Things have progressed and got more technical.

Q: What’s the biggest change in combat you’ve seen over the years?
A: Technology. It has come so far so quickly, and there are certain things you see and are just amazed at what we have. It’s neat to be working at a place now where I can see how a lot of the latest technologies are developed and tested in the CBRNE arena.

Q: Has there been an adjustment to working at ECBC?
A: Well, I’ve never worked with civilians before and that’s a big change that I am embracing at the moment. I understand there is a larger picture here and it’s going to take some time for me to fully understand all the moving parts and how they contribute to the overall mission. I’ve visited a lot of divisions and partner organizations, and am looking forward to learning more.

Q: How do you hope your role as Senior Enlisted Advisor will evolve over the next few months?
A: Right now, I’m trying to find my niche and help out where it makes sense to have a Warfighter perspective. I’ve been involved in a vulnerability assessment and am looking to get involved in some of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) outreach ECBC does, as well as the Greening Program. I’m most excited about bringing an understanding of how certain technologies are used by the soldier and what that interface experience is like. Hopefully, I can be the face of 21 years in the Army and work with different ECBC scientists and engineers on how equipment may or may not work in the field. Having that perspective might help in the design process and ultimately improve how technology is integrated. If there’s anything that can be developed in CBRNE defense, the folks here at ECBC will probably make it happen. They’re innovation and some of the things you wouldn’t think are possible, they can actually do. So I’m very excited to be working here.

Q: What’s the best advice you have ever received?
A: Don’t ever think you’re too old or too far in the game to change. I’ve had to do it several times in my career and continue to do so today. Even if you’re the highest ranking guy and have soldiers below you, you have to step back and look at yourself constantly. You can’t get stuck in your ways and think that you’re always doing things the right way. You have to be able to take feedback, even at the highest levels. I think if you can do that and tailor your ways to be open to change later in your career, I think it helps you out and helps the organization.

Q: What are your hobbies outside of work?
A: I love to run and play golf, baseball and basketball. I grew up going to the beach in Long Branch, N.J. and have a lot of great memories of the ocean as well.

Q. If you could sum up your career in one word, what would it be?
A: Successful. I progressed fairly quickly in all the ranks, but it’s not only moving up that matters. It’s about doing what’s right at each step of the way. For example, when I look back at myself when I was a Sgt. first class, I asked: did I do everything in my power to be a great platoon sergeant? Did I take care of my soldiers, accomplish the mission and take care of their families too? Yes I did. And then I got promoted to Master Sgt., and that was my reward for doing the best I could as a Sgt. 1st Class. I took that mindset every phase through my career so yes, I view it as a success.

Q: Has there been a defining moment in your career?
A: There was actually a point where I was not successful, and that has turned out to be a defining moment for me. I came off active duty in 2003 as a Staff Sgt. and went to the New Jersey Guard full time as a recruiter. Now think about it: what’s going on in 2003? The Iraq War had started and two years earlier, the war in Afghanistan. It was a very difficult time to convince people to join the military, but I came in motivated only to be punched down right away. I learned that recruiting wasn’t my niche. There were no soldiers to take care of and there was no unit that you were a part of. I was a recruiter on my own, and long story short, I was not successful. It was very rough. It broke me so much so that I got out of the military altogether in 2005 and took a job at a local electric company. Four months later, I was reading meters in front of a house when I saw a uniform hanging in the car parked out front. A man walked down the driveway and we got to talking. He was in the Army and we shared a few stories before he gave me his contact information in case I was ever interested in joining a Reserve Unit full-time. At that point, I was just done with the military, but I owe a lot to him for pointing me in the right direction. I saw it as an opportunity to get back on the train and I realized that I could still be successful. Turns out, I found my niche all over again training soldiers at Fort Dix.

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